Many colleges offer meal plans at rates that require you to bring your own Tupperware to every meal just to justify the cost.
Cooking your own food is a great way to cut down on the exorbitant living fees tacked onto rising tuition rates these days. It’s also a healthy alternative for those with dietary restrictions, those who might be disappointed in their cafeteria’s offerings or students looking to maintain a healthy lifestyle while earning their degree.
Whatever your reason, going off to college with proper cooking supplies means you’ll have the tools to eat healthier and entertain friends while saving money.
Dorm-room cooking considerations
You don’t need much to cook simple meals in college, especially if your school’s dorms have appliance-equipped common areas.
When planning what to pack, consider the following:
- Will you have access to an oven or a microwave?
- Will you have a fridge or does your dorm allow mini fridges?
- Is there a kitchen sink and dish rack available?
A pot and pan can go a long way, but if you’re looking at using a microwave for a year, a Pyrex bowl can do wonders as well. To cook in college, all you need are the essential utensils, a limited repertoire of cookware and just a few pieces of serving ware to get by without having to worry about clutter or doing the dishes all night.
The best cookware for college dorms
Commercial Chef Countertop Microwave Oven: available at Amazon
If your dorm allows it and doesn’t already furnish a microwave, this model from Commercial Chef is a miniature solution to heating up food in your room. With a durable design and easy-to-clean interior, it will last all 4 years with minimal upkeep. Its simple dials make for easy use with six different power settings for multiple ways of cooking that include defrosting.
Proctor Silex Electric Single Burner Cooktop: available at Amazon
Not every dorm has a common area with an oven, and relying on microwave meals isn’t the healthiest alternative. The Proctor Silex hot plate is compact yet powerful, with 1,200 watts of cooking power straight to its single burner. It works with all types of cookware and the warm-to-high heat range means you can do everything from keeping food warm or slow cooking to searing meat and frying eggs.
Topwit 2-Liter Electric Glass Kettle: available at Amazon
For tea or coffee, a kettle is a trusty appliance to avoid the hassle of boiling water over your hot plate or in the microwave. Topwit’s electric kettle holds up to 2 liters and has 1,000 watts of power for fast boiling. With its automatic shut-off and stay-cool handle, you won’t have to worry about burning your hands or your whole dorm building down while you blearily brew cups of coffee for that all-nighter.
Aroma Housewares Digital Rice Cooker: available at Amazon
Nothing is easier or more reliably nutritious than a cup of rice in college. It pairs with just about everything and is cheap to boot. This Aroma Housewares 20-cup (cooked) rice cooker will ensure you never burn another pot of the stuff again. Not only can you cook rice with this model, you can also steam vegetables while you do it; you don’t even need to cook rice. The Aroma cooker can heat up soup, oatmeal or stews while steaming another item, making it a versatile one-stop food-prep machine for the college student on a budget.
Instant Pot Duo Mini 7-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker: available at Amazon
This 3-quart electric pressure cooker from Instant Pot is a college staple. It’s small enough for the dorm room but yields three servings, making it perfect for leftovers or a student athlete’s voracious appetite. Pair it with the free Instant Pot app for hundreds of recipes so you never go hungry or bored again.
Midea WHS-65LB1 Compact Single Reversible Door Refrigerator: available at Amazon
No college dorm room is complete without the gentle hum of the mini fridge stashed under the bed or desk. This one from Midea has a reversible door for space-saving convenience and plenty of storage for one. You can adjust the temperature from 32-35.6 degrees but can’t store frozen foods. It also has a 1-year warranty.
Pyrex Simply Store 6-Piece Food Storage Container Set: available at Amazon
These Pyrex containers double as storage and microwave-safe heating containers. Not only can you store your leftovers, but you can reheat them safely as well. With six different sizes, you’ll be able to tetris pack them into your mini fridge or nest them for neat storage in your dorm room or packed-to-the-brim car.
T-fal 12-Piece All-In-One Hard Anodized Nonstick Cookware Set: available at Amazon
If you’re going to have a little more space at your disposal, a full kitchen or common area and live with friends who like to cook, this 12-piece nonstick cookware set from T-fal covers all the bases affordably. They’re safe for all oven tops except induction, and oven-safe up to 400 degrees as well. This set comes with 4.2-quart and 2-quart covered stew pots, a 1-quart stewpot, a 10-inch deep sauté pan, and 12- and 11-inch frying pans. It also comes with a slotted and regular spatula and serving spoon and a fridge lid to seal the 2-quart pot for leftovers storage.
T-fal 12-Inch Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan: available at Amazon
If you’re shopping on a budget and only need the essentials, this nonstick 12-inch frying pan from T-fal provides a multifaceted piece of lidded cookware for everything from fried rice to scrambled eggs. Its metal handle means it’s oven-safe up to 500 degrees and its hard-anodized construction means you’ll still have a durable, long-lasting starter pan 4 years later when you move into your first home or apartment after school.
T-fal Titanium Advanced Nonstick 3-Quart Saucepan: available at Amazon
3 quarts is more than enough for a wide variety of dishes and meals, making this nonstick saucepan from T-fal the perfect one-pot stovetop cookware if you’re trying to save space and money. It’s oven-safe up to 350 degrees and the Thermo-Spot symbol alerts you to when the pan has properly preheated.
Nordic Ware Microwave 3-Piece Dinnerware Set: available at Amazon
A bowl and a small and a large plate — what more could a college student need? These are simple, lightweight and microwave-safe. Most importantly, they’re affordable if you want to double up.
As for utensils, depending on how much cooking you plan to do, there are a number of affordable options to cover the basics. This Farberware can opener can sustain your soup-and-beans diet and even open bottles. This OXO swivel peeler can ergonomically peel your veggies, and this Comfify colander set can wash your produce or drain your pasta and then fold up for tidy storage.
If you’re one for baking (especially for student clubs and events), a Pyrex glass measuring cup can handle all of your wet and dry ingredients and is also microwave-safe. These plastic measuring spoons from KitchenAid can handle the smaller additions to your recipe.
Lastly, this 10-piece hammered flatware set is more than enough for a single student; this five-piece knife set has chef, carving, bread, utility and paring knives on a budget and this five-piece utensil set includes slotted spoons, a ladle and a spatula for every possible stovetop/hot plate need. To save space, you can store all of these utensils and your serving ware in this fridge caddy that neatly hangs over a mini fridge or desk.
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Karl Daum is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
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