Going off to college can be difficult. Many students rely on their parents to cook, clean and do their laundry for a large part of their lives. So once they officially move in and their parents leave, reality starts to set in.

Many students enter college life not knowing how to turn a washer on, let alone boil a pot of water. Anyone can figure out how to clean; cooking, on the other hand, takes a lot of practice and patience. Don’t worry, there are plenty of resources out there to assist even the most inexperienced of kitchen amateurs.

Microwave Meals

Even if you don’t have access to a stove, there are other options for making meals. Pasta Sides are a great alternative to a home-cooked meal. Most of these recipes only require water, oil and butter. By purchasing a microwaveable bowl, quick and easy meals like these can be a great alternative to those who struggle to be Betty Crocker.

Mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, Chef Boyardi and Chunky Soup are also great dry-stored food items that can be quickly microwaved for an easy meal between classes. Frozen entrées are perfect starters as well, i.e. Lean Cuisine, Stouffers and Pizza Rolls.

Pro tip: Never put anything metal based inside the microwave, as doing so will cause the unit to explode. Always make sure to take off any plastic cover, unless the box specifically instructs you not to do so. Additionally, be mindful of the type of plastic you place in the microwave: the wrong kind of bowl can melt, which will ruin your meal.

Meat can be cooked in a microwave if its package provides cooking instructions. Keep in mind that failure to cook meat properly results in cold spots where harmful bacteria can grow, unbeknownst to the consumer. Just because Chef Ramsey can do it doesn’t mean you can, too.

Cooking can be fun, but it’s a learning experience that becomes more enjoyable with practice. The more familiar you become with reading and following recipes, the better the outcome will taste.

Basic Cooking

When you’re confident in your microwave skills, you can move onto the next level of cooking: using a stovetop. When you add a stovetop into the mix, you need to be cautious. Never leave any potential fire hazards near the hot plates or on the stovetop. Your entire kitchen could be in flames if you turn your back even for a second.

Eggs are a great start when you first start using a stove, as your options are endless. Fun tip: Always cook your eggs on low heat and cook them slowly. If the heat is too high, you’ll fry up the moisture, leaving burnt eggs for you to choke down.

There are hundreds of websites that offer free online recipes with a pre-prep list, ingredient list and step-by-step instructions on how to make your selected meal. AllRecipes, MyRecipes, Yummly and countless others encourage you to start small, and work your way up to more involved recipes.

Pinterest offers thousands of recipes that may not be easy to find through a Google search. The social media platform features a community of bloggers who share top-notch recipes for everyone to try. Simply use the search bar, type in any type of food you want to include and Pinterest will do the work for you.

Not every recipe will turn out right, but that’s the magic of cooking. You don’t know what you will get. Some recipes will sound heavenly until you try it, and are forced to order take out. Others will not sound too great, but sometimes they’re worth a shot.

There’s nothing wrong with entering college oblivious as to how to boil water. However, what I’ve just described are simple cooking skills necessary to obtain before graduating college and moving into your own place. Take it upon yourself to learn these life-long skills.

Using the Oven

Oven-cooking life can be easy, especially when you’re making something as simple as a frozen pizza. But baking meals like pasta can prove to be more difficult, as you have to make sure the center is cooked evenly.

When you decide what you want to make, preheat the oven. When it’s almost preheated, grab the necessary dish, i.e. a pizza pan, non-stick cookie sheets, glass baking pans, etc., and prep your food.

Make sure to use non-stick cooking spray, Crisco or butter before placing the food on the pan. This will make flipping foods halfway through (such as fries, pizza rolls and chicken nuggets) easier, as they won’t be glued to the pan.

These are simple, necessary skills that will make your cooking endeavors successful. Patience in cooking is key — you can’t rush the process of cooking. If you get anxious and impatient quickly, stick to small, simple recipes.

As your confidence grows, the recipes you choose will become more adventurous. Don’t be afraid to experiment with spices. Over time, your collection of spices will expand as you brave ta new recipe.

Nobody wants to live on take out for the rest of their life. Invest your time into adulthood, and master simple kitchen skills that will always be of use to you.

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