Cooking in college dorms requires some creativity, but it is easier when you have the right tools. While most residential campuses have meal plans, dining hall hours and food selection can be limited. Making your own meals is a great way for students to feel independent and can satisfy late-night cravings.
Some college students are careful with their belongings, but their roommates might not be. Consider durability and price when shopping for products. Additionally, look at the dorm's rules on kitchen appliances. The rule of thumb is no open flames or hot plates. Double-check approved lists so that your thoughtful gift won't be confiscated.
Here are the 16 cooking essentials for dorm kitchens.
The mini-fridge is a college classic, but there is a huge range of prices and sizes on the market. We think the compact Midea 1.6 Cubic Foot fridge is a great space-saving option. It has a pop-out wire rack and a reversible door.
The 1.6-cubic-foot size has limited freezer space, so we also recommend the 3.1 Cubic Foot option from the same brand.A coffee maker that brews in minutes
Those 8:00 a.m. classes are easier to face when you have coffee in your room that's ready in minutes. Under-five inches wide, the Keurig K-Mini Coffee Maker easily fits in small spaces and on crowded shelves. Plus, pod coffee machines are often approved for dorms because they have a concealed heating element and auto-off feature.A truly leak-proof travel mug
Stanley Classic Trigger Action Travel Mug, $22.10, available on Amazon, Bed Bath and Beyond, Dicks Sporting Goods
A great non-spill travel mug is a must for hectic mornings. Insider tested 12 travel mugs, and the Stanley Classic Trigger Action Travel Mug was the best. It keeps coffee or tea hot and won't leak in a jostling backpack. Check out the rest of our recommended travel mugs for more options, all with great spill protection and heat retention.An electric kettle for easy boiling water
Some colleges only allow electric kettles if they have an auto-off feature and concealed heating element. This stainless steel one from Amazon has both. Fill it up, press the on button, and prepare a tea bag or instant noodles while it boils.A set of basic silverware
At 50 cents apiece, this stainless steel silverware set is a great value. Since there are four of each utensil, students can procrastinate washing the dirty ones. This way, they don't have to pilfer forks from the dining hall or get plastic ones for takeout.A durable and colorful set of dishes
The best dish sets for a college dorm are easily stored, have only the pieces you need, and are sturdy. Gibson is a well-regarded dinnerware brand that offers a melamine set in bright colors for under $30. Melamine is known for durability and is often used for outdoor dining sets.A clever way to make breakfast sandwiches
Insider reporter Mara Leighton found that this breakfast sandwich maker delivered a fully cooked and delicious meal. Students still have to purchase their own ingredients, but breakfast sandwich superfans will ultimately save time and money. You'll want to check dorm safety rules for this appliance before buying, though.A microwave-safe ramen cooker
These rapid microwave cookers make dinner a one-pot meal. Toss in your favorite flavor of ramen or a box of mac and cheese, pour in some water, and pop it in the microwave. Within five minutes, you'll have your meal and not much to clean up. Plus, these cookers are dishwasher safe, BPA-free, and convenient for reheating any kind of leftovers.A set of food storage containers
When you're cooking and eating for one, you tend to have leftovers. This 18-piece food storage set has a variety of container sizes. The lids snap together to help keep everything organized, which is especially great for small dorm rooms.A water pitcher to keep cold water on hand
Brita Standard 6-Cup Water Pitcher, $15.98, available at Amazon, Bed Bath and Beyond, Target
Space and convenience are premiums in dorm rooms, so this Brita Pitcher with a six-cup capacity is perfect. It ensures you'll always have cold water ready — a must for dorms with tap water that always seems lukewarm. The lid has an electronic sensor that lights up when it's nearing time for a filter change.A pair of plastic cutting boards
Cutting boards are truly multi-purpose items, and these OXO Utility Boards are some of our favorites. They're both easy to clean and store. Use the boards to protect dorm-issued furniture from water rings or food stains, in addition to any kitchen prep work.
I tried to cut a lime with scissors when I was in college, which was dangerous and ineffective. Even for students who only buy baby carrots and frozen broccoli, this six-piece knife set will come in handy. This set has a chef's knife, a serrated utility knife, a paring knife, and safety covers for each.An egg cooker with four cooking options
Dash Deluxe Egg Cooker, $24.99, available on Amazon, Bed Bath and Beyond
Eggs are easy to cook and are more nutritious than many other quick snacks. The Dash Egg Cooker produces poached, hard-boiled, soft-boiled, and scrambled eggs and has an auto-shutoff feature. The cooker comes with all the materials they'll need, including a measuring cup and recipe guide. They just need to provide the eggs.A stackable ice cube tray
Ice cube trays are valuable commodities in college dorms. This Made by Design ice tray is great for the communal fridge or a small freezer compartment in a mini fridge. The plastic lid snaps on the base, which allows for stacking and keeps out surrounding odors.A low-wattage microwave
Commercial Chef's compact microwave clocks in at 600 watts and is the best budget-friendly microwave we tested. It is easy to use and heats food evenly, perfect for college standbys like frozen meals or instant noodles.
Before purchasing a microwave, check the dorm's guidelines. If microwaves are allowed, there will likely be wattage limits around 700 or 800.
A set of dish soaps and sponges
Dawn Dish Soap Antibacterial Dishwashing Liquid and Non-Scratch Sponges, $14.56, available on Amazon
When you have limited space that you share with another person, you don't want dishes to pile up. A value pack of dish soap and sponges is a gentle reminder to college kids to keep things clean. This set is sure to last a few semesters.