Home » How to cook in a hotel room
You don’t always have the luxury of bringing a kettle, pot, pan, hot plate, etc when travelling. So how do you go about it with what you can find at the hotel?
Not to brag, but I have mastered what I can cook in a hotel room with only a plate, bowl or coffee cup, fork, spoon, butter knife, and maybe a kettle. The meals that I end up putting together in my hotel room are not fancy and could be looked at like a glorified picnic or cheese platter. But since I’ve started preparing meals at the hotel, my confidence to travel to more foreign lands feels like it has expanded.
I thought I would share how I manage cooking in my hotel room since it has given me the freedom to travel to more exotic places.
Start at the grocery store!
The first thing you should know about me is that I don’t pack a lot of food. We are light travellers, taking only a big backpack and a small bag for my plane food. When packing safe plane/train food, I will pack twice as much as I think I will need in case of delay and to ensure I have something to eat for the first day we arrive.
Before we go, I like to look up what grocery stores are near the hotel. I will almost always go to the grocery store on the first day we arrive. This way I can stock up on food and also get a small glimpse into the country’s eating habits. It’s always fascinating to see another country’s grocery stores. For instance, in Doha, there were tons of bulk nuts and dried fruits, and in Paris, the dairy section will blow your mind – you could eat a new type of yogurt for a year.
Another tip is to look for ex-pat grocery stores or chains you know. In Singapore, Dubai, and Doha I went to either a chain I knew or a specialty ex-pat store where I was able to find products I have tried and the labelling was in English. The only downside is these stores tend to be on the expensive side.
The tools you need to cook in a hotel room
When I hotel room cook, I always ask room service for a few plates and utensils. All you really need is a plate, bowl or big mug, knife, fork and spoon. When shopping for food, I won’t buy anything that requires a lot of prep or that can’t be cut with a butter knife.
If you have a microwave in your room, you are in luck and can almost cook everything! A kettle also expands your cooking options, for instance, you can make things like couscous, oatmeal and steam some veggies by pouring hot water over them and covering the bowl (think broccoli).
The next thing you need, and the most essential piece of the puzzle, is how you will keep your food cold. Many hotel rooms now come with small fridges, however more times than not they are stocked with overpriced beverages. Many fridges are equipped with motion detectors that sense if you have moved an item and then charge you. I have never been to a hotel that would empty the fridge for me. It is possible to work around what’s in the refrigerator, but generally, that means you can only lie a few things on top of cans.
This is when glamping comes into play! If the fridge is a no-go zone, then we will go and buy a small cooler. Of course, you can always be more prepared and call ahead of time and ask for a fridge or even a cooler. I have been provided with a cooler when they would not empty the minibar. It never hurts to ask what the hotel can offer.
Once you have your fridge/cooler sorted out and your simple cooking tools, it is time to make your shopping list. Here are my go-to foods when cooking in a hotel room.
Proteins & Dairy
• canned fish
• smoked salmon
• cold meats
• pre-boiled eggs
• can of beans
• cheese (mini portioned cheeses are my favourite because they also make a great on the go snack)
*make sure the cans you buy can open without a can opener.
• pre-washed salads
• pre-cut vegetables
*nothing that has a short shelf life
*nothing that needs a lot of prep work like peeling
• salsa (also works as a salad dressing!)
• salad dressing
Things that cook with boiling water
• noodle cups
• bread (vacuum packed breads are great for longer stays and if you don’t want to go to the grocery store more than once)
• pretzels, crackers, chips
• soup or gazpacho
• ziplock bags for storing leftovers
Hotel room cooking: 3 meal ideas
I – Couscous with salsa and feta
Ingredients: couscous, salsa, feta, pre-washed mixed greens
1. Cook your couscous using boiling water (generally instructions on the package)
2. Once the couscous is cooked, mix in salsa, this is where all the flavours come from.
3. Serve over mixed greens and garnish with crumbled feta.
II – Beans and tuna with avocado
Ingredients: can of white beans or chickpeas, can of tuna in olive oil, avocado
Optional: salad dressing, vinegar, parsley. If you get canned tuna in olive oil, you will have enough moisture and can skip buying salad dressing.
1. Using the back of a fork mash beans. Mix the beans with the canned tuna and the oil from the tuna.
2. Slice avocado in two. Peel the skin off the avocado and thinly slice it.
3. Fan out avocado on a plate. Place protein mix on top. Optional: sprinkle with salad dressing or vinegar.
4. Garnish with torn parsley.
Kortney has only known life with food allergies. She manages multiple food allergies, asthma, eczema and OAS. Kortney is a co-creator of the online community Allergy Travels and co-host The Itch Podcast. She wants to spread joy in a community that can easily see the hard side of life with atopic disease and believes that you can have a full life with food allergies, it may just be lived a little differently!