Forget the hot plate, microwave, George Foreman grill, and even pots and pans. The humble slow cooker is all college students need to pack this fall to stay well-fed.

"Think about the slow cooker as an all-in-one cooking center," writes Bruce Weinstein in an email. He is co-author with Mark Scarbrough of 2014's "The Great American Slow Cooker Book."

"It's a perfect item for simply heating up canned stuff too," Weinstein added. "But the great thing about the slow cooker is that they can set it all up, even if it's canned soup or canned chili, in the morning, and it's ready when they get back from class anytime."

Indeed, cookbook author Anupy Singla set off to college and grad school armed with slow cookers in three sizes so she could cook the foods she loved. Singla, author of 2010's "The Indian Slow Cooker" among other books, underscores the advantage that the appliance doesn't require "a lot of hands-on time."

Still, while Weinstein notes a slow cooker can double as an ice bucket in a pinch or an air freshener if you cook some cinnamon sticks on high, it has its limitations. Don't expect browning or much precooking, Weinstein wrote, noting recipes should include ingredients "that are ready to go." The freezer and the salad bar are going to be the best place to shop, he added.

Now, you might not need three slow cookers, but even one can be amazingly versatile whether you use it in your room (check the dorm rules first) or in a communal kitchen.