14 best student kitchen essentials

Heading off to university? You'll need a few key items of kitchen equipment. Discover our favourite handy tools to make student meals on a budget.

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.

We've compiled our definitive guide to the top gadgets and kit to stock up on before heading off to uni this year. Once you have your equipment, you'll need the recipes to go with them, so check out our student meals, healthy student suppers and top 10 basic recipes to take to university.

For more on kitchen gadgets, visit our review section and find over 200 practical buyer's guides offering unbiased advice on what equipment is worth investing in. Freshers may be interested in our reviews of mini fridges, saucepan sets and eco-friendly coffee cups.

Pro Cook colander on a white background

1. Colander

With pasta, rice and noodles the most common student fodder, you'll need a good colander for drainage. Student kitchen space is often at a premium so ditch the traditional clunky colander and go for something more contemporary. This design is genius – the colander collapses flat and can be slotted into a narrow cupboard space.

ProCook collapsible colander. Buy now (£16)

Wilko water bottle on a white background

2. Water bottle

Ideal for lectures, the gym, library sessions and general campus life, a refillable water bottle is an absolute essential. Not only will it help you save on expensive bottled water, you'll also cut down on your single-use plastic. This stylish matte bottle from high street hero Wilko is one of the cheapest reusable bottles we’ve seen. Attractive and lightweight, it effectively keeps drinks cold or hot. 

Wilko 500ml double-wall bottle. Buy now (£5)

3 piece bamboo utensil set

3. Utensil set 

Spoons for stirring are essential for most simple recipes. Try and find a utensil set that features a classic cooking spoon, a slotted version and a spatula at a minimum, but some sets also come with a potato masher, tongs, whisks and more. Think about what you'll most often use them for and go from there. We like this bamboo set as it's eco-friendly yet sturdy and inexpensive. We love the pop of colour on the ends. 

Wayfair 3-piece bamboo kitchen utensil set. Buy now (£12.99)

Tefal wok pan on a white background

4. Wok

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 on white background

5. Non-stick frying pan

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 supermarket pan seriously impressed when we put it to the test against much more expensive competitors. 

George at Asda 24cm forged aluminium frying pan. Buy now (£8)

 

Silver slow cooker on white background

6. Slow cooker

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

7. Knife

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 20cm large cook's knife. Buy now from Amazon (£14.67)


8. Chopping board

Wooden chopping board on white backgroundA simple plastic or wooden chopping board is definitely an essential on the shopping list before heading off to uni. A set of slimline boards in different sizes can be useful for multitasking, plus they will store easily. For something more hefty, go for a butchers block-style board. Our cookery team can testify to how hard-wearing this chopping board is – it's strong, sturdy and a good size. 

Lakeland beech chopping block. Buy now (£21.99)

Ikea vardefull grater on a white background

9. Grater

Pizzatoastiespasta bakes – student households can get through a lot of cheese. This clever gadget allows for grating in both directions, plus has an area for catching food and two sides for coarse and fine grating. It also sits flat without wobbling, avoiding mess and mishaps. Great for shredding vegetables and crushing garlic too, it's a gadget you'll use over and over again. 

IKEA 365+ Värdefull grater. Buy now (£7)

Can opener on white background

10. Can opener

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 background

11. Lunchbox

Taking 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

 

Blue and black roasting tray on white background

12. Roasting tray 

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. Buy now (£12.99)

Memphis mug with the letter g
13. Mug

Caffeinated drinks are a mainstay of student life. One way to avoid ever losing your favourite mug without resorting to territorial post-it notes? Get one marked with your initial. 

Oli & Zo Memphis-style geometric initial mug. Buy now from Not on the High Street (£14)

Mini fridge with bottle top design

14. Mini fridge

Fellow students stealing your milk is a common gripe for freshers. A personal fridge in your room will prevent any crimes against refrigerated goods. This playful design featuring colourful bottle tops is a nod to a drink particularly popular with students, although for a more muted finish, check out our mini fridge reviews and find eight other recommendations at various price points.

Kuhla mini fridge 

 

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

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

This review was last updated in September 2019. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at goodfoodwebsite@immediate.co.uk.

Comments, questions and tips

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hungrybaker
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.
foulkes_mia
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
Daisy@Cheaperseeker
17th Apr, 2014
So many knives, forks and spoons.
amadden
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.
razsharkbait
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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