Dorm Room Must-Haves: Cooking In Dorm Essentials & Buying Guide

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So it’s that time of the year. Whether you are going back to college or about to start as a freshman, dorm room is going to be a big part of college life. 

If this is the first time that you are going to live by yourself, you may be wondering what to bring to your dorm room or student’s apartment.

College life is usually packed with study, projects, exams and lots of activities. So if you want to make your own meals and stay away from the Freshman 15, you may need some tools to save your time and hustle. 

So what cooking essentials do you need in your dorm? Here are a list of must-have small appliances for dorm rooms:

Before making any purchase, make sure that you visit the college website to see what’s already provided and what’s prohibited.

#1 Electric Kettle

This is an easy one and barely takes up any space. But it works wonder when it comes to cooking in dorm room or college apartments.

Nothing is better than having a sip of coffee or tea after all the energy-burning routine. But an electric kettle can do more. 

Want a bowl of instant raman (who doesn’t)? Or oatmeal for breakfast? If you don’t have a microwave and don’t want to burn your dorm down, an electric kettle is a budget alternative for quick cooking in dorm room.

Best Electric Kettles For Dorm Room

Our Top Pick: Cuisinart CPK-17 Cordless Kettle

best small appliances for dorm rooms -

As tested by Consumer Reports, the Cuisinart Kettle boils water within 5 minutes to the exact temperature of your choice. It also has 6 temperatures to choose from and can hlod the water at the set warmth for 30 minutes. 

Even if you forget to pour the water out for your coffee, you won’t need to boil it again.

One thing that makes it the best electric kettle for college dorm rooms is that it comes with a 3-year warranty. So you don’t need to worry about it almost throughout college.

Who should get this electric kettle

If you are value the accuracy on water temperature for your tea or coffee, this kettle is for you.

Who should NOT get this electric kettle

For college students on a budget, or those that are looking for simple “press-and-boil” product, this kettle can be a little too fancy.

The Epica electric kettle has almost the same temperature setting function and water keep-warm function. It comes with a 2-year warranty, which is shorted than our top pick. But it will be $30+ cheaper than the Cuisinart kettle. 

Fully expanded, this collapsable electric kettle can boil up to 0.8L of water, which is half of the Cuisinart kettle, but enough for 1-2 cups of coffee or tea, or a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast.

It’s definitely one of the best electric kettles for small dorm rooms or kitchen. It’s also a pretty good deal as normally you could get one under $28.

How to choose the electric kettle : 3 things to look at

While an electric kettle may not cost much, but it will be one of the most used appliances in your dorm room in the years to come. 

Thus you will want to spend your money wisely on the one that functions safely and lasts. 

Here are 3 points you should pay GREAT attention to when choosing an electric kettle for your dorm:

1. Auto shut-off

Most of the models on the market are now equipped with the auto shut-off function. It basically protect the kettle (and your dorm) from being burning to the ground. 

All 3 models we have picked have the shut-off or what is called the “boil dry” protection. If you are the press-and-forget type of person, having a double security is always a good choice.

2. The material

Stainless steel is for now the most popular material for electric kettles for a reason. It resists corrosion and is less likely to rust. 

Its excellent performance in retaining the heat makes it perfect for boiling water faster. 

There are also electric kettles made of glass. Comparatively, glass may be a more eco-friendly option, but for dorm rooms where things can get messy, glass kettles can be broken when dropped on the floor. That’s why for dorm rooms, stainless steel kettles definitely shine.

Best electric kettle reviewed and tested by Amazon experts

3 of the best electric kettles reviewed and tested by Amazon experts are all made of stainless steel

3. Durability

Whether an electric kettle will last or not largely depends on the material and design. 

Material-wise, stainless steel is widely considered to be the most durable metal.

Stainless tea kettles are widely accepted as the most durable of all tea kettle types. But it’s a little bit trickier to see if a model will last besides the material.

One thing to note is the price and warranty. A $70 kettle is more likely to last longer than a $20 one in common sense. And if the kettle comes with more than 1-year warranty, it would be more reliable compared to those with no or less guarantee. Make sure that you read the warranty details before making the decision.

How to clean your electric kettle

One thing that we come across a lot while researching for the best electric kettles is the DIRTY part. 

Some consumers have complained the bottom of their kettles are covered with GROSS limescale and makes the water taste weird. 

Your electric kettle will need some attention from time to time to keep it clean and boil fast. Here are a video showing you how to descale your kettle and make it look new again:

#2 Waffle-Maker

We won’s say a waffle-maker is something that you MUST have in the dorm room, but it just makes living in a dorm so much cozier. And who doesn’t want some hot waffles with cream and strawberry topping in the morning?

For dorms without a microwave or toaster, the waffle-maker can also be used to make sandwiches or grill pork or chicken.

After researching some of the most popular models on the market, here’s our favorite waffle-maker:

Best Waffle-makers for college dorm room KRUPS 8000035972 GQ502D Adjustable Temperature Belgian Waffle Maker with Removable Plates, 4-Slice, Silver and Black: Kitchen & Dining

First thing first, we love the Krups waffle maker for the most important factor: the waffles it makes.

In the test delivered by the Wirecutter and also the QVCtv live, the waffles come out perfectly golden. And you can control how crispy or soft your waffles are with the browning setting. Thus it fits into the need of most people.

Second thing that makes this Krups model the best waffle maker is its non-sticky removable plates. 

Because of the non-sticky plates, the waffles are able to detach easily without leaving a mess on the plates. The plates are also dish-washable. So cleaning up should be like a breeze.

We also love the fact that this waffle maker can be store flat-layed or upright. For dorm rooms that are smaller, the space-saving storage is a plus.

The only problem we have for this waffle maker is that it’s a slightly bigger model and makes up to 4 waffles at a time. If you never share breakfast with your roommate and don’t love leftovers, a mini waffle-maker may be better for you.

black decker 3-in-1 waffle iron - best waffle maker for dorm rooms -

image from Black-Decker

If you are looking for an easy way out to toast bread, grill meat or make crepes, this 3-in-1 model will be a better choice for you.

Compared to our top pick, this upgrade model comes with almost all the similar functions. And the non-sticky plates are reversible. Press a button, flip the plate to the flat side and you have now a grill pan.

So if you are planning to try a bunch of awesome recipes, having a waffle-maker like this one will be able to cut down the appliances you need.

A waffle-maker can be a life-saver for foodies. Here are 6 ways to use a waffle maker recipes that you need to try.

#3 Mini Fridge

A fridge is one the those things we take for granted when we are at home. And maybe you’ve never thought of putting one in your dorm.

But we all need a place to store your “not-for-share” snacks, beer or leftovers so your roommate is not going to steal your super expensive organic goodies. Having a mini fridge can be handy and turn your dorm room into a real home.

Out of so many available models, we’ve found the best mini fridge for dormitories.

Best for: College students living in dorm rooms or small apartment.

best mini fridge for dorm -

Don’t be mad if we aren’t showing you one of those retro-style mini fridges that look super great. Not that we don’t like turquoise fancy fridges.

Taking price and functionality into consideration, the Danby compact all fridge is a better choice for most college students on a budget. And here’s why we love this mini fridge:

1. It’s the real “mini” fridge that doesn’t take up too much space. With a height of 20″, it’s perfect to put under the desk or on the countertop. 

Danby Designer Mini Refrigerator -dorm room cooking essentials -

image from Target

2. The special bottle-rack on the fridge door makes storing cold or tall beverage super easy. No more digging to the bottom to find that beer!

3. It’s energy-star compliant, which means it keeps your electricity bills in check.

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Good news is, if you don’t want to spend $300+ for a really good looking fridge but you don’t want a simple all black fridge in your dorm, you can DIY your own pretty fridge.

Check out this video down below to see how your can get your own #Fridge Makeover done.

# Microwave

Microwave ovens are one of the most used appliances in most kitchens. With a microwave, you can cook almost anything in your dorm room. Warming up leftovers, cooking frozen dinners, making popcorn…you name it. 

It’s also a big time and energy-saver. It cooks super fast, which is perfect for college students that don’t have time to cook. With such little cooking times, it will save money on your electricity bill.

If you don’t have AC in the dorm, you probably don’t want to grill or cook on a pan in hot summer days. Thus microwave will play a major role in dorm cooking.

Rated 4.3 out of 5 by hundreds of buyers on Amazon, the Toshiba compact microwave is the first choice of shoppers that value functionality as well as the budget.

The microwave comes with 6 one-click features to choose from. It heats food quickly though it’s only 900 watts. With a built-in timer and LED light, you can choose to “set and forget” or closely monitor while the oven does its job.


best microwave for dorm rooms - easy to use control panel -

We love this microwave because this is among the most compatible model that you can get for less than $100. Compared to other products within the same price range and are compact enough to fit in a small dorm room, it has more useful functions and a higher level of stability. 

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What we don’t really like about it is that a few customers did reported it stop working earlier than expected. (read related reviews here). 

That’s why when choosing a microwave, pay attention to the warranty details. This compact microwave comes with 1-year warranty. If there’s a problem with it, make sure to report and change before the warranty ends.

Daewoo KOR-7LREM Retro Countertop Microwave Oven 0.7 Cu. Ft, 700W | Mint Green

For students that wants something more than a traditional chunky microwave, the Daewood retro-style mini microwave can be a good fit.

First of all, it looks super cute putting in any kitchen. Its vintage look enhances the overall aesthetics of a dorm kitchen or a small farmhouse kitchen.

If you are not a fan of the Mint color, you can also choose from cream white or retro red. (see all color options here)

a small microwave that elevates the aesthetics of a dorm or a small apartment -

image source: Apartment Therapy

Secondly, it covers all the basic needs of microwave cooking. It comes with 5 cooking features (soup, beverage, baked potato, fresh and frozen vegetables) along with a one-click popcorn function and auto-defrost.

Compared to our top pick Toshiba microwave or other all-in-1 microwaves, it might not be so fancy. But what it can do is more than enough for cooking in dorm.

Microwave recipes to try in your dorm

As one of the most powerful cooking appliance, a microwave can do a lot more than just defrosting or heating up leftovers. Here are some mouth-watering microwave recipes that worth a try:

6 no-bake microwave desserts
7 Dorm-Friendly Microwave Meals + Microwave Cleaning Hack
4 Healthy Microwave Recipes to Hack College Life
1-minute Microwave Keto Bread

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