How to Choose Cookware for College Students

Student cooks

Flying the nest?…What Will They Eat?

When the kids leave home there is so much to think of and one of the biggest worries is if they will manage to eat properly and not live on pizzas. A selection of cookware is a great gift for a College Student but which items will be best for them?

In College Dorms, space is a consideration so cookware that ‘nests’ is ideal as it doesn’t take up too much room. This is also helpful when transporting your Student to College and the car is already full to bursting!

Follow the Rules!

Many Colleges have rules or safety policies forbidding the use of counter-top electric ovens, hotplates, popcorn poppers (potentially annoying to other students – stick to the microwaveable kind), steam cookers and rice steamers. If you’re not sure what the policies are, check with the College first to avoid a wasted purchase.

While we’re talking about safety, it’s probably best to avoid pressure cookers – unless your child is completely confident in the use of one and it is allowed by the College.

Find Out What’s Available…

Don’t forget that many College Dorms may already have a basic kitchen in the building. This may or may not contain a refrigerator, a microwave, an oven and basic pots and pans. Even if the kitchen is well stocked, your child may prefer to have some amenities in their own room so communicate before you buy.

Avoid Double Ups

Other students may be bringing an assortment of Cookware, so it’s an idea to wait for a few weeks before buying items to avoid duplication. By that time, the students will have tired of takeaways and may work out a list of items that they will each provide.

The Basics…

Here are some items that are be easy to use, do not take up too much space and will provide  your student with a good variety of cooking methods.

A Mini Grill

Grills such as the George Foreman Mini Grill are hugely popular and with good reason. Grilling is healthy as the fat drains away during the cooking process. They are versatile too and will enable your child to easily cook chicken breasts and burgers as well as waffles if an interchangeable grill plate is available.

Cleaning the grill after use is easy too – a big plus point for students! The grease trap is simply rinsed under a tap and wiped clean.

Check if the College allows a basic propane or charcoal grill. If not, there may be a fixed grill in a communal yard – great fun on a balmy night!

The George Foreman mini grill features:

  • Makes up to 4 servings
  • The removable plates make clean up a breeze
  • The plates can be placed in the dishwasher
  • The non-stick coating means not having to use oil or butter
  • Includes a Panini press plate
  • The grill has a sloped surface that helps to remove excess fat

A Crock Pot

These are ideal as your child can fill it with meat and vegetables in the morning and come home to a lovely cooked meal. A great way to make friends as everyone will be coming to find out where the delicious smell is coming from! Here is a suggestion:

This 4.5 ltr crock pot is an ideal option for a student.

  • They can cook a meal for 1 or 2 people but it will serve 4-5, so it’s not too large.
  • It’s reasonably priced at around $30
  • Has a see through lid
  • Its dishwasher safe
  • Has a removable stoneware insert
  • The design is modern
  • Recipes are included.

A Microwave

The easiest and most versatile appliance is a small microwave. Frozen meals, popcorn, even reheats of Mom’s frozen pot roast sent on dry ice from home will go well in here. Whether or not your dorm dweller has one will depend on how big their room is and of course regulations.

This Toshiba microwave is a good choice for your college student. Some of the features are:

  • Easy to clean interior
  • Stainless steel exterior
  • Pre-progammed sensor menu
  • One touch popcorn button
  • 1100 watts with 10 power settings
  • Easy to read control panel


Panini Press

These long Italian toasted ‘sandwiches’ are very popular. A Panini grill is usually a counter-top sized grill, similar in size and the way it works to a waffle iron. Heat is applied on both sides, but unlike the waffle iron, the Panini grill usually has ridges which make ‘trendy’ brown bars on the top and bottom of the sandwich it grills. These are a healthy alternative to a toasted sandwich maker as no additional fat is required.

The Breville Duo Pannini Press is a good option for your student to make yummy toasted sandwiches.  Some of the features are:

  • Flat bottom plate with a ribbed top plate that creates those grill marks that give the finishing touch to the bread
  • A powerful 1500 watts
  • Non- stick, scratch resistant cooking surface
  • Floating hinge, 4 height settings
  • Locking storage clip

Electric Griddle

This is a flat electric plate that makes pancakes, grilled sandwiches, bacon, eggs, burgers, sausages as well as chops and chicken breasts. They are usually nonstick for easy cleanup. Do check if these are allowed as some Colleges class them as hotplates.

Your student will love having one of these electric griddles on hand for making pancakes, cooking sausages, bacon and eggs.  Here are some of the great features of the Presto Griddle:

  • Has a 8.5″ x 10.5″ cooking surface
  • It’s made of cast aluminum so it evenly distributes the heat and is warp resistant
  • This griddle automatically maintains temperatures from warm right up to 400ºF
  • There is a built in channel to catch fat run off
  • It’s easy to clean and fully submersible (NOTE: remove the heat control unit before submerging the griddle in water)


Cookware Sets for Students

You may like to consider an inexpensive cookware set, designed especially for College Students. Here are two examples:

1. 18-Piece Nonstick Cookware Set
This is a budget-priced ‘nestable’ cookware set with everything for basic meals. The set includes :

  • 8″ saute pan
  • 9″ deep saute pan
  • 11″ griddle
  • 1 qt sauce pan with lid
  • 2qt saucepan with lid
  • 3 qt saucepan with lid
  • 4 qt Dutch oven with lid – the lid also fits the 9″ saute pan.
  • Stainless steel foldup steamer
  • Solid spoon, slotted spoon, solid turner, slotted turner, pasta spoon,  ladle.

2. Rachael Ray Nonstick Cookware Set
Reasonably priced cookware set with easy to clean pots and pans. The pans have  enhanced nonstick reinforcing so they will last. The set includes:

  • 1.5 qt saucepan with lid
  • 3 qt everything pan with lid
  • 6 qt Stockpot with lid
  • 8.5″ deep frying pan
  • 10.25″ deep frying pan
  • 3 qt sauté pan with lid
  • Turner
  • 9″ x 13″ cookie pan

Handy Check List

This includes the basic kitchen ‘tools’ that a student would need to cook simple and healthy meals.

  • A George Forman (or similar) mini Grill
  • Microwave
  • Panini Grill – the George Foreman mini grill doubles as a panini grill.
  • Electric Griddle
  • Skillet
  • Sauté pan
  • Assorted Cooking sheets
  • Large sauce pan with lid
  • Basic set of knives including a paring knife and butcher knife.
  • Pizza pans and cutter
  • Blender for making smoothies
  • Tableware such as flatware and inexpensive set of dishes
  • Set of drinking glasses
  • Several Wooden spoons
  • Mixing bowls
  • Cooking Spatula
  • Set of measuring cups and measuring spoons
  • Can opener
  • Cheese grater
  • Peeler (if possible, take your child shopping for this and let them handle the different peelers that are available. Some are easier than others – and if your child is left handed, you may need to source one from a specialist shop. This would also apply to a can opener).

Optional extras

  • Colander (not essential as the saucepan lid can be used half off and on the pan)
  • Dutch Oven
  • 12 quart stock pot

For a final touch, give your child a basic set of washing up items and a good cook book. There are many available just for students on a budget. And now try not to worry about them…that’s probably the hardest part!