Grill Cook: Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become a grill cook. Learn about the educational requirements, job outlook and salary information to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Art of Cooking degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Grill Cook Do?

Grill cooks are cooks who specialize in using the grill to prepare hot foods. They usually work in restaurants. Following recipes, they use a grill to cook raw and previously prepared foods to the requested temperature. Although they may be required to prepare many different types of appetizers, entrees and desserts, they most commonly work with vegetables, meat, fish and poultry. They ensure that all ingredients used are fresh and arrange the finished food so that it looks visually appealing. Alongside their cooking responsibilities, they are also expected to keep the grill area clean, store ingredients properly and provide excellent customer service.

The following table provides a breakdown for this career:

Education Required High school diploma and kitchen experience (minimum); vocational, community college or trade school programs available
Education Field of Study Culinary arts
Key Skills Detail-orientation, time management, multitasking, organization
Job Growth (2014-2024) 14% increase* (restaurant cooks)
Median Salary (2015) $23,100* (restaurant cooks)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Grill Cook?

When you work as a grill cook, your main priority is to create hot dishes and entrees in the kitchen of a full- or limited-service restaurant. You could work under the supervision of a head cook or chef. If you work for a chain restaurant, you might follow standardized recipes and ensure that dishes meet a required standard of quality. If you work for an independent restaurant, you may have more say in how dishes are cooked or prepared.

Regardless of where you work, you'll be responsible for following safety and sanitation procedures, cooking meats and other foods over a grill and preparing meals for customers in a timely manner. You could also be responsible for setting up your work station, checking meats for freshness and chopping up food ingredients like onions or tomatoes.

What Education or Training Might I Need?

Some restaurants hire grill cooks who have a high school diploma and rudimentary experience in a kitchen. If you find such a position, you could gain your training on the job from more seasoned cooks. If you have little or no experience in a professional kitchen, you might start out in an entry-level food preparation role and work your way up to the position of grill cook.

You could also enroll in a vocational, community college or trade school program for aspiring cooks and chefs to acquire the necessary skills. In an educational program, you'll study topics like the basics of nutrition, food preparation, food handling, kitchen safety and cooking procedures.

An Associate of Science in Culinary Arts could provide you with an understanding of cooking concepts while also offering you training experiences in an actual kitchen. A cooking certificate program might provide you with a basic understanding of food safety and culinary techniques. Associate's programs usually take two years to complete; a certificate program may only require six months of study.

You might also enroll in an apprenticeship or training program through a culinary institute or industry association. For example, the American Culinary Federation sponsors apprenticeships for cooks around the nation. Completing such an apprenticeship could help you find a position in the field.

How Much Can I Earn?

Wage data for grill cooks is not reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS); however, the BLS notes that restaurant cooks in general held 1,150,760 jobs in 2015 (www.bls.gov). Restaurant cooks earned a median annual salary of $23,100 during that year.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Rather than working as a grill cook, you could specialize in a different area of cooking. For instance, you could work as a pantry cook. Instead of cooking foods using a grill, pantry cooks are responsible for the preparation of cold foods, such as salads, cheese plates and cold soups. Alternatively, you could get a job as a baker, which involves following recipes to make baked goods like bread products, cookies and cakes. Like grill cooks, pantry cooks and bakers do not need formal education.

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