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Difference Between Line Cook & Prep Cook

Ready to join a team in the high pressure environment of the kitchen? Two common positions are line cook and prep cook. Prep cooks set the stage by preparing ingredients, as line cooks man various stations, such as the grill or fryer.

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Comparing Line Cooks to Prep Cooks

The occupations line cook and prep cook both work for head chefs in kitchens and are essential to the producing quality meals. While prep cook is an entry-level position that handles preparatory work to set up other cooks for success, line cooks run a specific station of the kitchen, and may use the prep cook's ingredients in the creation of their dishes. Other similarities and differences are detailed below.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2017)* Job Growth (2014-2024)**
Line Cook High School Diploma; Culinary Arts Training $11.47/hour 4% (for all cooks)
Prep Cook High School Diploma; Culinary school experience may be helpful $10.52/hour 4% (for all cooks)

Source: *PayScale; **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Line Cooks vs Prep Cooks

Everyone has a role to play in a kitchen, and line cook and prep cook are two key roles. Prep cook is often the entry position for someone working their first job in a kitchen. These cooks do the preparatory work that allows the shift to go smoothly, such as chopping, peeling, and washing food items that will later be used in dishes. Line cooks use these prepped ingredients at a station that is assigned to them by the head chef. These stations include grill, sauces, and seafood.

Line Cook

Line cooks work under an executive chef, and in some cases sous chefs, who will assign them a station to work. In some cases, the station is related to the equipment or technique that is being used, such as grill, sauté, and roast. In others, the station is specific to the type of food that is being prepared, such as seafood and sauces. Line cooks generally have a high school diploma and some educational experience in the culinary arts. To be a successful line cook you must be able to work long hours on your feet in a high-pressure situation.

Job responsibilities of a line cook include:

  • Work closely and communicate clearly with a team of cooks
  • Pay close attention to kitchen hygiene and safety
  • Follow recipes and taste food to ensure a quality product
  • Oversee the stocking, dating, and temperature of ingredients

Prep Cook

A prep cook's primary responsibility is to prepare the ingredients for other cooks to use in the construction of dishes. Examples of this include peeling potatoes, slicing mushrooms, and washing vegetables. Prep cooks may also be responsible for salads, breads, salad dressings, and other simple preparations. This is an entry-level position that is commonly held by someone enrolled in a culinary education program. Prep cooks must be able to handle the pressures of the kitchen and closely follow the instructions of their superiors.

Job responsibilities of a prep cook include:

  • Properly arranging and storing food
  • Follow procedures set by the executive chef
  • Set up and maintain kitchen equipment
  • Ensure hygiene and cleanliness

Related Careers

Want to work in the food industry but the heat of the kitchen isn't for you? Food technologist and food and beverage director are just two potential careers paths.

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