The University of Iowa

Setting up your Kitchen

If you are lucky, you will move into a student residence that has a kitchen already furnished by previous inhabitants. This is often the case on a study abroad program. But if you are not that lucky, you will need to buy some gear. Depending on where you study abroad, there may be second-hand stores that carry kitchen equipment. Or check out weekend flea markets. As a last resort, buy new, but only after talking to some local people about good, inexpensive places to shop. Think about it this way: if you were a new foreign student in the United States, where would you shop for a frying pan? At a garage sale? At a Goodwill or Salvation Army store? At Target? Or at a high-end store that caters to wanna-be chefs?

What do you need to start cooking? Pots, pans, utensils, hot pads, maybe some bakeware. The Real Simple web site publishes a list of basic kitchen tools that might be a useful starting point, but remember that utensils and cookware designed for your local cuisine might not be on this list. And remember that this list is pretty long -- you don't need everything here!

On a related note, you will want a small supply of basic spices for livening up your food. Salt and pepper go a long way, but good, fresh spices can make the difference between eating grub and enjoying a meal. Check the Real Simple web page for a nice variety of suggested spices to keep on hand, and remember that your local cuisine may require different spices. Ask local people what they use, and follow suit.

It’s very possible that the stove and/or oven available for your use abroad will have gas instead of electrical heating elements. You might need some coaching to learn how to use it, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll probably enjoy it. Good cooks find that they can control the temperature better when cooking with gas. And it’s perfectly safe as long as you follow directions and don’t let your equipment fall into disrepair.