Before you buy gear for a dorm room, check the school’s rules.
Colleges are pretty consistent about what you should bring to campus—linens, laptops, and a yearn to learn—but they vary on what’s allowed in the dorms. Some prohibit any high-heat appliance such as toasters, coffeemakers, and popcorn makers; other campuses permit them.
Colleges usually allow dorm residents to buy or rent a refrigerator, but students who like to make their own Pop-Tarts and coffee should check the college website. Of course, the rules are different for students who live off campus. Here are some of Consumer Reports’ top-rated small appliances for small spaces.
A good option is a single-serve brew-and-dispense unit. The Mr. Coffee BVMC-ZH1B, $49.96 + free shipping and a Consumer Reports Best Buy, is a great deal that lets you dispense coffee directly into a cup and there’s no carafe to clean. Its brewing performance is excellent, and it’s easy to handle.
Toasters and Toaster Ovens
The toaster ovens recommended range in price from the $80, Oster TSSTTVMNDG to the $250 Breville Smart Oven BOV800XL, which both scored very good on Consumer Reports baking and broiling tasks. Another recommended model, the Kenmore Elite 126401, $95, actually made better toast, but the Oster can accommodate a four-pound chicken.
A two-slice toaster winner is the $15 Proctor-Silex Cool-Touch 22203, which is a Consumer Reports Best Buy and produced evenly toasted bread. Spending a little more will get you bagel and other settings. Top-rated Cuisinart CPT-170, $77, also has defrost, and warm/reheat settings plus a nifty countdown timer telling you how long until your toast is done.
Microwave options in dorms usually include a college-owned unit in a shared kitchen or one that comes as part of a combination micro-fridge that students can rent for their room or suite. If you’re buying a counter-top microwave for an off-campus apartment, look for one that scored well on cooking evenness in our tests. Under cooking food in a microwave can lead to food poisoning.
The top-scoring midsized model, the Kenmore 6633, $140, had very good performance in testing and was also excellent at defrosting. For a little more, you can choose one of two large microwaves that earned a Consumer Reports Best Buy, the Whirlpool MT4155SP[B] or the Panasonic Inverter NN-T945[S]F, for less than $200. Both cooked evenly and have a variety of quick keys. The Panasonic had the most usable capacity but was also a bit noisier.