5 Dorm Room Cooking Essentials

Let’s face it, cooking in college is not only difficult, but damn near impossible at times. With restrictions on what equipment is allowed within dorms, limited access to kitchens, and overall limited expertise, the average college student usually ends up throwing up their hands and eating at their dining hall every night, even when the options are less than ideal. The lamentation for a good, home-cooked meal is almost constant on college campuses, and even though we’re only four weeks into the school year, I’m sure most of us are counting down the days until we get to go home for a nice meal. While there’s nothing wrong with eating your way through your college town, or eating the food provided for you by the college, there are some out there looking to broaden their culinary horizons, and I’m here to help get you started on becoming your dorm’s own Cooking Mama with 5 dorm room cooking essentials.

1. Frying pan

The quintessential cooking utensil, a good frying pan can be used for countless things; frying an egg, sauteed veggies, cooking chicken, and even making toast! With a frying pan, you don’t need to use an iron to make yourself a grilled cheese (side eye to Tasty; who even has an iron in a dorm??). Now I’m not talking anything fancy - those cast iron skillets are a responsibility I am not ready for - a nice frying pan you can pick up at Target is all we’re looking for here. However, if you have options, go for the heavier pan. If you could pull a Rapunzel with it, it’s good to go.

2. Sauce pan

To me, nothing says ‘home cooked meal’ like spaghetti and meatballs. A little marinara, some al dente pasta, and a sprinkle of parmesan makes my heart sing. This dish is almost too simple if you have the right utensils, and the easiest way to make it is with a sauce pan. With this one pot you can boil your pasta, heat up your sauce, warm up your meatballs, and stir it all together. Easy clean up, and a quick, delicious dinner. Having a pot opens up so many possibilities - soup, (well-made) mac and cheese, pasta of all kinds, boiled potatoes, you name it!

3. Spatula

While almost every other utensil you find in your standard kitchen can be replicated by the classic knife-spoon-fork combo you all have sitting in your dorm right now, there really is no substitute for our good friend the spatula. Sure, you could flip some things with a fork, maybe even finagle your way into using your fork and knife to handle a chicken breast, but when it comes to flipping an egg, pressing a grilled cheese, or flipping a pancake, there’s no possible way to do it without either burning your fingers, or making a mess. The best part about spatulas (besides making you feel like Spongebob) is that there’s no real trick to getting one - the cheapest, most basic, plastic spatula you can find will do the job nicely.

4. Mixing bowls

While your first reaction to this one may be “I can just use the bowl I bought my first week of college to mix anything I want! This whole article is fooy!” I implore you not to close that tab just yet! Your plastic cereal bowl may be perfect for mixing a lot of things, like scrambled eggs, or some fry sauce (lookin’ at you, Utah), or even a simple sauce if you’re feeling frisky, having multiple bowls, and multiple sizes of bowls can help you out when cooking countless dishes. If you ever want to bake, if you ever want to bread anything, or cook more than one dish at a time, you’re going to need multiple bowls. My personal favorite for mixing bowls is Pyrex because they’re (essentially) unbreakable, easy to stack, and oh-so aesthetically minimalist.

5. A sharp knife and cutting board

Good news everyone; we’re (almost) all adults now. And that means we get to use knives whenever we want to. And by that I mean, when we’re trying to cut veggies or meats and not shred them to bits. A good, sharp knife is essential in any kitchen, especially if you’re trying not to go crazy. If you’re in the market for starting to cook in college, you’ll probably come across some ‘Kitchen Utensil Packs’ full of tongs, measuring cups, etc. These are great! However, the knife and cutting board they come with are usually pure garbage. It’s worth it to invest in a higher quality knife and cutting board. I’m not talking a meat cleaver and a mahogany cutting board - but a simple chef’s knife, and a thick plastic cutting board will improve your meals, and most likely increase your desire to cook. Definitely find a good place to hide your knife though - roommate disputes should not involve kitchenware.

BONUS

6. Baking sheet

If you’re lucky enough to live in a dorm with ovens, a baking sheet is a good investment. Not only can you make cookies at any given moment, but it opens up countless possibilities for a good savory dinner. Roasted potatoes, anyone? Brussel sprouts?? Glazed carrots??? You get the idea.