Having been safely out of dorm life for about a year and a half, I look back on it with a kind of wistful nostalgia. The communal bathrooms and the lack of true privacy were hard to take after a while. But dorm life ain’t all bad! I miss the company quite a bit now that I live on my own. It’s so easy to have parties all the time when all your friends live on your floor!
Cooking for yourself in a dorm can be tough, but it doesn’t have to be impossible! Even if you only have a desk, a mini-fridge, and an electrical outlet, you can cook many delicious meals! This also applies if you find yourself in your mid-to-late twenties, in a medium-to-large city, with a crazy multi-roommate situation in which you never want to use the kitchen because it’s:
a) Too dirty/disgusting
b) Too clean, to the point that your neat-freak roommate(s) won’t be able to deal if you so much as enter into the Holy Palace of Spotlessness to boil some water
c) Too crowded with people (i.e. your roommate(s) and their friends) with whom you would manifestly NOT like to eat
d) All of the above
With that said, here are my fail-safe equipment essentials for dorm and small apartment life. Quality products are essential, so buy American when possible. This isn’t just Uncle Sam talking, it’s my 6 years of dorm life experience of giving up on crappy, cheaply-made products, only to replace them with American-made ones.
#1: Proctor Silex Electric hot pot, $14.99
Fantastic for boiling water for tea or coffee in the morning, or cooking ramen. This Proctor Silex model is large enough to boil pasta, vegetables, and soups in a flash. Even though I now have my own place, I actually still use this piece of equipment every day.
#2: 1.5-quart slow-cooker
With tons of recipes on the internet and in print created especially for this diminutive slow-cooker, you really can’t go wrong. The Proctor Silex 1.5-quart slow cooker comes in round or oval, and has a keep warm function, unlike most other competing brands. The price has increased a bit since I bought it two years ago, which makes me suspect they might be phasing it out, but I’m sure something will replace it.
At any rate, it’s very easy to use: just throw dinner together in the morning, and come home to a hot meal. Try scaling down these dump dinners by a factor of 4 to make them in this little slow cooker. My favorite dump dinner of all time has been this fantastic recipe for Honey Teriyaki Chicken over at the Recipe Critic.
Tastes as good as it looks!
#3: Food storage containers
This might seem like a no-brainer, but regular old food storage containers can be used for everything, especially impromptu mixing bowls and serving dishes. They’re also dirt cheap. Gladware Entree Food Storage Containers
#3: 2-cup glass measuring cup
Essential for everything from microwaving pasta sauce and mixing up salad dressings, to serving as an extra mug for that day you don’t feel like washing the dishes. The Pyrex glass measuring cup, staple of American kitchens everywhere, is simply the best.
#4: Quality ladle
For dishing up those tasty soups and stews you make in your electric hot pot or slow cooker. Try Rada Cutlery’s Non-Scratch Soup Ladle. It’s made of nylon and won’t scratch your slow cooker.
#5: Hard rubber spatula
Useful for flipping things. I recommend Rada Cutlery’s sturdy Non-Scratch Spatula. It’s dishwasher safe in the top rack and made in the USA.
#6: Silicone spatula
Handy for making scrambled eggs. Also handy for scraping down the sides of bowls, when you call off the campaign of utter solitude, relent, and bake your roommates cake out of a Duncan Hines box. Oxo Silicone Spatula
#7: 8-inch nonstick pan
#8: Sturdy dishes
You want a set of dishes that will stand up to frequent abuse from being dropped in the communal kitchen sink when you’re doing your dishes while hungover. Bonus points if they come in happy colors that will take your mind off that gruesome headache. Fiestaware is just the thing.
#9: Something to contain your cooking supplies
Since you may not want keep your cooking equipment out where others might steal, use, or otherwise take advantage of it (believe me, there was 1 email a week from other dorm mates saying, “who took my….?”), a big plastic container that can be shoved under your bed is a must. Try Sterilite’s 30-Quart latch box.
After using your cooking equipment, wash it immediately and put it away in the box.
#10: Handy cart for transporting equipment, spices, condiments, canned goods, etc. to the kitchen
Now this is one category where IKEA will come in handy. Try their Raskog Utility Cart. It rolls on both carpet and linoleum floors!
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons