Back to School: Welcome to cooking

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Well, look at that. Off to college and suddenly it’s time to learn how to (theoretically) fend for yourself. You can’t fill up on nasty food court or cafeteria items all the time, but luckily it’s really not hard to cook up some down-home vittles right from your dorm or (hopefully) your first apartment.

Here are some basics that you’ll need to get you through mealtime.

Mini-fridge

You might think the mini-fridge would mostly apply to dorm-folk, but those of you with lots of roommates might want to think twice. The school year is just cranking up and I bet you first-time roommate people have already discovered that the fridge can be precious territory. Put five people in a house with only one fridge and things get messy and crowded quickly. It might be worth it to pick up a mini-fridge to keep your food safe. At the very least, it’s another line of defense between your roommates and your beer. For a hundred bucks (on sale), you can get this Kenmore 2.7 cu. ft. Compact Refrigerator.

Microwave toaster combo

Everybody knows how to work a microwave oven. It’s probably the first thing in the kitchen your parents let you operate. As such, it’s probably the first thing you thought about needing for school too. Ah, but what about pizza? We all know that nuked leftover pizza – while having its charm – lacks in the texture department. Most likely space is an issue, so getting a toaster oven and a microwave is probably out of the question. Well, good news, the Sharp R-55TS combines them both for $129.99.

Coffee maker

Yes, I know you love your coffee shop. Sitting around pretending to study is a good bit of the college experience after all. However, you may not know it now, but you will come finals time: easy access to coffee is essential. Just get yourself a cheap basic drip model and save the fancy drinks for the cute barista you are trying to impress/annoy. Oh, and if you get whole bean coffee, don’t forget to grind it. Otherwise you’ll be hammering those beans into oblivion one-by-one instead of cramming for your finals. For forty bucks (on sale) here’s a Braun KF580.

Silverware

Yeah, you wouldn’t think this is a biggie, but that’s exactly why it’s so easy to overlook. When I moved into my first place, I wasn’t much of a cook. I threw a frozen pizza in the oven and in 20-25 minutes it was done. Except I had no way to get it out of the oven. Forget spatula, I didn’t even have a fork. Which is why, I suppose, I was making a frozen pizza. Oh, and a cookie sheet or something? Forget it. It was right on the rack. Anyways, some basic utensils will save you from unnecessary burn blisters. At the least: fork, knife, spoon, a sharp knife and I guess, a spatula would come in handy. Here ya go: For nine bucks you can get the Chefmate Transport 13-pc. Flatware Set. You should still pick up a good knife, but this is a good start.

Salt, pepper, spices, hot sauce and of course, condiments


You’re not a kid anymore. It’s time to move beyond bland boxed food, (I’m looking at you powdered mac ‘n’ cheese) and into the world of spices. Rarely does anything that comes out of a can or box try to do anything but appeal to the lowest common denominator. You know how it is when you get a “spicy” anything. It almost always turns out to be just a shadow of flavor. Well, it is time to start building up your herb and spice knowledge, so at the very least you can sprinkle some basil over your pizza bagel. I know you probably aren’t ready for the big time yet, so, for a good general-use flavor enhancer, ditch the ketchup and pick up some Tapatío. It goes with everything.

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