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INSIDE: Here’s the beginner’s guide to cooking in a hotel room. With a rice cooker and a few basic supplies, you can cook up some pretty tasty recipes!
In 2017, we took a family trip to Disney World (see: My top 5 Disney World tips for a budget traveler) for a few days, and one of the things we did to help cut down on costs was a little hotel cooking.
Now I understand that cooking in a hotel room is not for everyone, and hotel cooking is not even something that we do all the time. Still, if you’re doing long-term travel and wondering how to live in a hotel room, some of these hotel food ideas might be helpful.
Pick your hotel room wisely
If you want to cook in a hotel room, you’ll want to make sure it has certain amenities. I’m setting aside the more “extended stay” hotels, such as Homewood Suites or Residence Inn, which have full kitchens inside the guest rooms.
In that case, you’re likely to have all the services and amenities you need to cook in a hotel room, and you don’t need to bother with some of the esoteric things we’re talking about here. In this cooking in a hotel room post, I’m talking about a “regular” hotel room, where you don’t really have any type of kitchen supplies.
You’ll want to make sure your room has a mini fridge. Some of the recipes we found for this type of cooking would benefit from a microwave, but a microwave is not necessary – consider it a bonus if you have one!
In a pinch, I’ve heard good things about the ability to even use the hotel-provided coffee maker or iron (to “grill” a panini or grilled cheese sandwich) as ways to do some cooking in a hotel room.
Bring the right supplies (can you say…. air freshener?)
If you’re staying in a “regular” hotel room, cooking will require you to bring a few supplies with you. This can be tricky if you’re flying back and forth, but with a little bit of planning, you can still eat healthy in a hotel room.
The most crucial thing to bring for hotel room cooking is a rice cooker. There are a variety of “normal” (even kid-friendly!) recipes that you can make in a rice cooker that just need electricity. You can also cook in a hotel room using an Instant Pot. You might consider an electric kettle for boiling water for instant oatmeal (or something more creative), although most U.S. hotels offer free breakfast (and some offer an early-evening “manager’s reception” or “social hour,” which can amount to a free dinner).
Besides the rice cooker or Instant Pot, here are some of the best supplies we found for cooking meals in a hotel room:
- Small cutting board
- Knife (again, this is tricky if you’re flying)
- Measuring spoons or cups, depending on the recipe you use
- Paper plates and bowls / paper towels
- Utensils, including larger utensils, such as large mixing spoons, to help you make your recipe
- Storage containers / Ziplock bags
- Mixing bowl
- Dish soap / sponge / scrubber (to clean up after yourself!)
- Hand towels and/or pot holders
We packed all of our supplies in a large plastic tub, which doubled as a sink to wash dishes! Here’s a look at our hotel room cooking setup.
Cooking in a hotel room – plan your menu (plan ahead!)
Finding good hotel room recipes for a rice cooker is not too difficult, but you will want to plan ahead. Here are four of the hotel room cooking recipes we used for our trip. Once you’ve got some good hotel room recipes, you’ll need to either bring your food with you or buy it at a local grocery store. Here’s Carolyn making some homemade macaroni and cheese.
We actually packed food for a few recipes that we didn’t end up making, which ended up being a bit of a waste (because we had to cart around a bunch of food that we didn’t use on our trip). How does this meal look (spaghetti, shredded cheese and vegetables)?
I hope this beginner’s guide to cooking in a hotel room has helped you out. While it’s not for everyone (or every meal!), learning how to do hotel room cooking can be a big food cost saver when you’re living in a hotel room!
Ready to start cooking in a hotel room? You might check these top rice cooker recipes on Amazon, or look at our four tasty recipes that we used for hotel room cooking! These meals included pasta (macaroni and cheese, and spaghetti), served with vegetables and fresh fruit.
#TDADDisney 2016 trip
- “We’re going to Disney… but I don’t know because I can’t read!”
- [VIDEO] How long does my daughter scream when she finds out we’re going to Disney World?
- My top 5 Disney World tips for a budget traveler
- 5 packing tips for a surprise vacation
- Holiday Inn Express Sweetwater, Tenn., review
- 6 packing mistakes people make – don’t let this happen to you
- The complete beginner’s guide to cooking in a hotel room
- 4 rice cooker recipes for hotel room cooking
- Disney World? Yeah, but when can we go SWIMMING!
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Cheese+Bread w/ foil on top. Get the iron from the room and put it on top of the foil. Flip the cheese+bread w/ foil to the other side after a few minutes. Simple grilled cheese. Get those microwaveable tomato soup containers and there you go.
Nice one! That’s a great idea
I like this post as I really don’t like going to restaurants with kids. Sometimes it’s nice to relax in your hotel room with a glass of wine making dinner while another adult takes kids to the pool.
A rice cooker is fairly light and would be easy to pack. I’m just wondering what all you can make in a rice cooker besides rice. For example how do you boil spaghetti noodles. Got any recipes or links?
Yes! Look for a followup post soon with some of our favorite hotel room cooking recipes!
Hi! This is an older post so I don’t know if someone will see this, but what do you do about hotel room food smells? I’ve seen some posts around the internet that caution against cooking and I would be afraid of hotel management cracking down so to speak. What do you do? Air freshener, candles, or just ignore it?
I’ve never cooked in my hotel room long-term, but I’ve never had a problem with management cracking down on it.
Great ideas! I could definitely see myself making pasta and veggies while in a hotel.
It was tasty. I’m hoping to have Carolyn write up a follow up post with some of the recipes we tried
I stay at hotels that have a full kitchen frequently. One of my favorite meals is spaghetti with canned spicy diced tomatoes and a tossed salad. I also bring frozen home made spaghetti sauce if I’m driving. I just pop it in the cooler and let the sauce container act as part of my ice. That is usually dinner the first night. I have a small electric skillet that I take with me if I’m staying in a normal hotel room. I can make grilled cheese sandwiches and heat soup in my car coffee pot. I have a coffee pot that runs off my cigarette lighter or electricity. Don’t know where to find them. mine is over 40 years old that I inherited from my parents.
A small, cheap, shallow electric skillet is my preference.
You can cook stew, casseroles, and soups…
and if you have a good, small asian style veggie knife,
you can cut the ‘longer to cook’ items like meats and potatoes
into smaller pieces to the point that nearly any dish is ready to
eat in just over a half an hour.
Assemble everything, cover and bring it to a boil (setting at 350 to 400)
As soon as it boils add a bit of water, milk, beer (as your recipe dictates)
just enough to prevent scorching.
Then dial back to simmer (so the light cycles on and off–maybe around 150 setting)
Cover with lid, topping with a towel (to insulate so the top of your food is nearly as hot as the bottom)
Check on it every 15 min…..really, should be ready in just over 30 min.
Note: if you put lasagne noodles, spaghetti, or rice in your recipe you do not need to pre-cook….30 min is usually enough, just double check rice, esp, as some varieties need a bit more time. Sorry, beans require overnight soaking—you brought a small peanut butter jar with a screw on lid, right?
I fried chicken in a hotel room about 10 times over 2 months. Crazy or what!
We used an square electric skillet and a instant pot in our dorm room. Made pizza ( the chef boy r dee box), eggs, stir fries, chicken, pancakes, soups and grilled sandwiches etc all the time. Hide the skillet in a empty suitcase when it wasn’t in use since it was a banned item. We never got caught.