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.
For safety’s sake look for a coffeemaker with a thermal carafe and an auto shut-off feature. That way there’s no risk of it being left on when a student rushes off to class.
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
Toasters are usually forbidden in dorm rooms but often allowed in campus apartments with fully equipped kitchens. And a toaster oven can be an off-campus student’s go-to cooking appliance.
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.