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Become A Fast Food Cook

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Working As A Fast Food Cook

  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Getting Information
  • Monitor Processes, Materials, or Surroundings
  • Performing General Physical Activities
  • Outdoors/walking/standing

  • $23,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Fast Food Cook Do

Cooks prepare, season, and cook a wide range of foods, which may include soups, salads, entrees, and desserts.


Cooks typically do the following:

  • Ensure the freshness of food and ingredients
  • Weigh, measure, and mix ingredients according to recipes
  • Bake, grill, or fry meats, fish, vegetables, and other foods
  • Boil and steam meats, fish, vegetables, and other foods
  • Arrange, garnish, and sometimes serve food
  • Clean work areas, equipment, utensils, and dishes
  • Cook, handle, and store food or ingredients

Cooks usually work under the direction of chefs, head cooks, or food service managers. Large restaurants and food service establishments often have multiple menus and large kitchen staffs. Teams of restaurant cooks, sometimes called assistant cooks or line cooks, work at assigned stations equipped with the necessary types of stoves, grills, pans, and ingredients.

Job titles often reflect the principal ingredient cooks prepare or the type of cooking they do—vegetable cook, fry cook, or grill cook, for example.

Cooks use a variety of kitchen equipment, including broilers, grills, slicers, grinders, and blenders.

The responsibilities of cooks vary depending on where they work, the size of the facility, and the level of service offered. However, in all establishments, they follow established sanitation procedures when handling food. For example, they store food and ingredients at the correct temperatures to prevent bacterial growth.

The following are examples of types of cooks:

Restaurant cooks prepare a wide selection of dishes and cook most orders individually. Some restaurant cooks may order supplies, set menu prices, and plan the daily menu.

Fast-food cooks prepare a limited selection of menu items in fast-food restaurants. They cook and package food, such as hamburgers and fried chicken, to be kept warm until served. For more information on workers who prepare and serve items in fast-food restaurants, see the profiles on food preparation workers and food and beverage serving and related workers.

Institution and cafeteria cooks work in the kitchens of schools, cafeterias, businesses, hospitals, and other institutions. For each meal, they prepare a large quantity of a limited number of entrees, vegetables, and desserts, according to preset menus. These cooks usually prepare meals in advance and seldom take special orders.

Short-order cooks prepare foods in restaurants and coffee shops that emphasize fast service and quick food preparation. They usually prepare sandwiches, fry eggs, and cook french fries, often working on several orders at the same time.

Private household cooks, sometimes called personal chefs, plan and prepare meals in private homes, according to the client’s tastes and dietary needs. They order groceries and supplies, clean the kitchen, and wash dishes and utensils. They also may cater parties, holiday meals, luncheons, and other social events. Private household cooks typically work for one full-time client, although some are self-employed or employed by an agency, regularly making meals for multiple clients.

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How To Become A Fast Food Cook

Most cooks learn their skills through on-the-job training and work-related experience. Although no formal education is required, some restaurant cooks and private household cooks attend culinary schools. Others attend vocational or apprenticeship programs.


Vocational cooking schools, professional culinary institutes, and some colleges offer culinary programs for aspiring cooks. These programs generally last from a few months to 2 years and may offer courses in advanced cooking techniques, international cuisines, and various cooking styles. To enter these programs, candidates may be required to have a high school diploma or equivalent. Depending on the type and length of the program, graduates generally qualify for entry-level positions as a restaurant cook.


Most cooks learn their skills through on-the-job training, usually lasting a few weeks. Trainees generally first learn kitchen basics and workplace safety and then learn how to handle and cook food.

Some cooks learn through an apprenticeship program. Professional culinary institutes, industry associations, and trade unions may sponsor such programs for cooks. Typical apprenticeships last 1 year and combine technical training and work experience. Apprentices complete courses in food sanitation and safety, basic knife skills, and equipment operation. They also learn practical cooking skills under the supervision of an experienced chef.

The American Culinary Federation accredits more than 200 academic training programs and sponsors apprenticeships through these programs around the country. The basic qualifications for entering an apprenticeship program are as follows:

  • Minimum age of 17
  • High school education or equivalent
  • Pass substance abuse screening

Some hotels, a number of restaurants, and the Armed Forces have their own training programs.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Many cooks learn their skills through work-related experience. They typically start as a kitchen helper or food preparation worker, learning basic cooking skills before they advance to assistant cook or line cook positions. Some learn by working under the guidance of a more experienced cook.


The American Culinary Federation certifies chefs, personal chefs, pastry chefs, and culinary administrators, among others. For cooks seeking advancement to higher level chef positions, certification can show accomplishment and lead to higher paying positions.

Advancement opportunities for cooks often depend on training, work experience, and the ability to prepare more complex dishes. Those who learn new cooking skills and who handle greater responsibility, such as supervising kitchen staff in the absence of a chef, often advance. Some cooks may train or supervise kitchen staff, and some may become head cooks, chefs, or food service managers.

Important Qualities

Comprehension. Cooks need to understand orders and follow recipes to prepare dishes correctly.

Customer-service skills. Restaurant and short-order cooks must be able to interact effectively with customers and handle special requests.

Dexterity. Cooks should have excellent hand–eye coordination. For example, they need to use proper knife techniques for cutting, chopping, and dicing.

Physical stamina. Cooks spend a lot of time standing in one place, cooking food over hot stoves, and cleaning work areas.

Sense of taste and smell. Cooks must have a keen sense of taste and smell to prepare meals that customers enjoy.

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Average Length of Employment
Short Order Cook 2.3 years
Fast Food Cook 2.0 years
Assistant Cook 2.0 years
Cook 2.0 years
Grill Cook/Prep 1.9 years
Mexican Food Cook 1.9 years
Kitchen Cook 1.8 years
Cook/Server 1.7 years
Prep Cook 1.7 years
Deli Cook 1.7 years
Grill Cook 1.7 years
Back Line Cook 1.6 years
Retort Pre-Cooker 1.6 years
Fast Food Worker 1.6 years
Fast Food Server 1.5 years
Fast Food Cashier 1.4 years
Pizza Cook 1.4 years
Cook/Team Member 1.4 years
Fry Cook 1.3 years
Top Careers Before Fast Food Cook
Cashier 22.2%
Cook 14.8%
Janitor 4.4%
Prep Cook 4.0%
Line Cook 3.3%
Top Careers After Fast Food Cook
Cashier 17.4%
Cook 12.1%
Line Cook 3.4%
Server 3.1%
Janitor 2.9%
Painter 2.8%

Do you work as a Fast Food Cook?

Average Yearly Salary
View Detailed Salary Report
Min 10%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Max 90%
Highest Paying City
El Cajon, CA
Highest Paying State
Avg Experience Level
1.6 years
How much does a Fast Food Cook make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Fast Food Cook in the United States is $23,226 per year or $11 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $15,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $35,000.

Real Fast Food Cook Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Cook, Fast Food Best Coffee House, Inc. Richmond, NY Jul 24, 2015 $29,578
Cooks, Fast Food Best Coffee House, Inc. Richmond, NY Jun 03, 2013 $29,578
Cooks, Fast Food Dell Enterprise Inc. MA May 12, 2014 $29,009
Cooks, Fast Food Dell Enterprise Inc. MA Apr 01, 2014 $29,009
Cook, Fast Food Deli Cross Enterprise, Inc. D/B/A Central CAFE & Deili New York, NY Jul 30, 2008 $29,000
Cook, Fast Food Hop Bo Chinese Restaurant Inc. West Melbourne, FL Aug 22, 2012 $26,800
Cook Fast Food Rose Mary Mateo Jackson, NY Feb 11, 2016 $26,088
Cooks, Specialty Fast Food NLP Nantucket Straight Wharf, LLC Nantucket, MA May 19, 2016 $25,607
Cooks, Fast Food Southend Pizza II Atlantic City, NJ Dec 09, 2010 $25,418
Fast Food Cook The Pumpernickel Deli, LLC Pasadena, CA Jun 11, 2010 $25,274
Cook, Fast Food Roman Delight Pizza of Fox Run Mall Inc. South Burlington, VT Jun 04, 2016 $24,960
Cook, Fast Food Roman Delight Pizza of Fox Run Mall Inc. East Brunswick, NJ Dec 13, 2010 $24,086
Cooks, Fast Food H & S Sprout Brook Inc. DBA Sprout Brook Deli & Pizza NY May 13, 2013 $23,625 -
Cooks, Fast Food Pete & Elda's Bar-Carmen's Pizzeria Neptune City, NJ Feb 28, 2012 $23,442
Cook, Fast Food Specialty Indian Surya Restaurants LLC DBA NAAN Stop Goleta, CA Dec 27, 2010 $21,287
Cooks, Fast Food MV 1414 Food, LLC DBA/Pizza Villagio CAFE New York, NY Dec 22, 2011 $21,100
Cooks, Fast Food Mario's Famous Pizza Randolph, NJ Dec 08, 2008 $21,100
Cook, Fast Food Mario's Famous Pizza Randolph, NJ Aug 12, 2008 $21,100
Cooks, Fast Food Orlando Arturo Velarde D/B/A Chick-Fil-A of Hamilt Hamilton, NJ May 05, 2011 $20,953
Cook, Fast Food Edgartown Seafood, Inc. MA Jun 02, 2014 $20,891
Cook, Fast Food Mt. Mansfield Company DBA Stowe Mountain Resort VT Nov 15, 2011 $20,870
Cooks, Fast Food Taurasi Incorporated New York, NY May 29, 2008 $20,870
Cooks, Fast Food Kw Simonton LLC, DBA CAFE Airlie Newark, NY Dec 03, 2010 $19,263
Cooks, Fast Food Pizza King Mount Vernon, NY Aug 26, 2008 $18,992
Cook Fast Food Crabtree Concessions Inc. Parker City, IN Jun 07, 2016 $18,783
Cooks, Fast Food Treats R Us, Inc. Paris, TX Nov 21, 2012 $18,783 -
Cook, Fast Food Court Yard Catering & Specialties LLC PA Apr 01, 2012 $18,783
Cook, Fast Food Manisfield Company, Inc. DBA Stowe Mountain Resor VT Nov 15, 2011 $18,679
Cooks, Fast Food Frank's Pizza Waynesboro, PA May 07, 2013 $18,470
Cooks, Fast Food Tres Bene Italian Delight Quakertown, PA Dec 13, 2010 $18,324 -

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Top Skills for A Fast Food Cook

  1. Safety Procedures
  2. Restock Workstations
  3. Customer Service
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Followed food safety procedures according to company policies and health and sanitation regulations.
  • Clean, stock, and restock workstations, maintain sanitation, health, and safety standards.
  • Maintained high standards of customer service during high-volume, fast-paced operations.
  • Clean food preparationareas, cooking surfaces, and utensils.
  • Ensured that sanitation of kitchen and food preparation exceeded defined standards.


Average Salary:

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Top 10 Best States for Fast Food Cooks

  1. Nevada
  2. Wyoming
  3. Vermont
  4. Minnesota
  5. Rhode Island
  6. Washington
  7. Hawaii
  8. Colorado
  9. Nebraska
  10. New Jersey
  • (372 jobs)
  • (69 jobs)
  • (71 jobs)
  • (968 jobs)
  • (120 jobs)
  • (752 jobs)
  • (134 jobs)
  • (1,018 jobs)
  • (214 jobs)
  • (826 jobs)

Fast Food Cook Demographics










Hispanic or Latino


Black or African American





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Foreign Languages Spoken








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Fast Food Cook Education


University of Phoenix


Florence-Darlington Technical College


Everest University-Tampa


South Texas College


Strayer University


Pearl River Community College


Southwestern Illinois College


Antelope Valley College


Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College


Art Institute of Washington


The Academy


College of Southern Nevada


Delaware Technical and Community College


San Joaquin Valley College


ITT Technical Institute-Owings Mills


Prince George's Community College


Miller-Motte College-Wilmington


Central State University


Highline Community College


Lincoln Land Community College

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Criminal Justice


Culinary Arts


General Studies




Medical Assisting Services


Automotive Technology


Health Care Administration




Computer Science


Precision Metal Working








Graphic Design


Electrical Engineering Technology




Computer Information Systems




Heating And Air Conditioning

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