Student kitchen essentials – what to buy for university

Our checklist has key equipment to buy a student who is starting a new term. Discover how to kit out a university kitchen, plus find student recipes to get them started. 

Risotto in a pan with a wooden spoon

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When it comes to cooking, students don't always get the best press. But let's face it, a cupboard full of broken pots and pans and a couple of electric rings would leave even professional chefs at a loss. Being packed off to university with the right kit will raise spirits as well as keep hunger pangs at bay. Communal cooking is a great way of finding a sense of home, too, in addition to saving money. Here's our definitive guide to the top gadgets and kit to stock up on before heading off to uni this year...


Tefal wok pan on a white background
Stir-fries are a bit of a lifeline for students; they are fast, cheap and tend to contain a few vegetables, too. Invest in a big enough wok as they're a great way of feeding a crowd. Carbon steel woks are often inexpensive, but have a tendency to rust if not treated with oil and maintained over time. If this sounds too much like high maintenance, go for a non-stick wok like this Tefal wok with a thermospot centre to signal when to start cooking.

Tefal Everest Stone 28cm wok


Non-stick frying pan

Non-stick frying pan on white background
Treat it well and a non-stick frying pan can be a friend for life. It's brilliant for cheap, speedy dishes like omelette and pancakes, and should lessen cooking disasters for the new chef. This thrifty Tower ceramic pan changes colour when it reaches the perfect cooking temperature and is a very affordable option should it need replacing.

Tower ceramic-coated change frying pan


Slow cooker

Silver slow cooker on white background

Slow cookers may seem a bit more The Good Life than The Young Ones, but they're a great way of eating well on a budget. With a slow cooker you'll be able to turn the cheapest cuts of meat into something spectacular and with minimum preparation time.

There are lots of pros to buying a slow cooker. They are energy efficient and if you set your timer before leaving the house, you can arrive home from lectures to a freshly cooked hot meal – just like home. This thrifty Russell Hobbs slow cooker has a 3.5l capacity so is ideal for batch cooking.

Russell Hobbs 3.5l slow cooker



Sharp edge knife with black handle on white background

A proper chef's knife will make the world of difference to your cooking experience if you can invest or 'borrow' one from home. Although they tend to come with high price tags, those serious about their cooking will keep theirs throughout their entire student life and beyond. You can pick up a very good knife for under £40, but we love this Kitchen Devils cook’s knife. It’s remarkably cheap, multi-purpose and has a finger stop at the end of the handle for safety. 

Kitchen Devils Control cook’s knife

Buy from Robert Dyas (£8.99)

Chopping board

Plastic chopping board on white background

A range of simple plastic or wooden chopping boards is definitely an essential on the shopping list before heading off to uni. This set of three non-slip boards by Von Shef vary in size so they can be used for prepping different ingredients. The rubber grips on each corner ensure maximum safety when chopping. 

VonShef 3-piece firm grip chopping board set

Buy from Domu (£9.99)

Can opener

Can opener on white background

Cheaper canned foods tend to lack a ring pull, so a good can opener is essential for the student kitchen. This robust OXO Good Grips opener has soft handles and is easy to use. 

OXO Good Grips soft-handled can opener



Blue lunchbox on white backgroundTaking your own packed lunches to uni will save you heaps of money. This slender, space-saving lunchbox can be slotted into a book bag, plus it has a reliable leakproof seal. 

Joseph Joseph GoEat lunchbox


Roasting tray 

Blue and black roasting tray on white background
Less costly than you might imagine, a decent roasting tin comes in handy for a multitude of different recipes from a Sunday roast to a sweet traybake. This Lakeland pan has many positive features, including a non-stick surface, pouring lip for cooking juices and a generous capacity – essential when cooking for a group.

Lakeland large roasting tin with pouring lip


More student-friendly product reviews

Best hand blenders
Best food storage containers
Best kitchen gadgets under £10
Best reusable water bottles
10 gadgets to save you money in the kitchen

Student recipes and guides

7 healthy student recipes
Basic recipes for your first year as a student
10 vegan student recipes
10 vegetarian student recipes
Essential recipes for university
Our best ever student recipes
Cheap and healthy recipes

For all of the products mentioned in this review, various retailers have been suggested by our affiliate partner Monetizer 101 and are not suggested or chosen by BBC Good Food. For more information on how these retailers are selected and the nature of our partnership, please read the Monetizer101 FAQ page

What kitchen equipment could you not live without at university? Leave a comment below...

This review was last updated in October 2018. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at

Comments, questions and tips

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12th Nov, 2015
I'd suggest ditching the slow-cooker for a combined electric pressure cooker and slow-cooker (you can also saute with the lid off so it's also a large saucepan) - there are various models (I have an Instant Pot IP-Duo60 6 litre) ranging from basic to ones with timer and presets for specific foods (e.g. soup, stew, stock, poultry, chilli). They tend to come with a steamer basker and/or a trivet so you can use it as a steamer too (and store them inside when not in use). Having multi-purpose kit saves space and is usually cheaper than buying the appliances separately. You can also buy multi-cookers that slow-cook, cook rice, steam etc. but don't pressure cook; I had one as a student - handy in a tiny space.
Nishrin Rieza
28th Jan, 2015
nice tips. And I also agree with Daisy@Cheaperseeker. Too many utensils.
16th Sep, 2014
Agree with Daisy@Cheaperseeker - loads of cutlery - I did buy new in first year but it's better to just buy a load from the charity shop as you are never going to leave with your full set. Paper/Plastic bowls - if you are considering feeding a crowd, no-one wants to get stuck washing up or having to serve chili from mugs... 2 Saucepans, again if you can find some in decent condition in a charity shop or on sale super cheap somewhere go for it, as chances are you will find at least one of them hidden in a cupboard, half full of food because someone came in at 3am and fancied pasta
Daisy@Cheaperseeker's picture
17th Apr, 2014
So many knives, forks and spoons.
27th Oct, 2013
I've got a 3L slow cooker and bought a plug-in timer for it. It's cheaper than forking out for a cooker with a built in timer and just as good.
20th Jun, 2013
Something I find to be crucial in the kitchen is a colander. Makes draining/rinsing things such as pasta (an obvious student staple) or salad much easier.
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