For college students, the back-to-school rush comes not once but twice a year, following both the summer and winter breaks. If you’re headed back to campus this semester, you’ve probably already packed your bags, outlined your class schedule, and applied for scholarships – but what will you eat?
Research shows that students who regularly consume healthful meals, especially breakfast, are less distracted and perform well academically. As you adjust to the hectic pace of college life, how will you make sure you get in three square meals a day?
Meal plans and long lines at the school cafeteria are a way of life for many college students. Others subsist on fast-food hamburgers, pizza delivery, and endless bowls of ramen noodles. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
You can prepare quick and healthy meals – or reheat your leftover pizza – using an air fryer. You don’t have time, you say? Nonsense! Most air fryer meals can be completed from prep to table in 15 to 20 minutes – sometimes even less. By comparison, it may take you that long to walk to the nearest vending machine or wait in line to pay at the campus food court!
This small appliance is perfect for the limited space available in the average dorm. Is an air fryer right for you? First, consider whether your dorm’s regulations allow small kitchen appliances. Then, check out our top picks and a few tasty recipes to help you make the most of the college experience.
Our Favorite Air Fryers for College Dorm Picks
Are Air Fryers Permitted in Your College Dorm?
An air fryer is a perfect choice for cooking in an apartment with little available counter space, such as in a college dorm. Before you head off to college, however, you’ll want to make sure that your university allows these handy appliances.
Many colleges and universities have rules about what types of appliances you can and cannot use inside their dormitories. The most common rule of thumb is to use only cooking appliances that do not emit smoke. Why?
When you cause food to smoke – even if you just overcooked your microwave popcorn – the smoke will set off the dorm’s smoke detector/fire alarm. In the dorm, you can’t fix the problem by pushing the button on the alarm as you would at home.
Because the dorm houses so many students, specific safety measures are in place. In most cases, your room’s smoke detector is integrated into the building’s fire alarm system – meaning you can’t turn it off. The building will be evacuated, the fire department will be called, and you may be fined. At some colleges, fines may exceed $1,000 per occurrence. Yikes!
So, can you use an air fryer in such a situation? When in good working order and when used properly, an air fryer should not emit smoke. Of course, you’ll want to avoid using too much oil and check your food regularly to avoid overcooking. Never leave the air fryer unattended.
Pro Tip: When cooking fatty foods, add an inch of water to the bottom of the frying basket. This will cool any oil that drips from the food, preventing it from smoking and setting off the fire alarm.
The bottom line is, you should check your institution’s policies. Many have an “approved appliances list” – and air fryers under 1,500 watts are generally on it. If you happen to be staying in a dorm that provides kitchenettes, you’re probably golden. If you’re still not sure, just ask.
I looked into my alma mater’s current cooking regulations. Austin Peay State University has an extensive list of “what to bring/what not to bring.” This institution encourages students to bring “cooking utensils” but doesn’t go into further detail. As for what not to bring, this list includes microwaves with more than 1,000 watts of power or refrigerators larger than five cubic feet.
Wright State University goes into much finer detail of what items are allowed/not allowed on campus.
Approved Appliance List (Wright State University)
|Air Fryer||Allowed (Max 1500 watts)||Allowed (Max 1500 watts)|
|Belgian waffle maker||Allowed||Allowed|
|Cotton candy maker||Allowed||Allowed|
|Deep fryer||Not allowed||Allowed|
|Electric crepe maker||Allowed||Allowed|
|Fondue pot||Not allowed||Allowed|
|George Foreman grill||Allowed||Allowed|
|Hot plate||Not allowed||N/A**|
|Instant Pot||Not allowed||Not allowed|
|NuWave induction burner||Not allowed||N/A**|
|Personal portable or full size washer & dryers||Not allowed||Not allowed|
|Personal portable or full size dishwashers||Not allowed||Not allowed|
|Pizza oven||Not allowed||N/A**|
|Refrigerators or freezer||Allowed (Max 4 cubic feet) ***||Allowed (Max 4 cubic feet) ***|
|Toaster oven||Not allowed||Allowed|
|Toaster oven broiler||Not allowed||Allowed|
It seems that air fryers would be permitted, but asking for clarification would still be a good idea.
Best Air Fryers for College Dorms
When choosing appliances for your dorm kitchen, it’s all a matter of size. You’ll likely have limited counter space which is shared with your dorm mates.
What if your dorm doesn’t include a meal prep counter? That’s okay. You can place a small air fryer on any steady hard surface, including a folding table or a bedside stand. You may want to protect plastic or wooden surfaces with a silicone heat-resistant mat. Leave several inches of clearance on all sides of the air fryer.
We recommend small air fryers for college dorms. Why? There are two reasons. One, smaller air fryers have a tiny footprint and take up less space. They are lightweight and can easily be stored or packed to your friend’s dorm or apartment.
Two, in most instances you will be cooking only for yourself. You may at times prepare snacks for your friends, but your small air fryer can handle up to two servings. If you need to prepare more, cooking times are quick enough that there will be little wait.
The smallest air fryers on the market today have a capacity of 1.2 quarts. Sizes from 1.2 quarts to 2.75 quarts are recommended for college students. Check out our top college air fryer picks below.
It may be small, but the Dash air fryer can supply you with big flavor. It can handle up to half a bag of French fries or six hot wings in a single cooking cycle. Set the time and temperature with simple manual knob controls.
This tiny air fryer has a retro feel. Perhaps the best part is that it lets you customize your dorm with five distinct colors – aqua, black, gray, red, or white. It also has an automatic shutoff function and a cool-touch handle and housing for added safety.
An unusual feature for such a small air fryer, the Bella has an extended cook time of up to 60 minutes. This allows you to prepare dishes like whole cornish hens without resetting the timer. Set the time and temperature using the manual controls. This air fryer has indicator lights and an audible tone to let you know when your food is done. Like the Dash, it has safety features including a cool-touch exterior and automatic shutoff.
The Bella air fryer can handle up to 2.2 pounds of food in a single cooking cycle.
The GoWISE air fryer is the perfect choice for the digital age. The digital display is surrounded by a simple five-button control panel: power, and plus-minus buttons for the time and temperature. It automatically switches to standby mode when your meal is done.
The GoWISE air fryer lets you customize your space to an unparalleled degree as it comes in your choice of eight colors: black, blush, majestic yellow, mint, plum, red, teal, or white. Fill your plate and express yourself!
Quick Air Fryer Recipes for College Students
“Quick” and “easy” are the necessary ingredients for college cooking. After all, you’ve got enough activities on your plate, figuratively speaking – studying, tests, and parties chief among them. Ordering out is expensive, however, and too much fast food may leave you sluggish, falling asleep in class.
The solution? The quick and easy cooking power of the air fryer. The following recipes turn snackfood junkie favorites into fast and straightforward gourmet meals.
Air Fryer Pizza
College is expensive – and so is ordering out for every meal. You can save some hard-earned dough and create a healthier option when you make your own air fryer pizza.
Servings: 1 to 2
Prep time/cooking time: 10 minutes
1 naan bread
½ cup pizza or pasta sauce
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Toppings of your choice
Pro Tip: You can make a healthier pizza by adding plant-based ingredients such as spinach, tomato slices, mushrooms, olives, and whole flax seeds. Or, you can use whatever leftovers you have in the dorm fridge – sliced lunchmeat, shredded chicken, or fajita-style meat and veggies all make good pizza toppings.
- Place the naan in the fryer basket.
- Top the naan with pizza sauce, cheese, and toppings.
- Set the air fryer to 5 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit (F). Cook until the cheese is melty.
- Enjoy your homemade pizza.
Microwave burritos are a college staple. But that soggy, squishy burrito may become less than appetizing – especially if you’ve eaten it every meal for a week straight. We’ll show you two different ways you can turn those microwave burritos into a restaurant-quality meal right in your own air fryer.
Crispy Burritos with Mango
The mango adds a bit of fresh fruit to increase the healthiness of this convenience meal, and the tortilla comes out crispy and flakey.
Servings: 1 to 2
Prep time/cooking time: 15 minutes
2 microwave burritos, frozen
Salt to taste
Ground cayenne pepper to taste
Sour cream and taco sauce, optional
- Place burritos in the frying basket. Set to 370 F for 15 minutes. Begin the cooking cycle.
- While your burritos are frying, peel and slice the mango. Place it in a bowl and season with salt and cayenne pepper to taste (in case you didn’t know, this is a traditional way of eating mango in many countries – and it’s delicious).
- When the cooking cycle is complete, remove the burritos to a plate. Serve with sour cream and salsa if desired. Enjoy with fresh mango.
These burritos aren’t as crispy as the last, but they come out much better than the microwave variety! Again, you can prepare a plate that looks like it came from your favorite taqueria.
Servings: 1 to 2
Prep time/cooking time: 20 minutes
2 microwave burritos, frozen
½ cup enchilada sauce
Shredded cheese, optional
⅛ cup shredded lettuce, optional
Pro Tip: Substitute the enchilada sauce with Herdez mild guacamole salsa for a different, tangy taste.
- Place the burritos in a small oven-safe cooking dish. Pour the enchilada sauce over the burritos.
- Place the dish in the air fryer. Cook at 370 F for 15 minutes.
- When the cooking cycle is complete, carefully remove the burritos. Top with shredded cheese and serve with lettuce, as desired.
A small air fryer makes a great addition to a college dorm. It allows you to save money and eat healthier. It also reduces the time you’ll spend cooking when compared to other cooking methods. You can also use it to reheat leftovers, making them taste fresh and crispy once again.
The air fryers listed above all received positive user reviews. Often, users site the convenience, small footprint, and reduced weight as a plus of owning this type of appliance. Others mention how quickly the food cooks, how crispy snacks and leftovers become, and how easy the air cooker is to use.
As you prepare to go back to school, don’t forget to pack a most important school supply – your air fryer!