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What are the College apartment cookware needs?

I'm going back to college and I got an apartment on campus. both me and my roommates are like 'how do we stock the kitchen.' I'm probably going to use it the most. The big essential I came up with is a knife and a cutting board, but even with that I really don't know all that much about cooking cutlery. Can anyone educate me and if you where in my shoes what would you get?

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  1. At least one good knife (I won't presume to tell you what will be good for you - my fav is a stamped, non-brand, german-steel 6-in blade) and a cutting board or 3 is definitely a good starting point. After that, you'll want a mid-sized pot - smaller ones are handy if you don't plan on cooking for other folks or each other, plus you save room. You'll also need a pan, probably 10" will do you. A sillicone spatular will round out that list nicely.

    But that's the (uber) minimalist kitchen - even Bittman's minimalist list had more, I think. After the few items listed, you'll have to consider what you're going to be cooking. Doing lots of beef or things that need turning? You might want tongs. Or maybe a whisk for eggs and whipping cream. Or maybe a separate [super cheap] nonstick pan if you really like eggs. A bigger dutch oven if you plan on doing stews. A bread knife if you're eating lots of bread. A good peeler if you're planning on doing lots of that. An electric kettle if you use boiling water a lot. The list is endless, but start with the few items I mentioned. Most college students, I'd wager, won't have that much time to do much fancy cooking, and you can always buy more stuff when you need it.

    1. When I saw the title of this post, my first thought was, "A good chef's knife and a decent cutting board."

      I'm a huge fan of the Henckel Pro-S series knives but many specialty kitchen stores will let you handle the knives before you buy. Find one that works for you and buy the best one you can. I used to think I didn't enjoy cooking until I got a good knife. It makes all the difference in the world.

      For cutting boards, I use bamboo for all of my fruits and veggies and poly (soft-ish, not the hard, almost glassy kind) for all my meats because it is dishwasher safe. At least one of each would be important for me.

      A heavy-bottomed sauce pan, a frying pan, a saute pan and a stock pot would also top my list. A few bowls in varying sizes would be handy.

      For utensils, I could make do with a spatula, ladle, slotted spoon, tongs, and a whisk. Add in a rubber spatula for scraping, a veggie peeler, a silicon basting/pastry brush and an instant-read thermometer and you're set.

      That's my quick and dirty list.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Ima Wurdibitsch

        I like your list. I'd add in a can opener, a bottle opener, and a coffee maker (they are college students, after all!).

      2. I would first ask your folks (and your friends') if they have stuff lying around that you guys could have- it's a good way to figure out what you want or need. if you're getting everything new- i would stick to things that can either go in a dishwasher (if you have one) or sit in the sink for a few days (this seems to happen in college!)

        i would get:
        - a set of corelle dishes and glasses, I still have a set that's over 20 years old that goes in the microwave, is lightweight and nearly unbreakable.
        - 2 non stick frying pans- the cheapest avaiable, 1 8 inch and one 12ish inches
        - a big saucepan or stock pot (6-8 quarts) for making larger dishes or pasta- there are plenty of inexpensive options available. should be stainless
        - a medium sized "everyday pan" could be a saute pan or one with curves sides. i would say stainless
        - a colander (washing fruits and veggies, draining pasta)
        - a handful of wooden spoons
        - 1 chef's knife (6 or 8 inches) and 2-3 paring knives. Forschner's are reasonbly inexpensive and very good

        i would really start with inexpenive stuff that you sould be devastated if they break or get lost. you have many moves ahead of you and the stuff you start with now not make it through all of them...

        1 Reply
        1. re: qwerty78

          This is a great list -- esp the Corelle ware and the Forschner knife.

          I would add a few spatulas,appropriate for the cookware, a casserole dish and a few jelly roll pans. I recommend heavy plastic rather than wooden spoons -- college households do way too much soaking in the sink for wooden spoons to survive.

          When you have a shared household, it is very wise NOT to invest in the best you can afford. When you do, you have an emotional investment, too, and you are furious with the roommate who uses your Henkel knife to turn a screw or scrapes the eggs out of your non-stick pan with a metal fork. (I guess worst would be to scrape the pan with the knife...)

          Life is much more pleasant if you can send the clueless roommate to the store and tell them what $20 replacement to buy.

          1. Beyond the basics, a rice cooker can be very nice at school. Our daughter found a new one, still in the box, at Goodwill. One good thing to come of it was rice, red lentils, and couple of spoonfuls from a jar of Patak's Curry Paste.
            You put the food and liquid in, turn it on and walk away. Tasty, inexpensive, and your meal cooks itself in under 30 minutes. There are so many possibilities for flavors, etc.
            If you do get one, please be sure it doesn't just have on & off settings, but also switches itself to Warm when it's finished cooking. If you don't have the space, by all means skip this, but if you do get one I think you could love it. She does.
            Enjoy your apartment!

            2 Replies
            1. re: fern

              My son cooked with his rice cooker practically every day he was in college.

              1. re: pikawicca

                If he has recipes/ideas to share, I'm sure our daughter would be delighted to have them. She was going to spend this summer at home getting more comfortable in the kitchen but so far has spent it all working and complaining of having nothing to do. She's not so bored that she wants to prepare supper, however.

            2. Think small, compact, and inexpensive. Ali's approach is a good start. Scour Goodwill, Salvation Army and yard sales and hit TJ Maxx and Marshalls for the rest.


              10" aluminum non-stick pan as thick as you can afford
              1 qt non-stick sauce pan with lid
              2 qt non-stick sauce pan with lid
              1 small ceramic casserole dish with cover (for re-heating leftovers)
              Set of metal or plastic mixing bowls
              Plastic cutting board
              Cookie sheet/jelly roll pan (mmmm...cookies)
              Loaf pan (for using up leftover bananas to make banana bread)
              Mesh strainer/collander


              Heat-resistant plastic serving spoon
              Heat-resistant plastic spatula
              Rubber scrapers -- get a set various shapes and sizes
              Wooden spoons -- various shapes and sizes
              Kitchen knives -- one large, one small -- inexpensive santoku knives are ideal
              Potato peeler -- a cheap EKCO will do fine
              Swind-A-Way can opener
              Can/bottle-opener ("church key") for opening grape Nehi's and other non-domestic beverages -- surprisingly hard to find
              Good quality corkscrew. (Not that anyone will need to open a bottle of wine, but...)
              Kitchen towels
              Pot holders/ pads (for managing hot things)

              Smalll appliance -- negotiate with housemates

              Blender (for the occassional margherita)
              Microwave (surprisingly unnecessary but guaranteed at least one of you will be unable to feed themselves without it)

              Don't forget gear for dish-washing -- clean-up is a REALLY important part of cooking. Nothing worse than getting sick because you are eating off of stuff that is "sorta" clean. Trust me, an ill-timed bout of Montezuma's revenge can nix a semester of hard work. Even if you have a dishwasher, chances are that you will want to be able to hand wash. You will need a drying rack, a tray for the drying rack, and a pad or two for the sink (to reduce breakage).

              1 Reply
              1. re: MikeB3542

                I presume the OP has to cart stuff around at the end of the year / term. The charity shops are a good place to start. You can give the stuff away at the end if you only invested $1. But I'm going to prune Mike's list. But first some advice. Set the ground rules for your stuff with any room-mates. At college the only pan I would leave around in a common area was cast iron.

                Multi tool - $10. Contains emergency corkscrew, lid pry, beer opener
                Frying pan - large. (Chopping board doubles as a lid).
                3 Qt pan + lid (can cook 3 consecutive meals at once - must be big enough for pasta)
                Containers that go in the microwave.

                Small microwave - $50. As per Mike - Universal hot food delivery system. With a little training total idiot room mates can operate it.
                An electric kettle - Walmart -$12 - make coffee with one of these.. http://www.kuklok.us/.shared/image.ht...
                I know Americans don't use EKs, but they are a godsend as a student.
                Get the flask as well. Useful for hiding booze. $15
                Knives, forks, spoons - see thrift store / yard sale. $5 for 4 people.
                Big + small knife from TJ Maxx or similar - $15 - can be honed on a bottle if available.
                Plastic cutting board - has many uses, not just food
                A metal tray - think pizza, cookie baking sheet, serving dish, tray, drying rack
                Thick sock (aka pot holder
                )Wooden spoons (2) plus scraper - approx $2
                Tongs? - spatula and fingers work as well
                Plastic (polycarb) glasses - probably the most expensive thing on this list.
                Salt and pepper shakers (thrift store). Refill during home visit.

                Someone's parent somewhere will have a duplicate can opener, peeler, etc. Persuade parents to upgrade tea towels. Offer to dispose of old ones. Probably there is a drawer or cupboard somewhere that contains discarded/duplicate stuff. Feel free to filch any of this as it will never be missed.

                In general, indestructible things can last up to a year. If you can get hold of a second-hand (partial) set of Corelle then do it. Light, hard to destroy, stacks small.

                Edit: Whoops. Changed Corian to Corelle after reading kchurchill. Bonehead!

              2. Well, just stocked my sons apt when he is up at school at the lists is very similar but not as extensive as some. There is not nearly enough room to hold a lot of the stuff mentioned at least in his place. And I remember my dorm and apt and have seen a couple of friends places. Small doesn't quite describe it.

                This was his list I still had on the computer, I added a bit more info, but this was the basic list.

                I also tried to get everything small and compact and didn't not get anything quality except for the knives and they were still pretty cheap. With classes and work cooking is secondary and the stuff will be used not just by you but by roommates, so go inexpensive. After college, you can choose your own items and pieces that will make sense for you at that point.

                Dishes, Corelle they don't break, micro and cheap
                Flatware, go to target or walmart, they have small boxes for service of 4 or 8 very cheap
                Glasses, same thing
                Dish towels and pot holders and combo set of 6 each towels and 3 potholders for 10.00

                Bowls got a set at Walmart again, 3 bowls, all stacked, again very inexpensive and
                usable in a micro
                Casserole dish, I just got him 2 corning ware dishes, easy pretty forgiving, great for mac
                and cheese and even cooking a chicken in the oven. They also stack well
                Cookie sheet

                Lot pot for soup, they made chili
                1 medium fry pan non stick
                2 small pots

                Cutting board, the thin plastic which take no room
                2 good knives (not too expensive)
                Spatula, serving spoon, tongs, wooden spoons
                Small collander

                I like a small toaster oven for quick meals and is better than a toaster, His was 20
                dollars at KMart
                Microwaves are so inexpensive now

                And s/p the disposable kinds from the grocery store, a couple of packs.
                I also got them About 100 dollars worth of canned goods, pasta, rice, nothing hard but stuff that will last and they can make quick dishes with.

                And most important, I gave them a small cook book that gave basic recipes even they could make

                They were thrilled. Best advice, get basics then once you start to cook you can add what you use.

                4 Replies
                1. re: kchurchill5

                  Although I am usually the first to suggest high quality knives, cutting boards and cookware, in this case I think you need to try to get effective, but far less expensive alternatives. Why? Because in a multiple cook household like the one you are moving into, it is extremely unlikely that all of you will treat your good knives and cookware with the same amount of care that you might. I learned this lesson the hard way when a dear family friend, who generally had no reason ever to cook in my kitchen when he was staying over, managed to ruin both my favorite and expensive German chef's knife and slicer by trying to use each of them to separate ribs from a rack. Unskilled and unaware, he repeatedly attempted to jam each knife into bone in order to pull the "silver skin" off the bottom, and permanently bent the tips of each of my beloved, and expensive, Henkels Twin Pro-S knives. Of course, I was never able to get either of them back to shape because I was risking breaking the tips off each time I tried to gently bend them back. My advice is to try to get cheaper versions of good knives if others are going to have access to them. For example, try the stamped Kershaw knives, which are often found for a relative song at William Sonoma and and sold right next to the expensive Shuns, which are also made by KAI. They are very sharp, but are stamped and have plastic handles. I once bought a parer, eight inch chef's knife and a 7 inch Santoku for under $75, which is less than one good Shun or Wusthoff. If your housemates are careless, they might cut themselves, but you won't find yourself minding too much when they leave the knife soaking in the sink to rust, or put it in the dishwasher.

                  Ditto for expensive enameled cast iron, or even plain cast iron. (If you must have a cast iron skillet, I'd hide that baby or insist upon a care lecture about rust). Expensive enameled cast iron will chip when roommie tosses the lid into the sink onto the soaking pot, and unknowing student housemates will leave wet dishes around for days, so they can also rust. Go for a cheap set of the most decent stainless steel cookware you can find, plus one non-stick (cheap) for eggs. I know, you are not supposed to buy sets, but the Wolfgang Puck as Sam's looks pretty good for the money the last I checked. Avoid glass lids and think "indestructible". When you are done living off campus and need to get a place of your own again, you can sell your old gear at a garage sale, or donate to charity.

                  1. re: RGC1982

                    I got a cheap set of knives ... Wolfgang for my son. I think he took 3 of the five knives. Sams set for 24.99 I have the other knife and still great. That is value. Good enough for them. They won't get taken care of anyways. When he is ready, he can get his own good knives for just him. When I went to visit, they had a pizza cutter but they were cutting it when regular shears and cutting the peppers with a steak knife. So even though he knows better and he room mate definitely is a decent cook, that just isn't their priority. That is what I bought him I feel confident about. As I was walking out of the apt complex. The guy down stairs was using an ask to cut open a water melon. He is a good friend of my sons and he is studying to be a nutritionalist. I just had to laugh. I am sure they had a knife but it probably sitting in the 2 day old water in the sink with the other dishes. LOL.

                    So cheap is definitely the way to go until they realize what they have and it is only theirs so they can take care of it.

                    1. re: kchurchill5

                      I agree and your experience is typical. It is simply not a priority for most college students.

                      I recently purchased, while on a trip, two cheap knives from Sam's -- a 10 inch and 8 inch chef's knife with white plastic handles in a single pack for something like $13. It was specifically to be used to cut watermelon, so I was looking for a larger knife. I guess I could have borrowed an axe and saved my money :) I haven't seen the set you have referred to, but I heard about it from a friend. I'd go looking there first if I found myself in a similar situation that required a set.

                      1. re: RGC1982

                        He was doing pretty good with the axe, :)

                        Yeah, the set is decent. I wish the kids cared more and some do, but on average they get beat up pretty bad. And I cooked a lot in college for all my room mates and even cooked for a part time job. I made pots of soups and home made bread for lots of friends and got paid for it. My knife was K Mart 8 bucks if that, and somehow I managed just fine. My second knife was a bit better but I still used the dishwasher after spending 12 hours up studying, my room mates soaked it to death and even when I first got out of college, I just wasn't ready for top equipment.

                        Today I take care of my stuff, but I still don't have top equipment. I have medium cost, decent knives and pots and pans, lots of cast iron and some very nice top quality pots and pans as gifts. I learn to cook with simple equipment and today I still follow that philosophy as much as I can. I figured my grandma cooked without a thermometer, without fancy pots, pans or knives. Hell I hate to tell you how her knives were sharpened. But the food was awesome. So I try to follow that philosophy and just cook with what I have.

                        Probably out of the norm I know. I do have a few gadgets but try to limit the fancy stuff when I can.

                2. A lot of the post's have touched on the equipment, but don't ignore the presentation.. you will be cooking for someone.

                  1) Take a knife-skills lesson - there IS a proper way to chop an onion, and you likely don't know it
                  2) Mise en place is KEY - buy a bunch of small bowls
                  3) Knives are a big essential, but so are FRESH spices/herbs and a good pepper grinder.,, grind your own pepper and buy small containers of good spices. Get fresh parsley/basil/cilantro/etc. when you can
                  4) Find some basic wide-variety cookbooks (Best Recipe, etc.) - be prepared to have a nice thought out dinner ready with a 3-4 course setup..
                  5) BUTTER - there is no recipe that doesn't get better with butter added into the sauce.. just don't tell people its there.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: grant.cook

                    1. Knife skills, are you kidding. cutting an onion if cutting it in half and then chopping anyway he can. IT is college not cullinary school.

                    2. Bowls, for what, sometimes they eat out of the pot and paper plates are a key component, college remember.

                    3. Knives ... well the neighbor down stairs last time I visited was cutting the water melon with a hack saw. Knives. My sons roommate was cutting a piece of chicken with a steak knife. They care less.

                    And herbs ... They know the salt and pepper shaker from the paper ones in the spice aisle. Use them and buy another set. Fresh herbs are not even in their vocabulary.

                    4. Cook books, yes my son has one and made meat loaf. Otherwise. They read class books, not cook books.

                    5. Margarine to them is butter. They wouldn't know the difference.


                    Sorry no offense, some actually do cook but it is not very common. I've seen many of my friends and visited many and it just isn't what they are in to. Cooking is just food to them.

                    The last time I was there they had their girlfriends over for dinner. My son made chili served in paper cups, bread was frozen and just heated in the micro on napkins. Beer, no glasses, plastic ware. That to them was a fancy dinner for them. They did have brownies which my son also baked, Pillsbury, but that is pretty impressive and ice cream for desert. This was a college dinner.

                    1. re: kchurchill5

                      Yep, it's actually kind of funny thinking of college kids caring about mise en place! I do use a collection of small stainless bowls for that purpose but my son ( who is actually a decent cook) and his room mates often eat from the pot they cook in, regularly put the whole pot into the refrigerator, etc. When I go to visit they try to do something nice and they DO cook but at the end of the day these are kids who spend most of their time studying, going to class and part time jobs. I think it's a victory that they shop and cook at all - no way they are going to start thinking about refinements for several years!

                      1. re: knet

                        I certainly cared about it once someone explained it to me.

                      2. re: kchurchill5

                        I am okay eating off of paper plates.. just grind the freaking pepper using the $3 grinder they can get at Ikea. If they are learning the ground rules about how to go forward in life, learning a bit about how to cook is a nice thing. Do I think they are going to whip up a crown rack of lamb one night? No, but I would have wished I had a better cooking grounding prior to college. Home Ec. would have done me a lot more good than Wood Shop did..

                        And lets stop with the 'they are studying and don't have time to cook' load of malarky - those of us with jobs, commutes, children, and yardwork wouldn't mind a couple of years back lounging around the quad.. and we still find time to roast a chicken.

                        1. re: kchurchill5

                          Hey now, just cause someone is a college student doesn't make them a neanderthal. I agree, you'll often find students using a steak knife to cut chicken or a butter knife to cut steak because that's what's handy, but "margerine to them is butter" - as a recent grad (class of '07), I'm offended. I've known the difference all my life (I remember refusing to eat my boyfriend's grilled cheese at age 14 b/c he made them with margerine), and just being in college doesn't suddenly kill your tastebuds. If you grew up with butter and fresh herbs, that's what you'll use in college (finances permitting). If you grew up with margerine and Mrs. Dash, you'll use that in college and beyond. Students will eat strange things to save time and money, but so would you if you had little income and a 15-page paper due tomorrow - and we know the difference as well as you do. Harumph.

                      3. Considering that time is of the essence for students, maybe you could try a slow cooker. It's great for no-fuss meals that cook while you go about doing other things. It's also good for batch cooking, yielding leftovers that can be frozen and reheated in a pinch.

                        I also recommend some simple, inexpensive bakeware, like muffin tins, a cookie sheet and a spring form pan. I recall baking quite often as a student, especially for friends' birthdays and around exam time.

                        Also, I know your request was for cookware, but may I also suggest some inexpensive GLASS wine vessels (if you and your friends drink). There's reason not to drink out of real glasses. Ikea sells some good ones that are probably cheaper than plastic alternatives.

                        1. 8" chefs knife--you can get an inexpensive Henckels or Wustof at Macy's... both brands have secondary lines that are good and reasonably priced. You might also consider a cheap knife set with a block--at Macy's or Target you can probably find one for about $40.
                          cutting board
                          large SS pasta pot 6-8 quarts
                          10" skillet (nonstick if you must, but I use SS)
                          flat griddle for pancakes/bacon/french toast
                          couple of saucepans--2qt and 3qt sizes are good
                          wooden spoons (cheap at Target or Walmart)
                          can opener
                          waiter's cork screw (can also open bottles)
                          slotted spoon
                          rubbermaid/tupperware to store leftovers--make sure can go in the microwave!

                          for serving:
                          microwaveable dish set
                          thick pint or working glasses for all beverages (they don't break as easily as thinner glasses do)
                          basic flatware set

                          coffee pot
                          toaster oven

                          1. I realize that I'm not really going to be adding much to the other people who actually have useful suggestions, but I wanted to share what I remember having when I was in a college apartment with roommates:
                            - a dented 3 qt pot with lid (Ramen noodles!)
                            - mismatched Correlle plates and odds & ends cutlery from a thriftstore
                            - miscellaneous pint glasses and plastic cups acquired mostly free at bars
                            - A can opener, bottle opener, one crappy "chef" knife, a couple serrated steak knifes
                            - a frying pan for eggs and "stir fries". A baking sheet. (tater tots!)
                            - a giant club pan often used for things like tuna helper
                            - a pizza cutter and a potato peeler
                            - A drip coffee maker and a coffee bean grinder, the latter we rarely used but thought made us look sophisticated.
                            - a microwave.
                            - a crock pot, which a roommate actually used quite a bit for chili & stews.
                            - a plastic novelty thing that you pressed on bread before you toasted it, so the toast would say something rude. Also, a jello mold shaped like a lobster.
                            - a ragged, smelly dishsponge and a few dishtowels. Paper towels aplenty.
                            Absolutely nothing of good quality ever lasted long without getting broken or stolen. One time we realized we were running out of dishes only to find out that a guy who lived in the appt. was throwing dishes out rather than washing them. Now, I hope you aren't going to be living with pigs like I was and actually cook good, healthy meals. But I still would be careful about sinking much money into anything when living with others. I have become somewhat of a cookware snob and I cringe internally at how visiting relatives treat my cookware when they visit (metal utensils touching the inside of my pans! *shudder*) It is easiest if you have cheap stuff for now until you know it will be treated well.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Jitterbug

                              I so agree with this perspective. I will admit, however, that the smelly dish sponge gave me the creeps. Can they visit a warehouse store before going off to college to buy a couple of packs? They need to be replaced at least once a week and definitely after wiping raw chicken drippings.

                            2. Crockpot and a toaster oven. Joy of Cooking cookbook.

                              1. I graduated two years ago, so memories are fresh. I was living in a dorm and eating mostly in the dining hall so I didn't have a fully stocked kitchen, but what I found indespensable to have was:
                                -an electric tea kettle & some mugs
                                -a cutting board and a few different-sized knives
                                -unbreakable, microwaveable plates, cups & bowls.
                                -A few tupperware for leftovers. My bowls also had snap-on lids.
                                -a set of wine glasses, because everything looks classier out of a wine glass
                                -a microwave
                                -corkscrew & bottle opener
                                -a blender - makes smoothies in the morning and margheritas at night
                                -A few big mixing bowls and a baking pan, because sometimes brownies are a great idea.
                                -I also had a bread machine, which won me lots of friends on the hall, but that's probably overkill.

                                I'm starting grad school next month and posted a thread asking for advice stocking my new kitchen there. Some of those replies might be helpful to you too: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/622921

                                1. I think that all these suggestions are great but I think checking off the list can be rather tedious especially since I'm sure there are other items on your shopping list. I know that when I moved into my first apartment, my mom found a kitchen starter set. There are a few companies out there but I think the set she got me might just be the most complete.

                                  My set had flatware, glassware, dinnerware, every utensil you can possibly think of, a knife set and so much more that it would take me too long to list.

                                  Since I have some friends going to college next year, I've been recommending this set. It totally save my parents and ME time from shopping. But you can find these sets at collegecomplements.com. If anything the site lists everything they include in their kitchen set that could serve as a check list, I suppose (http://collegecomplements.com/packages).

                                  Hope this helps.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: lilly

                                    Looks like the OP has been in that apartment for a while now. But this post reminds me of my recently graduated son. Taking after me, he loves to cook - he made a complete Thanksgiving dinner for 12 in his first college apartment, for example.

                                    When he came home for the summer after that first apartment year he kept raving about all the kitchen tools we have that he'd always taken for granted. So for his 21st birthday, just before he went back to school for his senior year, I went to a Home Goods store and bought darn near one of everything, including some excellent knives. He was thrilled and immediately became the envy of all his foodie friends (and remembering how being a good cook was a HUGE asset for me in my dating days, I'm sure it helped him in that department as well.)

                                  2. I like mike and paulustrious's suggestions. In general, supplies should be minimalist, multi-taskers, cheap, and sturdy.

                                    Knives are important to cooking obviously. A lot of people are suggesting various chef's knives, but I doubt even a foodie-inclined college student will treat his knife well or bother to sharpen it. With that in mind, I think the best option is an offset bread knife.
                                    You can use it for everything, it's cheap, and it will put up with all sorts of abuse. And it won't be useless after 8 months of heavy use without sharpening.

                                    The real reason I write though is to share this:
                                    When I moved into my first college apartment, my roommate told me he had something for our kitchen. He made a big show about revealing what it was. Not cookware or fine knives or a microwave. With great ceremony, he opened up a briefcase full of spices. Some fine and some cheap dollar store bottles. Maybe 20 or 30 in all.

                                    This may have been THE moment that is responsible for me learning to cook. Neither of us were decent cooks at the time, but those spices pushed us into exploring and finding uses for all of them. We had something like 2 pots, 2 dishes, a steak knife, and a spatula, but it didn't matter -we cooked our asses off. Good technique and equipment came later.

                                    The moral of the story: once you've got your absolute basics covered, the best way to spend your money is on something that will inspire you.

                                    1. As someone who went through college living in the dorms I know that what sort of kitchen you want is not always going to happen. Usually there was a dorm-wide kitchen complete with one ancient stove, a new microwave coated with popcorn grease, and a communal fridge that stuff vanished from all the time. My senior year all I had was the microwave. My suggestion for new students who don't know what they will get (or who know they living in a dorm period) would be to just have some bare minimums:

                                      1) A bucket, a container of soap, a dishcloth, a dishtowel and a mesh scrubbier (sponges in dorm situations are grosser than usual).
                                      These enable you to clean everything, and to keep it contained and easy to carry what is likely to be several flights of stairs to the kitchenette sink.

                                      2) Aluminum foil- it stores food, cooks food, and can serve as a makeshift lid for a pan.

                                      3) A kitchen multi-purpose tool (a.k.a. pocketknife for food uses). It has a small knife that works well enough for hot dogs and opening packets. An opener to open cans of juice, bottle caps, and home-canned goods. And a corkscrew. Depending on the size and quality of the knife you may want to get a steak knife to make some cutting easier.

                                      4) A large wide soup mug that can be microwaved. Make sure it has a handle. Carrying a bowl full of hot liquid up or down stairs and into a room that you have to open with a keycard is about impossible without burning yourself.

                                      5) A bowl, a spoon, and a set of chopsticks. You can eat just about anything with these.

                                      What can you make with these? Various ready to eat once heated canned goods (soup, ravioli), things using boiling water from microwaving the mug (ramen, tea, instant soup mixes), and my personal favorite vegetables baked in butter by using the aluminum foil. I also made sandwiches by toasting rye bread in the oven (on aluminum foil) then filling it with cheese, sauerkraut, and slices of smoked sausages.

                                      Is it gourmet? no And believe me my kitchen at home is nothing but the best. But this allows you to be able to cook enough to make your own food with almost no storage worries, and without having to spend more than $20.

                                      1. With roomates, you won't want anything expensive. The more people passing through your home, the more likely something will walk out (not necessarily from them, but from their friends, or that crazy beau that one of them brings home, or whatever).

                                        Go to an estate sale. You can equip an entire kitchen for $50 that way, and you won't feel sad if anything gets lost or broken.

                                        1. My first apt. I bought a stock pot that had a pasta insert, colander and a generous sized veggie steamer. It was a great investment and was easy to store as it all stacked w/in itself. What worked for me were items that multi-tasked. Things like rice cookers, slow cookers and immersion blenders are great if you are time and budget restricted. Thrift stores and hand me downs are great. Thrift stores are an amazing resource for pyrex and corning ware. It also gives you the leeway to try new things w/out the investment of $. Lastly, I'd purchase an adjustable measuring cup.:

                                          1. Spend as little as possible! Living with other people, they will always leave your good knife in the sink under a big pot, throw out pots because they haven't been cleaned etc.

                                            Save your good stuff for when you have your own place.

                                            3 Replies
                                              1. re: Soop

                                                First expensive kitchen item I bought was a good, thick-bottomed soup pot. It was $100, and I was an undergrad, so this was an enormous sum of money for me. The second day I owned it, I returned home to see my roommate's sister vomiting into it...

                                                1. re: Indirect Heat


                                                  Learn from those who have gone before you on this path.
                                                  There is no need to reinvent this wheel.
                                                  The time for excellence & the time for dorms are mutually exclusive when it comes to your kitchen & pantry.
                                                  One day, you'll look back fondly, but for now, endure and conquer - so that Sur La Table & you may become well acquainted in the post-grad balance of your life, OK?
                                                  A $20 box of dishes - the all-inclusive kind with the ubber-light flatware and glasses/tumblers included - even split the cost among your roomies - will suffice.
                                                  If you simply _must_ "equip" the kitchen, I'd say you & the roomies devote a day to scrounging the thrift stores/2nd hand stores/used goods stores (Do you know what I am referring to?) Look in the yellow pages for listings, maybe?
                                                  There you may find better quality items for pennies on the dollar.
                                                  In the end, you're better off paying $20 for an old seasoned cast iron skillet than $20 for some "full set" as thin as a few paper plates, with "Teflon" that comes off if you soak it 20 mins & that dents if someone accidentally boinks it on a corner (as someone surely will, "Murphy's Law") '-)
                                                  Also: You can get better flatware (maybe even an old set of silver plate) there - It's OK if it doesn't all match. And, better utensils, too - like a pancake turner / whisk / rotary grater / mandoline / can opener / serving dishes - (or serve straight from the pots & pans on trivets - there will be trivets there, too - and at those prices, you may find it easy to afford serving dishes '-)
                                                  Even a dinette set + a couple of table cloths & a set of placemats for $100, or less.
                                                  Get good pot holders - at least 2 or 3 - It's hard to write a term paper with a burn on your hand(s)! '-)
                                                  Instead of a dishrack, I prefer Costco 60-count packs of white terry towels - $20/pack.
                                                  Use your pot(s) to mix in until you find some mixing bowls.
                                                  If you come across a good salad spinner, I'd get it.
                                                  Instead of a centerpiece for the table, why not pick one of the wide platters, or low and broad bowls for fruit? It'll be best for you all, economical, and easy to "grab on the go"!
                                                  You'll all be more likely to eat better if some fruits are right there, within reach as you come & go - and it's less costly (on your wallet + health) to ingrain good nutrition habits now '-)
                                                  A pitcher will be something smart to select, for making teas or juices...
                                                  Snag a vegetable peeler + a paring knife at the thrift store, too.
                                                  Be sure to select one of the colanders ~ Metal trumps plastic ~ Great for cleaning veggies + draining pastas! '-) $1 - $5, TOPS! Should cover that.
                                                  In the long run you'll come out ahead if you and your roomies purchase some old Pyrex with lids for storage, rather than going through an endless supply of Ziploc bags, or tubs... I'm not a fan of plastics - especially for reheating things - the "bad stuff" in it leaches out when hot - like 3.000,000 units in 1 _drop_ of condensation falling back onto your "healthy" steamed broccoli ~ uncool to the max. ~ and then some! '-)
                                                  TIP: Go with Pyrex, or, if you can get the tightly sealing Korean items with no handles: Excellent! Love Those! :-)
                                                  You don't need many pots & pans: A skillet + a dutch oven + a sauce pan + an egg frying pan should do it, for now...
                                                  Get a baking sheet, if you can find a good one - or go to a used restaurant supply store for that...
                                                  Also: an 8"x8" pan for brownies, if you think you'll be doing that
                                                  Also: a rectangular pan, for a weekly cake (easy & saves on "junk foods" to have 24 squares to share among you all) + can work to roast a chicken in, or ?
                                                  If you each chip in $50 you should have a table, 4 chairs & enough starter items to prepare, cook, serve & store meals in "acceptable" fashion - and maybe some groceries for that first day's meals even! '-)
                                                  If you have enough left over, spring for a new slow cooker - or one of you ask for one from home + a 4-slice toaster, no sense each of you heating toast when you can fill a 4-slicer and be done with it ~ More time to study! '-)
                                                  You don't need a blender & mixer & all that stuff just yet ~ But if you're all wanting "something more", I'd spring for a 12-cup rice cooker next.
                                                  That's about it.
                                                  Oh! And don't waste $ on paper plates & paper towels & paper napkins - use cloth - also nice ones perfectly serviceable at the thrift store, or use some of those 60 for $20 out of the Costco pack '-)
                                                  It may help you all to redirect the focus of your mindsets from "a tool for every job" to "multi-purposing's the way to go!" ~
                                                  For example, if you can't find/afford a set of round cake pans, make your cake on the stove top, in the covered dutch oven, on low heat ~ nice moist results - pineapple upside types work very best- no need for frostings '-)
                                                  SPLURGE: If you happen across an off-set spatula at the thrift store, get it - it'll be great for sandwiches and all sorts of tasks! :-)
                                                  I hope this has been of help to you. If I may be of any further help, please let me know.
                                                  Warmly Wishing You The Best of Success At College, Susana

                                              2. I too know this is an old thread, but my recent move to do graduate work got me to thinking about how I prepared for my move to a small place and a tiny kitchen. While I live alone, I like to have friends over. I consider myself a decent cook for my age, yet I knew I didn't want to lug accumulated cookware halfway across the country where it wouldn't fit into a tiny area.
                                                Here's what I brought or acquired:
                                                Toaster oven (with convection), big enough to do a half chicken or a Cornish Hen. Can sit anywhere!
                                                Old Oster Kitchen Center: can do anything-blend, mix, chop
                                                All-Clad skillets and a big pot. Virtually indestructible (trust me)
                                                Steamer: the upper part acts as my collander/lower part is my other, smaller pot
                                                Coffee maker: sorry, I cannot operate without coffee and I don't want to have to go out to Starbucks!
                                                Some Henkels and a big, serrated bread knife. I use plastic sheets rather than a single cutting board. Like these: http://www.amazon.com/MIU-Flexible-Cu...
                                                Set of Pyrex glass mixing bowls, with lids: these double for many uses

                                                As some have suggested, a thrift shop, garage sale/estate sale, Craig's list, ebay and asking all the relatives can yield many serviceable items for cheap.
                                                Some funky but still functional old utensils can hang on the wall and double as decoration. I collect them.