At the time of this article, colleges and universities across the country are deciding how best to reopen in a few weeks. Some colleges are choosing to conduct their semesters virtually, some are holding in-person classes, while still others are mixing the two—offering classes online and in person.
Some things about going back to school this year will look different, including less time spent in the cafeteria and nearby restaurants. Whether you’re living on campus in a dorm, in an apartment, or at home this semester, you’ll likely be eating at home more than in previous semesters. So we’ve chosen the best equipment to help you cook simple but complete meals—no complicated sous vide techniques or hours-long braises here. We included gear for those who have access to a stove and those who don’t.
No matter what your semester looks like, you’ll have tasty food and strong, full-flavored coffee to fuel you during your classes and late-night study sessions. Just make sure to follow the rules for appliances and cooking set by your specific university or residence.
Countertop Appliances for the Student without a Stove
Air Fryer: GoWISE USA 3.7-Quart 7-in-1 Air Fryer
Manufacturers claim that these simple countertop machines fry your food, but it’s more appropriate to think of them as mini convection ovens. With a small amount of oil, they can cook everything from french fries to chicken nuggets to entire meals with both a protein and a vegetable. Plus, most air fryers fit between 2 and 4 servings of food—just the right amount for a hungry student’s dinner and lunch the next day.
Toaster Oven: Breville Smart Oven
This toaster oven does it all—just on a smaller scale. It can broil vegetables, roast meat (it’s the perfect size for two chicken breasts), make melty-cheese-filled sandwiches, cook frozen pizza, and bake cookies Our winner has intuitive settings and is easy to use. Bonus: The interior of the oven has a nonstick coating for easy cleanup.
Recipe to Try: Weeknight Roast Chicken
This inexpensive model produces excellent pressure-cooked and slow-cooked food. We were excited to learn it can make just about anything—pastas, soups, and even chicken wings. Plus, it makes white rice in mere minutes.
Recipe to Try: Multicooker Indian Vegetable Curry
Vital Kitchen Tools for the Student with a Stove
A nonstick skillet is well suited for a range of jobs in the kitchen: cooking eggs, grilled cheese, or fish fillets, as well as making smaller portions of stir-fries and sautéed vegetables. In our testing, this model has a durable nonstick surface that released everything we cooked in it with ease.
This silicone spatula is our go-to for just about any kitchen task. We use it for stirring, scraping, folding, and scooping.
Large saucepans are essential for a wide range of easy, satisfying foods, including pasta, oatmeal, soup, rice, and more. This one has a tri-ply fully-clad construction, with two layers of stainless steel sandwiched around a layer of aluminum, so it conducts heat well. We can’t guarantee that you’ll never burn your food, but a good pan like this makes it much less likely.
Coffee Essentials for the Caffeine-Reliant College Student
If you like to brew a full pot of coffee at a time: Bonavita 8 Cup One-Touch Coffee Maker
This one brews coffee quickly, resulting in a smooth and flavorful brew. Its thermal carafe keeps brewed coffee hot for more than an hour.
If you prefer a single cup of coffee: AeroPress Go Travel Coffee Press
Save space and money with this small, easy-to-use manual coffee maker. This press makes strong, full-bodied coffee, and its components collapse to fit into a 15-ounce mug that is perfect for on-the-go brewing and stores neatly in a kitchen cabinet.
If you like cold brew best: Toddy Cold Brew System
This classic brewer makes rich, full-flavored cold brew concentrate that still tastes good after two weeks in the refrigerator. Plus, it’s simple to use and easy to clean up.
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