Steak may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. While it may seem counterintuitive, steak can be a terrific first food for babies as it is resistive in consistency, which helps rapidly advance the oral motor skills and jaw strength needed for safe eating. For information on different cuts and preparations, check out brisket and ground beef.
Cooper, 6 months, tastes steak for the first time.
Bodhi, 9 months, eats steak for the first time.
Leila, 18 months, eats steak in bite-size pieces.
Yes. Steak is a protein-rich food that is often high in healthy fats needed to fuel baby’s rapid growth. It is also filled with other essential nutrients, such as iron, zinc, selenium, choline, and vitamin B6. Together, these nutrients ensure a healthy metabolism, support growth and development, build a strong immune system, and help prevent anemia. Babies need increasing amounts of iron starting at the 6-month mark, when their reserves become depleted, and steak offers a great source of dietary iron at this stage of baby’s life.
★Tip: Steak freezes well, so if your budget allows, take advantage of sales at the grocery store and buy in bulk.
Yes. Meat is one of the more common causes of choking, for adults and children alike. To minimize the risk, refrain from serving cubes of steak, and instead, offer meat on the bone (with big chunks of meat and fat removed) or shred or mince the steak, and fold it into other foods. Note that pieces of meat can sometimes move too slowly down the esophagus (our food pipe). While this can feel scary and uncomfortable, the individual can typically still breathe. If you think a piece of food is causing discomfort in a child’s esophagus (they may be crying and struggling to swallow), offer a drink from an open cup, bottle, or nursing session. If that fails to alleviate the situation, call emergency services. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment and stay within an arm’s reach of your baby during meals. For more information on choking, visit our sections on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.
No. Steak, as a form of beef, is not a common food allergen, although allergic reactions to beef have been reported. Certain tick bites (mainly the Lone Star tick in the continental United States, but other ticks in different parts of the world), are associated with the development of an allergy to galactose-alpha-1, 3-galactose (“alpha gal”), a sugar which is present in all non-primate mammalian meat. This results in a delayed allergic reaction 3-8 hours after red meat, such as beef, is consumed. However, some individuals with alpha gal allergy also react to small amounts of the sugar present in dairy products, gelatin, or organ tissues (such as liver) from mammals. Alpha gal allergy is more prevalent in the southeastern United States, but is starting to become more common in other areas as the geographic distribution of the Lone Star tick expands. While uncommon, individuals with a dairy allergy may also have a slightly increased risk of being sensitive to beef. However, studies suggest that in individuals with confirmed allergy to beef, a large percentage are also allergic to cow’s milk.
As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity for the first few servings and watch closely as baby eats. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the serving size over time.
Whichever cut of steak is most accessible to your family is what is best for baby, as long as baby is ready for solids and the meat is prepared in an age-appropriate way. T-bone, ribeyes, and other cuts of steak still attached to a sturdy bone are great choices. Once the loose pieces of meat or fat are removed, the bone’s firm texture and long shape can act like a teether, helping babies learn the boundaries of the mouth.
Steak that is slightly pink in the middle may be offered to children as young as 6 months of age as long as the internal temperature of the cooked meat has reached 145 F (63 C) and the meat is allowed to rest for a few minutes before it is served. This cooking method reduces the risk of foodborne illness. Raw, rare, and medium-rare steaks pose an increased risk of foodborne illness regardless of age, but babies and young children are more susceptible and more at risk of serious illness.
No. Most steaks are relatively rich in fat and low in fiber, qualities that slow the processes of digestion and pooping. If baby is constipated, it’s best to offer foods rich in fiber. Remember that pooping patterns can vary significantly from baby to baby. If you have concerns about baby’s pooping and digestive function, talk to your pediatric healthcare provider.
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience.
Offer steak on the bone with big chunks of meat and fat removed or offer strips of well-done steak cut into pieces the size of two adult fingers pressed together. Before offering to baby, remove any loose chunks of meat or pieces of fat. Baby will mostly just suck and gnaw on the meat. If baby succeeds in biting off a too-big piece of meat, take a deep breath, stay calm, and give your child a chance to work with the food. In most cases, if the piece of food is too big, babies spit it out or the gag reflex helps thrust it forward and out of the mouth. If your child needs assistance getting the piece of food out of the mouth, gently tilt them forward and put your hand beneath their chin to indicate they can spit it out. Sticking your own tongue out can help teach babies how to spit. Do not put your fingers in baby’s mouth, as this can push food further down the throat, increasing the risk of choking.
This is a good time to move down in size to finely chopped or shredded steak as many babies around this age begin to aggressively stuff food into their mouths. If baby is not yet able to pick up small pieces of food, try folding minced meat into scoopable foods like mashed potatoes, polenta, or mashed root vegetables.
Once you feel the child has more mature eating skills (moving food to the side of the mouth to chew, chewing well before swallowing, and putting an appropriate amount of food in their mouth and not over-stuffing), offer bite-sized pieces of meat. This is a great time to encourage the use of utensils, which has the added benefit of slowing the child down while eating. Try pre-loading a single piece of steak on a utensil and handing it to the child. If you’d like to offer a larger slice of steak for biting and tearing practice, this is also a good time to do so. Just remain within an arm’s reach at all times and watch the child very closely, as steak is a choking hazard for children and adults alike.
Spice up your dinner rotation with our 100 Dinners for Babies & Toddlers.
Defrost frozen steak in the refrigerator the day before you plan to cook it.
When you are ready to cook, remove the steaks from the refrigerator and let them rest at room temperature for 10 minutes. If you like, season steaks with black pepper or any seasoning that you want baby to learn to love.
Set a large cast-iron skillet on medium-high heat. To test if the skillet is thoroughly heated, flick a few drops of water into it—the water will bounce if the skillet is ready. Once the pan is very hot, add the oil, then carefully lay the steaks in the skillet.
Brown the steaks on both sides. Cook time ranges from 6 to 12 minutes depending on the thickness of the steak. Use a food thermometer to check that the internal temperature of the meat has reached 145 F (63 C). If you do not have a food thermometer, test the steaks by poking the tip of a knife into the thickest part. Steaks are ready when a knife inserted into the thickest part reveals only slightly pink meat.
Transfer the steaks to a cutting board. Set aside 1 steak to cool for your child and season the other steak with salt to taste for yourself. Let both steaks rest for 5 minutes.
Cut the steak for your child into age-appropriate sizes. If the bone is at least as long and wide as your pointer finger, it can work as a great teether as long as fat, gristle, and any loose chunks of meat have been removed.
Serve the Steak
Offer the steak and let your child self-feed.
If help is needed, hold a steak bone or a piece of steak in the air in front of your child and let them grab it from you.
Eat some steak alongside your child to model how it’s done.
To Store: Cooked steak keeps in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 days or in the freezer for 2 months.
Pediatrician & pediatric gastroenterologist
Pediatrician & pediatric allergist/immunologist
Pediatric occupational therapist, feeding & swallowing specialist, international board-certified lactation consultant
Speech-language pathologist, feeding & swallowing specialist
Registered dietitian and public health/clinical nutritionist
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