Preparing Meat for Baby-Led Weaning
Preparing meat that’s soft enough for baby-led weaning can be a little tricky. A grilled chicken breast or medium-rare steak is delicious for bigger kids and grown-ups, but babies need extra soft meat.
If you’re serving your baby purees, problem solved. I think the easiest way to puree meat is to start with ground, be it beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, or pork. There are several recipes in Real Baby Food.
If your baby is self-feeding, try cooking meat in the slow cooker or pressure cooker. The food you love from those devices–succulent meat that collapses into pieces at the touch of a fork–make it perfect for babies too. They’re genius at turning tough cuts of meat into tender, savory bites perfect for beginning eaters. (Looking for more multi-cooker baby food recipes? My new book, The Multi-Cooker Baby Food Cookbook is out soon!)
But, let’s back up for a second. Why serve babies meat or chicken at all? Beef, pork, chicken, turkey, and lamb all offer exceptional nutrition for babies including protein, fat, iron, zinc, and other essential nutrients. If your baby is on a diet of only breastmilk (or formula), fruits, grains, and veggies, she might miss out on brain-boosting nutrients. (Raising a vegetarian or vegan baby? Be sure to include plenty of lentils, beans, and other iron-rich foods in her diet. This red lentil and spinach dish should be in your repertoire.)
Of course, you don’t have to use a slow cooker or pressure cooker to prep meat for your learning eater. Just make sure the meat is tender enough to mash with your thumb and forefinger. Conversely, it can be fun to give your little one a baby lamb chop or chicken drumstick to explore. Chances are, though, that she won’t actually ingest as much. (And that’s totally okay at this stage!)
This recipe from my cookbook Baby-Led Feeding couldn’t be simpler, and it’s perfect for the whole family. Serve on slider buns with a bit of barbecue sauce for the non-babies at the table. Or spoon over polenta or fold into tortillas. If baby is sharing this meal, skip the salt; grown-ups and bigger kids can add it at the table.
Slow-Cooker Maple-Dijon Pork
Makes 8 servings
Nonstick cooking spray
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons salt (optional)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds pork shoulder, skin removed
BBQ sauce for serving (optional)
- Spray a 5-quart slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a small bowl, stir together the maple syrup, Dijon, salt (if using), paprika, and pepper to taste. Rub the pork all over with the maple mixture and place in a slow cooker.
- Cover the slow cooker and cook on Low for 8 hours.
- Shred the meat with two forks.
Make Ahead: Refrigerate for up to 3 days.
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SLOW-COOKER MAPLE-DIJON PORK from BABY-LED FEEDING © 2018 by Jenna Helwig. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. Photography © 2018 by Lauren Volo.