Cooking your own meals is a great way to save money in college. It also ensures you don’t gain weight eating buffet-style dinners at the dining hall every day. But cooking in college on a regular basis may seem overwhelming, especially if you don’t know what equipment you need.
Most college dorms and college apartment kitchens are equipped with tiny kitchens, minimal counter space, and few to no appliances. This can make cooking for yourself seem daunting.
If you’ve decided to cook for yourself this semester―and we recommend you do―you’ll need a few basic appliances.
Here are nine of the best college cooking appliances that will fit your budget and your counter space.
9 Best College Cooking Appliances
Whether you’re meal prepping for the week or making dinner for you and your roommates, these 3 appliances make cooking a full meal easy without taking up too much counter space.
1. Countertop Grill
Perfect for Your College Dorm: George Foreman 4-Serving Removable Plate Grill
A countertop grill is great for meal prep because it’s versatile and compact. Grill three to four chicken breasts, make quesadillas, or even grill paninis on it. The bonus of a grill like this is it comes with a tray to catch anything that comes off during cooking, making cleanup easy.
2. Skillet Pan
Perfect for Your College Dorm: T-Fal 5-Quart Nonstick Saute Pan
A good skillet pan is essential unless you plan on grilling or microwaving all of your meals. However, they do take up a lot of space, so you probably only need one. Get a skillet pan with raised edges so it can serve multiple uses like stir-fry for dinner or eggs for breakfast. With this one, you can also heat up things like soup without making a mess.
Perfect for Your College Dorm: Crock Pot Programmable 6-Quart Pot with Timer
I’m already on record as saying the Crock-Pot is the best of the best college cooking appliances. For about $40, you can cook the majority of your meals while you study or sleep. $40 is a little pricey, but Crock-Pots last forever. Chances are, you’ll be taking it with you wherever you go after you graduate.
Perfect for Your College Dorm: 4-piece Silicone Spatula Set
You’ll wind up using a spatula for a lot of things you cook. Depending on how you live your life―and we’re not judging―it’s probably good to have a few extra spatulas on hand in case one goes missing or ends up being sacrificed for a drinking game.
Keep in mind they are made of silicone, so don’t leave them on hot surfaces for too long.
5. Small Microwave
Perfect for Your College Dorm: AmazonBasics Small Black Microwave
Having a microwave makes heating up meals easy. You probably don’t want to live out of yours, but it’s a good appliance to have in your dorm or kitchen. This $60 one will get the job done. If you’re sharing an apartment or dorm, ask your roommate(s) to split the cost with you.
Other Kitchen Essentials
Perfect for Your College Dorm: Curtis International Black Mini-Fridge
Some of you won’t need this, but if you’re living true dorm life, it’s a must-have. Again, if a fridge isn’t desirable because of your budget, see if a housemate or buddy will split the cost with you. Then just share space or designate shelves.
You can definitely find a smaller mini-fridge for less than $86―probably for around $40―but it won’t hold much more than beer. And we’re not saying that’s a bad thing.
7. Electric Kettle
Perfect for Your College Dorm: Hamilton Beach 1L Electric Kettle
Whether you’re making coffee, tea, or as a “cheat” to cook ramen faster (you’re welcome), a good electric kettle is one of the few appliances for your college dorm that is worth the counter space.
As you know, the best college cooking appliances get the job done cheaply. Kettles can get pricey, but a cheap electric one like this will do the job just fine.
Perfect for Your College Dorm: AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker Set
Quite possibly the easiest way to save money in college (besides drinking less alcohol) is to make your morning coffee at home instead of buying it. $0.25 for a morning buzz sure beats paying $4 at Starbucks, even if you use the savings for your weekend booze. Still worth it.
This set costs $30, which is about the price of a drip coffee machine. We recommend it for two reasons:
- It saves space on your kitchen counter.
- It makes better tasting coffee than a drip coffee pot does.
As for a cheap, but tasty coffee, I’m a big fan of Cafe La Llave. It’s about $2.30 per pound and they deliver it to your house in bricks, which is (hopefully) the closest you’ll ever get to feeling like Pablo Escobar.
A cheap travel mug later, and you can kiss Starbucks and their expensive coffee to the curb―or just buy it less frequently.
Perfect for Your College Dorm: Enther 20-Pack Storage Containers
Tupperware comes in all shapes and size. Unless you’re whipping up your own homemade dipping sauces and vinaigrettes in your dorm, a standard meal size container will do just fine.
This is a cheap pack perfect for meal preps. If you’re anything like us, twenty containers might not be enough. You’ll have fourteen lids and only eight containers by the end of next semester with no clue what happened to the rest of them.