By Elliot Kantor
Cooking homemade meals in college can be a rewarding, comforting experience away from home. While it’s more effort than eating at a dining hall, it has a few circumstantial advantages. Some dining plans may not include three meals a day, every day of the week, so there will likely be at least some time where you will have to feed yourself. That being said, cooking in college can also be a hassle. Most dorms don’t allow open heating elements and kitchens probably won’t supply anything more than utensils. With all these restrictions, what can you cook in college, and how?
Dorms don’t allow open heating element.
Dorms don’t allow open heating elements. Most obviously, this includes hotplates and toasters, but it also includes toaster ovens, slow cookers, and electric multi-cookers (this is unfortunate because a single appliance would be very convenient in a dorm). However, it’s widely accepted to own a microwave oven and a mini fridge for snacks. So, what can you cook in a dorm? Just about anything that can be cooked in a microwave. For a lot of people, this is enough. But to truly cook, you need to branch out to your dorm’s communal kitchen.
Many dorms include a communal kitchen, but it’s best to expect that it will include almost nothing. So, here’s an unofficial list of everything you need to cook just about anything in a basic kitchen. Most importantly, you need a good knife and cutting board. You can have a great stove and oven but if it’s a pain to cut anything you won’t be having a good time. You’ll need a frying pan and a pot for liquids, along with tools to stir and ladle the food. A nonstick pan is easy to clean in college, and a decent ceramic or cast iron dutch oven is a great choice for a pot since it can go in the oven. Wooden or silicon tools are good because they won’t scratch the pans. A half- or full-size baking tray is great for making cookies, roasting vegetables, or storing prepped ingredients before you put them in the pan. Other than that, anything else is unnecessary or impractical for college. With a pot, pan, knife, and baking tray, you can cook just about anything you’d want.
To review, anything that you can’t cook in a microwave can probably be cooked in a dorm’s kitchen. In addition, cooking in a common area is a great way to meet new people in your dorm. People are naturally brought together by communal meals, so cooking is another great way to meet people in college. While it can be a little involved, it’s completely possible to cook in college, whether it’s to socialize or enjoy homemade food without a meal plan.