When can babies eat steak?
Don’t be intimidated: steak is a fabulous first food for babies starting solids and can be prepared in a safe way even for a 6 month old who is just starting solids. Packed with nutrients in which babies are typically deficient or insufficient (B vitamins, iron and zinc) and easy to make, steak is something that both parents and babies can enjoy together. No baby blender needed!
Is steak healthy for babies?
Absolutely. Steak from cows (beef) is packed with nutrients that are not only typically low in babies, such as B-vitamins, iron, zinc, but also contains high levels of selenium, and provides an excellent source of protein. Together, these nutrients are absolutely vital for brain development (motor skills, cognition and behavioral unfolding), as well as nerve development, healthy blood, growth hormone production, energy metabolism, cell function and overall growth. Thus, steak can be a terrific first food to assure nutrient needs, even if baby is just sucking on it.
★Tip: Cooking in un-enameled cast iron cookware adds iron to the food prepared in it. Iron is a common nutrient babies are deficient in. First, a baby’s iron stores (which they received in utero) start to deplete around 6 months of age. Second, there is very little iron in breast milk and the iron in formula is not as easily absorbed by the body as, say, heme iron is from red meat. Third, few baby food products on the market offer adequate iron and babies who are still learning to eat are often not taking in large quantities of iron-rich meats and other foods. Bottom line: focus on iron-rich foods and if you’ve got an un-enameled cast iron pan, use it.
Is steak a common choking hazard for babies?
Yes. Meat is one of the more common causes of choking, so it’s imperative that you prepare it in an age-appropriate way. See our age-based section for how to prepare steak for your baby’s particular age.
Is steak a common allergen?
No. Allergies to red meat are rare, though there is a type of allergy that develops when a person is bitten by the Lone Star tick, which puts a sugar molecule called alpha-gal into the person’s body. This molecule then triggers an allergic response when red meat is consumed in certain people.1
How do you prepare steak for babies with baby-led weaning?
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience. Your child is an individual and may have needs or considerations beyond generally accepted practices. In determining the recommendations for size and shape of foods, we use the best available scientific information regarding gross, fine, and oral motor development to minimize choking risk. The preparation suggestions we offer are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for child-specific, one-on-one advice from your pediatric medical or health professional or provider. It is impossible to fully eliminate all risk of a baby or child choking on any liquid, puree, or food. We advise you to follow all safety protocols we suggest to create a safe eating environment and to make educated choices for your child regarding their specific needs. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
6 to 8 months old: Offer meat on the bone or long, thick strips of well-done beef steak about the size and length of two adult fingers together. Remove any loose pieces of fat. At this age, babies will mostly just suck and gnaw on the meat, offering a surprising amount of nutrition. Don’t be alarmed if the meat changes color to a light gray after baby sucks out all of the nutrients!
9 to 12 months old: If your baby has developed their pincer grasp, offer shredded steak to minimize the choking risk as your baby gets more ambitious as an eater. If your baby’s pincer grasp has not yet developed, either stay with the large piece in the 6- to 8-month age range, or offer thin slices about the size of an adult pinky finger. Refrain from offering chunks or cubes of meat.
12 to 24 months old: At this time, if you feel your child has become an advanced eater (chews well, swallows easily, puts an appropriate amount of food in their mouth and doesn’t over-stuff), offer bite-size pieces of meat as a finger food or with a fork. When you feel your child is ready, you can also move up to bigger sizes for biting and tearing practice. As a reminder, always stay within an arm’s reach of a child, as meat is a common choking hazard.
Nervous about baby starting solids? Our virtual course will teach you everything you need to know about serving babies real food.
Recipe: Steak for Babies
- Steak (cut in an age-appropriate manner)
- Olive or avocado oil
- Pepper (optional)
- Heat up a good pour of olive oil in a cast iron skillet on medium-high heat.
- When the oil is hot (but not smoking, which means it’s now rancid), add the steak to the pan and cook for 5-6 minutes, or longer if you have a particularly thick steak on your hands.
- Flip the steak and continue to cook, covering with a lid to increase cook time. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees F, which is evident when no pink remains on the interior.
- Serve according to the age-appropriate guidelines above. Older babies will enjoy a sauce to dip in, such as a chimichurri sauce or even a mustard cream sauce.
Steak is quite versatile and pairs beautifully with eggs, potatoes and roasted vegetables, as well as spices such as cilantro, pepper, rosemary, and thyme.