How to Cook in a College Dorm

Going to college often means the leftover pizza, Ramen noodles, and Chinese carryout diet. Usually dining options on campus may be limited, unhealthy, and expensive, and you can't lug an entire kitchen's worth of food and dishes with you.

This is a general guide to cooking in a dorm, and some stuff may work for you, and some stuff may not.


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    Find out about cooking facilities in your dorm. If there's a stove, it's most likely to be electric. There usually are also microwaves for public use. Also find out if either of these even work. You may have to cook on an other floor or in a different dorm (provided you have someone with you who lives there).
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    Find out about the fire codes. Stuff like hot pots, coffee pots, candles (useful if you're addicted to roasted marshmallows), and hot plates may not be allowed. But, although this isn't recommended, it may help to be familiar with how strictly enforced those rules are. They may be rules whereas long as nothing is out during inspections, your RA won't even care if you're walking down the hall with a hot pot.
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    Taking steps 1 and 2 into account, make sure you have what you need, but stay simple; space is often limited.
    • If they're allowed, hot pots are great to have. Also, microwave safe plates, bowls, and coffee cups.
    • You need basic utensils, forks and spoons, a sharp knife for cooking, and chop sticks if you're a lover of Asian food. Also, a spatula, spaghetti spoon, and one of those over-sized spoons for mixing. Consider what you actually use.
    • For pots and pans, just cover the basics, and be as simple as you can be. A frying pan, saucepan, and spaghetti pot (plus colander). A steamer or double boiler if you cook with them a lot and know you will use them. If you bake, a mixing bowl, cookie sheet, brownie/cake/bread/muffin tin (again, think of what you'll actually use).
    • Aluminum foil, paper towels, plastic wrap, and dish soap are also necessary. You may also want plastic bags and/or Tupperware for leftovers.
    • Don't go Costco on ingredients. You will be able to find smaller amounts at a regular grocery store (but if your parents shop there, you can reuse small bottles and stock up at home). Make sure to have nonperishable basics: oil, sugar, flour, baking soda (you can also sprinkle this in the trash so it doesn't smell as bad), rice, pasta, and vinegar. Buy perishables such as produce, milk, eggs as you need them (if you don't have a fridge, you should find a friend who will let you store these things. But a fridge is also highly advised).
    • Keep microwave and instant food too. Ramen, easy mac, instant coffee (unless you have a coffee maker you can fit in your room), tea, powdered drink mix. Even with these, you can get creative, especially with Ramen. While they're not necessarily healthy, they can be the difference between spending $5 on a meal, and you can control the amount.
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    Learn to cook with a microwave. Especially if you don't have a stove in your dorm. And this can also be a lot less time consuming than cooking conventionally and cleaning pots and dishes. Here are several WikiHow articles, with basics and fancier stuff:


  • Learn to wash dishes by hand.
  • To cut cost and feel like it's worth making something fancy, get a bunch of friends together once a week or month or whenever, and you can all chip in, donate ingredients or supplies, and help out.
  • Clean up your workspace. It prevents pests, bacteria, and it's just plain considerate.
  • Keep leftovers for a quick snack, or an extra meal.
  • You should already know how to cook if you plan on doing anything beyond microwave and hotpot/hot plate cooking.
  • If you'd like, and have the space, bring a small, portable grill and have a cookout. (And do not use these inside). Some real jerks have gotten popular simply by hosting BBQs. And it's just a fun escape from studying for spring finals.
  • While home cooked meals are always a good thing, campus food can do wonders to the immune system once you get past the diarrhea and vomiting.


  • Never leave anything unattended.
  • Don't use metal in the microwave.
  • Make sure you know how to use a fire extinguisher. Colleges are required to have them in cooking facilities.
  • Follow all fire safety rules and precautions.
  • Even if it's only for cooking, using alcohol can result in serious penalties on college grounds if you're underage or on a dry campus.
  • Food may also take longer to cook on an electric stove, so check everything you make.
  • Rare meat on an electric stove is asking for disaster.

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Categories: Campus Life