10 Best College Kitchen Essentials for Back to School

The new school year is rapidly approaching, and for young adults preparing to start college, that means stocking up on dorm room essentials. The university you attend may provide you with a list of things to buy, but they probably won’t cover kitchen essentials.

While colleges provide meal plans for students, dining halls aren’t open 24 hours a day. It’s helpful to have a back-up plan, and that means putting together the basics that you need to feed yourself when you can’t (or don’t want to) eat in the cafeteria.

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Why You Need to Cook at College

Why do you need to cook at college? That’s an important question to ask because it can be easy to overlook kitchen supplies when you’re shopping for your dorm room.

Here are some of the primary reasons that we think it’s important to cook at college.

College is preparation for life. You might have a cafeteria to feed you while you’re in school, but what happens when you get an apartment or buy a house and you must feed yourself? It’s not cost-effective or healthy to eat out every night, and this is your opportunity to get a taste of independence.

You might want a break from cafeteria food. Many colleges and universities pride themselves on their food, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t benefit from some variety. Cooking in your dorm room allows you to branch out and try new things.

You might not need to cook for every meal, but you don’t want to be stuck in your room in the middle of the night with no food and no way to make something.

How We Chose the Top Dorm Kitchen Gadgets on Our List

We’ve selected 10 gadgets that we think should be part of every dorm room kitchen set. The items on our list were carefully selected with college students in mind.

Our goal was to provide students with a comprehensive list of kitchen essentials that would enable them to cook a wide variety of meals with ease. We tried to cover all the major categories, including:

  • Stovetop cooking
  • Baking
  • Hot pot recipes and one-pot recipes
  • Essential beverages

Ultimately, we want you to have the ability to make whatever it is you want to eat, keeping in mind that you’ll have restrictions on space in your dorm room.

The kitchen appliances and cookware we’ve chosen are ideal for your dorm room kitchen, and they’ll keep you well-fed whether you’re up late studying or just don’t feel like heading to the cafeteria.

With that in mind, here are the college kitchen essentials that we recommend.

Crock-Pot 6-Quart Programmable Cook & Carry Slow Cooker with Digital Timer

Crock-Pot 6-Quart Programmable Cook Carry Slow Cooker Product Image
This awesome slow cooker can easily feed your whole floor

Our first selection is that kitchen standby, a crockpot. The model we’ve chosen is the Crock-Post 6-Quart Programmable Cook & Carry, which we think is ideal for dorm room chefs.

We like crockpots because they’re super simple to use. You can load ingredients into the pot in the morning and come home to a home-cooked meal at the end of the day.

Crockpots are also versatile. You can use them to make everything from stew to oatmeal, which makes them ideal for dorm room cooking, particularly if you don’t have a stove.

Another key benefit of cooking with a crockpot is that it’s inexpensive. Low, slow cooking in a crockpot tenderizes tough cuts of meat, which tend to be the least costly options at the supermarket.

Crockpot cooking is healthy. Because your ingredients cook in a closed pot, your meal retains its nutritional value despite the long cooking times. Considering that many college students don’t eat healthy food, this is a big plus.

Cooking in a crockpot is energy efficient, too. Even if you leave the pot plugged in all day, you’ll use less electricity than you would be using a stove or oven. And a crock pot also won’t heat up your dorm room the way an oven will.

Here are some of the specific things we like about this crockpot:

  • The 6-quart size means that you can cook for a crowd – up to 7 people at once
  • The lid locks for easy transportation
  • The removable stoneware insert is attractive enough to put on your table for serving
  • This pot automatically switches to “warm” mode when the cooking is done

Overall, this is a safe, versatile, and affordable gadget that we think every dorm room should have. Check out our slow cooker cookbooks!

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BLACK+DECKER 4-Slice Toaster Oven

BLACK+DECKER TO1303SB 4-Slice Toaster Oven Product Image
Why have cold pizza when you can warm it up in this toaster oven?

No dorm room kitchenette would be complete without a toaster oven, and our pick is the Black+Decker 4-Slice Toaster Oven.

Toaster ovens are ideal for college students cooking in their dorm rooms. Their small size is deceptive because they can do anything that a traditional convection oven or microwave can

The first reason we think you need a toaster oven is that they are often quicker to use than a conventional oven. They take only a few minutes to preheat and they cook quickly and evenly.

We also like that 4 slice toaster ovens can be used to toast bread and bagels, to bake cookies and bread, and to broil steaks. They’re also ideal for keeping food warm as you wait for guests to arrive or cook something else.

Like crock pots and pressure cookers, toaster ovens are energy-efficient. They use only a fraction of the energy required to run a full-size oven. Using one will heat up your room a bit, but not as much as a real oven would.

A reliable toaster oven can make up for the fact that some college dorm rooms don’t have a real kitchen or even a stove. They’re compact, safe, and easy to use.

Here are some of the reasons we selected this toaster oven for our list:

  • It can make four slices of toast at once or heat up a 9-inch pizza
  • Its compact size is ideal for small dorm or apartment kitchens
  • The removable crumb tray makes for easy clean-up
  • It can be used to toast, bake, broil, or warm food
  • This is an affordable oven that should fit in most college students’ budgets

Having a toaster oven as part of your dorm kitchen set will allow you to prepare many foods with a minimum of effort.

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Recommended reading: Best 4 slice Toasters

T-Fal E93808 Professional Total Nonstick Thermo-Spot Heat Indicator Fry Pan

T-fal E93808 Product Image
Not only does the T-Fal E93808 cook great, but it’s easy to clean

The next dorm room kitchen essential on a list is a 12” non-stick fry pan. We’ve selected the T-Fal Professional Nonstick Pan for our list.

A non-stick skillet is a must for any kitchen, no matter how small. Non-stick pans can be used to sauté food, for shallow frying, or to sear steaks and other meats. They’re just as useful for cooking breakfast foods like eggs and pancakes as they are for dinner.

Unlike regular frying pans, non-stick pans are easy to clean. In most cases, you won’t need to soak or scrub them – you can simply wipe them clean with a sponge and warm, soapy water.

Not that long ago, the coating on non-stick pans would scrape off and get into food. However, technological advances have resulted in pans that are both food-safe and durable. Investing a good non-stick pan is cost-effective because, provided you care for it properly, it will pay for itself many times over.

We chose this T-Fal pan for many reasons, including:

  • It comes with a thermo-spot heat indicator to tell you when the pan is preheated to the ideal temperature for what you’re making
  • The non-stick coating is extremely durable and won’t come off even if you use metal appliances on it
  • The stainless-steel disc in the pan helps it to heat evenly and prevents the formation of hot spots
  • This pan is oven-safe up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and it’s also safe to put in the dishwasher if your dorm room has one
  • The 12-inch size is versatile but small enough for even a tiny college kitchen

This well-made and affordable pan will become a staple of your dorm room kitchenette.

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If you want a full cookware set that’s a bit nicer, check out the All-Clad Cookware Set and Calphalon Cookware Set!

Ninja Professional Blender

Ninja Professional Blender BL610 Product Image
This is great at making smoothies and non-alcoholic (*wink*) drinks

No college kitchen set would be complete without a good blender. That’s why we’ve selected this Ninja Professional Blender for our list of dorm room kitchen essentials.

A good countertop blender is a must for any list of basic kitchen supplies, whether it’s for a dorm room or a first apartment. You can use a blender in a variety of ways.

First, blenders are perfect for making smoothies and milkshakes. For many university students, a smoothie is the ideal grab-and-go breakfast because you can bring it with you to class.

Blenders are also ideal for making quick and easy vinaigrettes and sauces. All you need to do is put the ingredients in the blender and turn it on. It’s much quicker than having to whisk a vinaigrette by hand.

Using a Ninja blender, you can puree the soup. One of the best ways to give the low-calorie soup a creamy texture is to a few cups of the soup in a blender and then stir the puree back into the soup.

Finally, you can also use a blender to crush ice and make blended cocktails, and in a pinch, it may even be able to substitute as a food processor if you use the pulse function. It’s an incredibly versatile piece of kitchen equipment.

As for why we chose this particular Black+Decker blender model, here are some of the reasons:

  • It has 1000 watts of power to make smoothies and blend foods in just a few seconds
  • This blender is dishwasher safe
  • It also has a safety function so that the blender can’t turn on unless the lid is securely fastened – a big plus for those mornings when you’re only half-awake and trying to make a smoothie
  • It’s BFA-free so you don’t have to worry about ingesting harmful chemicals with your soups, sauces, and smoothies

This blender is safe, affordable, and has enough power for any job you give it. That’s why we love it so much more than any old Cuisinart blender!

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Black+Decker 5-Cup Coffeemaker

Black & Decker DCM600B 5-Cup Coffeemaker Product Image
Nothing helps you through an all-nighter like the Black and Decker DCM600B

What would college be without caffeine? For many students, a morning (or evening) cup of coffee is a must, and we think it makes sense to have a coffeemaker in your dorm room.

The first big argument for buying a Black+Decker coffee maker for your dorm room is that owning one ensures that you can have hot coffee at any time of the day or note. You don’t have to worry about the cafeteria (or Starbucks) being closed.

While some college dining halls might have good coffee, coffee made in huge batches is rarely as tasty as small-batch coffee. With your own machine, you can make sure that the coffee you drink is fresh.

Brewing your own coffee is far more cost-effective than going out and buying it every day. With some coffee shops charging several dollars for a single cup of coffee, you can save a bundle by purchasing beans and brewing it yourself.

Finally, it may help you get up for those early classes if you know you can set up coffee the night before, hit brew when you head to the shower, and have a fresh, hot cup of coffee to take with you when you leave.

We chose this machine for our list because:

  • It’s extremely affordable and compact enough to fit in any dorm room, no matter how small
  • The one-touch brewing system is simple to use and eliminates guesswork
  • The machine comes with a warmer plate to keep coffee warm if you don’t get to it right away

If you want to make sure that you have caffeine when you need it, this coffee maker fits the bill and is a must for any college kitchen.

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Store your freshly brewed coffee in one of the best coffee urns! Sadly, it doesn’t have a built-in coffee grinder and isn’t a cold brew coffee maker, but that’s okay!

Ovente KG83 Series 1.5L Glass Electric Kettle

Ovente KG83 Series 1.5L Glass Electric Kettle Product Image
The Ovente KG83 is great for making tea or heating water for cup of noodles

An electric kettle is, in many ways, the ultimate dorm room kitchen appliance. We knew we had to have one on our list, and we’ve chosen the Ovente KG83 Series Kettle as our recommendation to you.

Why is this a must? Well, first, an electric kettle is the quickest way to boil water for tea, instant coffee, ramen, or whatever else you might want to prepare. It’s so much better than a basic old teapot.

Electric kettles are compact and safe to use, which is why they were a dorm room staple even in the days when students weren’t allowed to cook in their rooms.

Whether you want a hot cup of tea on a cold winter night or you’re just craving some noodles, an electric kettle can get the job done.

As for why we chose this product for our list, here are some of its key features:

  • This kettle has an automatic shut-off feature that turns off when water boils and turns off if there’s no water in the kettle
  • The handle stays cool so you won’t burn yourself
  • Comes with a built-in filter that’s easy to clean

This compact kettle is an ideal addition to any dorm room kitchen kit.

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Rachael Ray 10-Piece Cucina Nonstick Bakeware Set

Rachael Ray 10-Piece Cucina Nonstick Bakeware Set Product Image
Durable, reliable, and easy to clean – also perfect for quesadillas and cookies.

Since you’ve already got a convection oven that you can use to bake, it makes sense to invest in quality bakeware set that you can use to make muffins, cookies, and bread. We’ve chosen Rachael Ray’s Cucina Nonstick Bakeware Set for our list.

As a college student, you probably have been hit by a craving for cookies or bread at a time when the cafeteria is closed. Having your own bakeware set means you can give in to those cravings.

Home-baked items are almost always healthier than what you can buy in the store. They contain less sugar and fewer harmful ingredients like trans-fat.

There’s a big convenience factor with having your own bakeware set – and you’ll be the star of every study group if you bring treats for everybody to share.

We like this Rachael Ray set because:

  • The attractive nonstick finish makes for easy clean-up
  • The set includes loaf pans, cake pans, muffin pan, and cookie sheets for all your baking needs
  • The silicon handles are easy to grip
  • This is a durable set that can last far beyond your college years

Even if you don’t think of yourself as a baker, this beautiful bakeware set may inspire you to start!

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Vremi 15-Piece Nonstick Cookware Set

Vremi 15 Piece Nonstick Cookware Set Product Image
The ultimate dorm room starter set. This has everything you need to begin cooking like a pro (or adult)

You can’t expect to cook in your college kitchen without cookware, and that’s why we’ve included this Vremi 15-Piece Nonstick Cookware Set on our list.

Nonstick cookware is versatile and easy to use. A high-quality nonstick surface – as we mentioned before – can and should last for years. That makes buying nonstick cookware set a must because it can help you transition from your dorm room to an apartment.

Whether you want to fry, sauté, boil, or stew your food, nonstick cookware is ideal. It distributes heat evenly so your food won’t burn.

Buying a nonstick cookware set, such as the Copper Chef Set, makes sense because it’s the best way to be sure that you’ll have everything you need to create delicious, home-cooked meals at any time of day.

We chose this set because:

  • It includes frying pans, pots, and a Dutch oven for cooking for one – or for a crowd (check out our best dutch oven cookbooks)
  • The set also comes with nonstick cooking utensils: a spatula, a slotted spoon, a ladle, a masher, and a pasta scoop
  • The coating is non-toxic and safe to use

This set is the perfect starter for your kitchen.

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Aroma Housewares Digital Cool-Touch Rice Cooker and Food Steamer

Aroma Housewares ARC-914SBD 8-Cup Digital Cool-Touch Rice Cooker and Food Steamer Product Image
OMG this can steam both vegetables and rice? I want one!! Oh wait, I already bought one and it’s awesome.

Most of the items on our list can serve more than one purpose. You might be wondering why you need a rice cooker in your college kitchen – and why we’ve included the Aroma Housewares Digital Rice Cooker on our list.

Rice is a diet staple in many parts of the world. You can use it to round out a meal – or as a meal in and of itself.

However, rice can be tricky to cook. If it boils over, you may end up with a mess – and with undercooked or overcooked brown rice. Using a rice cooker ensures that you’ll get perfect rice every time.

A rice cooker can also be used to steam food. That means that if you have one in your college kitchenette, you can make delicious and healthy food without any fuss.

Here are some of the reasons we selected this Aroma Rice Cooker for our list:

  • It has multiple settings to let you cook white rice, brown rice, steam food, keep food warm, and even a timer so you can set it up to cook rice in accordance with your schedule
  • It cooks up to 8 cups of rice (4 cups uncooked) at a time
  • It comes with a recipe book, accessories, and coupons for rice
  • The components come out for easy clean-up

Whether you want to make stir fry, curry, or fried rice, this rice cooker will ensure that you have perfectly cooked rice every time.

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Oster 2-Pound Express Bake

Oster 2-Pound Expressbake Bread Machine CKSTBRTW20 Product Image
Impress your friends with homemade bread. Added bonus: your room will smell great

What college student doesn’t love carbs? There’s nothing more delicious or satisfying than homemade bread, which is why we’ve chosen the Oster 2-Pound Express Bake bread maker as our final product.

Many brands of store-bought bread are made with trans-fat, added sugar, and a ton of preservatives. By contrast, homemade bread is made with healthy and wholesome ingredients that are good for you.

If you want your dorm room or college apartment to feel like home, there’s no better way to do that than to fill it with the smell of baking bread. Bread makers take the guesswork out of baking so you don’t have to worry about the little details while you’re studying.

In a bread maker, you can make regular bread or quick bread in a fraction of the time it would take to make it in a traditional oven.

We like this model for these reasons:

  • It comes with 12 bread settings and a timer so you can set it up to wake you with fresh-baked bread
  • The measuring cup, spoon, and kneading paddle are included
  • This machine mixes, kneads, and bakes the bread for you
  • You can use it to make yeast bread, quick bread, and even jam

Let the smell of fresh-baked bread fill your dorm room and impress your friends with delicious, home-baked bread every day.

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If you want a perfectly-equipped college kitchen, start with the 10 items on this list. They’ll enable you to make snacks, drinks, and gourmet meals at any time – and they can ease your transition from a dorm room to an apartment, too!