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What Does a Fry Cook Do?

Dan Harkins
By Dan Harkins
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Fry cooks are usually responsible for operating the deep fryer and participating in basic kitchen prep and clean-up activities. Deep-frying is a method of cooking in which food is cooked though submersion in hot oil. Running deep fryers doesn’t usually take much expertise or skill, but it does require patience and precision. Sometimes the cooks in charge of running them are also tasked with preparing the food, usually from raw or frozen, as well as serving it up and getting it ready to deliver to the customer. This person is usually considered to be near the bottom of the kitchen hierarchy, but the job often comes with a lot of potential for advancement and promotion.

Understanding the Kitchen Hierarchy Generally

Commercial kitchens, much like any other workplace, are usually a place of tiered responsibility and seniority. Executive chefs or kitchen managers are usually at the top, followed by assistants, line cooks, and prep crews. Fry cooks are usually near the bottom, and in some kitchens these workers are considered a version of a prep person — namely, someone who works at the bottom of the chain from kitchen to table, helping get a meal started but without any authority when it comes to innovation or presentation.

Main Responsibilities

This position's chief duties are covering the deep fryers and shallow-frying pans of a bustling establishment, often under the watch of busy executive and assistant chefs. This kitchen member also often prepares the foods that later will be fried. Depending on the restaurant's menu, this could be processing potatoes into fries, whipping up a batter for fish and chicken, or concocting the kitchen's dipping sauces that later will be paired with the fried food before service to customers. In more casual or fast food establishments, this cook might often also pitch in on other tasks when needed, either to work the register while a coworker takes a break or to clean the bathrooms or tidy the lobby.

Types of Food Prepared

Cooks in these positions can usually prepare a number of different foods, but fried fare is some of the most common, including French fries and chicken wings as well as fish sandwiches, onion rings, and occasionally even hamburger patties. These foods keep the cook constantly working to serve customers promptly. In finer dining establishments, the deep fryer could be employed for more unusual food, such as fried pickles or pork shoulders, or for hand-crafted chips to accompany gourmet sandwiches, for instance. Creating garnishes and accents may also be asked of this person.

Safety Considerations

Cooks responsible for a restaurant's frying operations must take care to be cautious of the dangers associated with the job. Some of the highest temperatures in a kitchen are found in the deep fryer, which bubbles and often spits hot grease at whomever is nearby. Wearing mitts that reach high on the arms is common. Learning the proper procedure and timing for heating each type of food is usually the first lesson a fry cook will receive.

These deep fryers are often situated in a long row, with baskets of different menu items rotating through until fully cooked. People with this job usually learn learn to identify when food is properly cooked by looking at its color, as well as paying attention to how long it’s been in the oil. Cooks on the fry line might also be responsible for any cooking that needs to be done in the kitchen's shallow frying skillets.

Proper cleaning and sanitizing is also usually an important part of the job, but it’s critical to make sure that the fryers and skillets have cooled before attempting to clean them. When water hits hot oil, it can spit and create a lot of potentially harmful smoke.

Getting Started and Promotion Potential

Frying tasks are often some of the first given to new kitchen employees. When new workers arrives, the fry staff may be promoted to another station, like the grill or preparation line, where another facet of the kitchen can be learned. Sometimes cooks are promoted based on observed competencies, too. People often start out on fry detail as a way to get to know the kitchen and to get a foothold in a restaurant career, as well as to gain experience. To perform the job effectively, the fry cook must listen, read, and speak effectively as well as take orders with ease, multitask well, and stay organized to keep customers happy and coming back for more.

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Discussion Comments

By anon955834 — On Jun 10, 2014

Working as a fry cook stinks, period.

By Ruggercat68 — On Feb 19, 2014

To me, the worst part about being a fry cook was working around all that hot oil. If I got in too much of a hurry, the oil would splatter up from the fryer and I'd get a minor to serious burn. This would happen several times during a shift, so at the end of the day I was feeling the pain of a dozen small burns on my arms and chest. I enjoyed the work and the kitchen atmosphere, but I couldn't wait to get promoted to a less frenetic position.

By Cageybird — On Feb 19, 2014

I worked as a fry cook for a few years and it can be a very challenging position in a busy kitchen. One of the biggest challenges was timing the fried dishes so they would be done at the same time as the baked or broiled entrees. If a table ordered a steak and a fried catfish dinner, for instance, a fry cook has to wait until the steak has reached a certain level of doneness before putting the catfish and french fries into the fryer. It's a constant juggling act, since a lot of fried foods only take a few minutes to prepare, but will cool off quickly if started too soon.

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