How to Cook a Gourmet Meal in Your Dorm

Tilapia, Cooked Sous Vide, and Green Beans

Minnesota, Fall 2010

It was getting late for an 8th grader on a school night, probably a little after ten pm. I had just finished an exhilarating session of indoor soccer, but the real excitement had yet to begin.

My dad and I had a tradition. At night, after I got back from soccer, we would watch an episode or two of this show on the Food Network called “Chopped.” On the show, chefs competed in several rounds where they had to create a meal using only the, typically quite unusual and challenging, ingredients they were given.

This was the first time I was exposed to cooking in such a creative and innovative way. It helped me develop the ability to question convention, and ask questions later on in life like “Why can’t I cook gourmet food in a dorm?”

Illinois Fall 2016

Since then, I developed my cooking skills immensely by cooking all of my meals, reading cook books/articles, not being afraid to fail, and preparing holiday dinners for my family.

You can imagine my worries about how I would be able to keep cooking when I went off to college! Was my culinary life going to consist of hot pockets and fast food?

The Solution

In a dorm room, you have running water, a microwave, and a refrigerator… that’s it. A lot of people would look at this situation and simply think that it would be impossible to cook anything better than a frozen microwave meal.

However, I look at these as “creative constraints” that require a little bit of searching to find a solution.

I was living out my own episode of “Chopped” if you will. Instead of being limited to certain ingredients, I was constrained by the tools I could use to cook them.

In this post, I am going to teach you how to cook a gourmet meal in a dorm. Let’s begin.

Tilapia, Cooked Sous Vide, with Green Beans

Inspired by Tim Ferriss’ The 4 Hour Chef


  • Plastic Bags ($2)
  • Food Thermometer ($8)
  • Bowl ($5)


  • Tilapia, fresh or frozen (any fish will do, but the cooking time might be different for other fish) ($7)
  • Salt and Pepper (S+P)($1)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) ($3)
  • Green Beans, fresh or frozen ($3)


00. Gather your ingredients.

01. De-frost your fish if it’s frozen— Put the fish in the refrigerator the night before, or if you are impatient like me you can run it under warm water for about 5 minutes.

02. Package the defrosted fish in a ziplock bag, then fill it with a tablespoon of EVOO and your desired amount of S+P. Seal the bag.

03. Place the fish package in your bowl and fill it almost to the brim with water.

04. Microwave for 4m 20s (this time if specific for a 600 watt microwave).

05. Open the bag and use a food thermometer to ensure the fish is cooked to 145 degrees F.

Green Beans

01. Wash with cold water.

02. Line them up and chop off the ends.

03. Put the Green Beans in a bowl and fill it about 1/4 of the way with water.

04. Microwave for 2 minutes.

05. Drain the water from the bowl

06. Drizzle EVOO over the green beans and S+P to taste.

BONUS: How to Cook Eggs in a Microwave

Scrambled Eggs


  • Plastic Bowl ($2)
  • Plastic Fork ($1.5)


  • Eggs ($2)
  • Salt and Pepper ($1)
  • Cocoanut Oil (Optional, you can use butter or EVOO instead) ($7)


00. Crack 2 eggs into your bowl.

01. Measure 10g of coconut oil into the bowl. If you are using butter, I would try 1/2 a tablespoon and if EVOO use 1 tablespoon.

02. Mix thoroughly using your fork.

03. Microwave for 1 min, then take the bowl out and mix/scrape the sides.

04. Put in for another 30–35 seconds. Remove when the surface looks slightly moist. If you take the eggs out and they taste/look dry and foamy, they were cooked a little too long. If this happens just keep subtracting 10 seconds from your cook time till they come out perfect.

[Keep an eye on the eggs during this period. If your microwave is more powerful than mine, it will of course take less time.]

05. S+P to taste.

Why do I prefer Coconut Oil?

To me, Coconut Oil tastes just as good as butter or EVOO. However, the main reason I use it is because of all the health benefits it possesses.

For example, aside from being good for your skin and heart, Cocoanut Oil is a significant source of MCT’s (Medium-Chain Triglycerides) which work as fuel for your brain.

To put it simply, your brain can run on glucose and/or ketones. MCT’s raise the level of ketones in your blood, and therefore provide a good supply of energy for the brain (this is a study that goes into detail about the benefits of MCT’s).

Cocoanut oil is so effective that it has even been called “rocket fuel” for the brain. I’ve even started putting a little Coconut Oil in my morning tea as well!

Warning: If you try these recipes, please be sure to use a food thermometer to ensure all the food you prepare is fully cooked.

Thank you for reading! I hope you found this article entertaining and useful.

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