Illustration by Mark Searcy

THE BIGGEST OBSTACLE facing the burgeoning dorm-room chef is that many universities prohibit the use of hotplates and toaster ovens in on-campus residences. This leaves the hungry college gourmand with little choice but to subsist on pre-packaged microwave meals. There is, however, a solution: the clothes iron.

Your iron is essentially a hotplate, but unlike a hotplate it can be used as both a cooking surface for frying, searing, and sautéing, as well as a press to make grilled sandwiches. Here are a few tips to make your iron cooking a success.

First, invest in some good spices. At the very least, procure salt, pepper, and a bottle of Herbes de Provence. Augment these basics with Cajun seasoning, garlic salt, seasoned salt, and truffle salt (available at the Meadow, 373 N Mississippi) if you've just received your financial aid check and you're feeling particularly fancy.

Second, when using the iron as a hotplate, keep it level. To prop up the iron, wrap textbooks in a layer of plastic under a layer of tinfoil (to ensure resale). Reed students: DO NOT USE YOUR KINDLE.

If you are using the iron as a press, wrap a cookie sheet in tinfoil, and oil both the cookie sheet and the iron's surface. This method works for frying bacon and pressing grilled cheese and paninis. It also works to add crispiness to thin chicken breast that's already been sautéed on the flat surface of the iron.

For most applications, you'll want to use a high-heat setting without steam. However, steam can be used for applications like wilting spinach—to be combined with chevre and walnuts for a delicious and nutritious salad.

Be mindful of smoke. Nothing will give you away faster than the delicious scent of fried bacon wafting down the halls. You'll want to take the same precautions as you do when firing up the bong—put a towel under the door, cook next to a window, and vent the smoke with a fan.

Once your iron kitchen has been set up, the sky's the limit. Let your creativity run wild. Sear rare ahi tuna and season with a few drops of soy sauce pilfered from the cafeteria. Experiment with various cheeses to make the perfect pressed grilled cheese. Once you've practiced for a couple semesters you might even be ready to attempt a crêpe.

Remember, because you'll be using a small amount of oil on the iron to ensure your food doesn't stick, you'll never again be able to use the appliance for its original purpose. But if you notice bacon grease stains covering your roommate's shirt, at least you'll have proof they've been getting into your shit. Bon appétite!