Last year, I quit my day job to spend six months traveling across Europe while freelancing. (Read: How Cutting My Food Budget Helped Me Quit My Full-Time Job.) In the weeks before my departure, I hit discount stores to assemble a kitchen survival kit for life on the road. With all the uncertainties, I knew cooking would be a grounding activity. I also knew I'd need to save money instead of eating out all the time.
Before I left, I packed a one-gallon zip-top bag with a mini chef's knife, a corkscrew, a sandwich box, spoon and fork, and a microwave egg cooker. I threw the bag in my checked luggage and headed on my way. By the end of the trip, only the chef's knife and egg cooker remained. Turns out, the other items were not necessary. The egg cooker, however, was a life-saver.
I relied on the lightweight and easy-to-carry Sistema Easy Eggs microwave cooker almost daily to make egg-and-cheese sandwiches faster than I could even toast bread (when there was a toaster around). The gadget also came in handy for preparing eggs sunny-side up to toss on top of pasta or rice dishes for a cheap protein addition, and as a way to liven up what could have become a monotonous diet. Thankfully, with all the fresh veggies from local markets and the egg cooker, I was able to pull together meals that didn't feel like a hotel room Iron Chef challenge.
Buy: Sistema Easy Eggs, $9
The cooker has since become a mainstay for meal prep even now that I'm back living in a fully stocked apartment. More importantly, here's why you should stash one in your suitcase for your next trip. Hint: Your kitchen facilities will likely be sub-par.
1. You can use it anywhere you find a microwave.
After being on the road for nearly 200 days, I am a master of microwave cuisine. I stayed at hotels with nothing more than a cheap microwave, and a few Airbnbs with full-sized kitchens but little equipment. After two months of traveling, I switched to hostels to save money and for the promise of a large kitchen. That's when cooking got even more unpredictable. There were kitchens that ranged from frat house horror to a surprise space in Belgrade with a cooking area cleaner and better stocked than my own. During the entirety of the trip there was one constant: sunny-side-up and omelet-style eggs prepared perfectly regardless of accommodations.
2. It makes surprisingly good eggs.
Prior to my trip I was a rigid purist when it came to egg preparation. (Okay, maybe in other parts of life, too, but for now, I'll just confess my uncompromising egg standards.) I made them fried or scrambled in my favorite eight-inch restaurant supply frying pan, and always in the same way — by melting a pat of butter in the pan over medium heat, adding the eggs, and cooking until just underdone so they'd be perfect as they hit the plate.
This requires a nonstick pan, rubber spatula or wooden spoon, and some kind of fat, like butter or oil. As simple as it sounds, there were very few times in the course of six months when I had access to all the utensils needed to make a very basic fried or scrambled egg. The egg cooker did the job with no extra tools needed. Considering how picky I was before I hit the road, this thing made surprisingly good eggs.
3. It cooks eggs super fast.
No one wants to spend all their vacation time cooking, even if you are are the lucky one percent to end up in an Airbnb dream kitchen. The little gadget cooks eggs in 60 to 90 seconds and requires no attention. Pop it in the microwave and go deal with bigger problems, like how to make a decent cup of hotel coffee.
4. It's pretty mess-free.
This cooker wasn't my first go at microwave eggs. I've tried cracking them into buttered custard cups and setting the timer for 30-second intervals. A few seconds too many and the main component of my egg and cheese sandwiches would explode, coating the microwave with crusty bits of white and yolk. The vented lid on this guy keeps cleanup to a minimum.
5. It's also versatile.
I also used the vessel to prepare packets of instant oatmeal because, again, sometimes there were no bowls to be found. Please don't judge the packets. They travel easily. (Also, I heated up a few bowls of soup in this egg cooker, too.)
Would you ever travel with one of these? Discuss in the comments below!