Stainless steel saucepan with strainer lid (WearEver saucepan with strainer lid, $25):
Creating a mess of dirty dishes is the number one cause of failed dinners and roommate relationship strain. This easy–to–clean saucepan moonlights as a lidded pot and a strainer, so the sink–space footprints for making pasta, boiling vegetables and other culinary endeavors are reduced by at least 50%. Your regular bald-faced lie, “it’s, like, only one pot dude” can finally be true.
A sharp, quality chopping knife (Farberware Forged Chef Knife, $15):
For obvious reasons, you want your knives to be very sharp. That multicolored set of knives you bought from Target for twenty dollars? Come fall break, they’ll be duller than CSPAN. For even more obvious reasons, knives have to have handles. But shit gets weird when the handle’s plastic/wood/dragonbone (Tyrion?) meets its steel blade. That hard to wash little joint is a paradise for bacteria and other tiny critters jockeying to make the step up from raw meat to fruits and vegetables. Invest thirty dollars in a quality knife that will keep its edge and that also has a handle attached completely flush to the blade. It’ll last until graduation (or until your subletter steals it).
Heat diffuser plate (Ilsa 7-Inch Cast Iron Heat Diffuser Plate, $16):
This is literally just a disk of cast iron, or, if you’re feeling really fancy, aluminized steel. But it’s a game–changer. For those of us not lucky enough to have a gas range, this magical 8” disk lets you cook over an evenly distributed heat. While that may not sound like much, everything a stovetop is used for (except maybe boiling water) is made easier when the heat source is uniform. Even for gas users, a diffuser plate allows for the use of non–metal vessels, like glass pots, tagines and Dutch ovens.