Cooking Machine Operator

Food cooking machine operators and tenders prepare food products such as meat, cheese, and grain by operating and tending cooking machinery and equipment ranging from pressure cookers to steam vats. They work in spaces specially designed for food processing and preservation, and normally work standard 40-hour weeks.

Job Skills

Certain basic skills are required of food cooking machine operators and tenders. They need to possess good coordination and depth perception, adequate physical strength, and the ability to distinguish between colors. Depending on the State in which they work, a health certificate may be required as well.


In 2002, food cooking machine operators and tenders earned a median annual salary of $21,860. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10 percent, who earned less than $14,380, and the highest 10 percent, who earned more than $34,890. Fruit and vegetable preserving and specialty food manufacturing, the industry with the most food cooking machine operators and tenders, reported a median annual salary of $25,320.

Training and Education

Minimal to no training is required to obtain a job as a food cooking machine operator and tender. Most employees are trained on the job. Depending on the employer, this training can be formal or informal and last from one month to a year, depending on the difficulty of the tasks. Training consists of observing other experienced workers operating various types of equipment. In order to advance to supervisory or management positions, a degree specific to the particular industry is usually required.


Out of the nearly 757,000 food processing jobs in 2002, about 34,000 people were employed as food cooking machine operators and tenders.

Job Outlook

Between 2002 and 2012, the number of food cooking machine operators and tenders is expected to grow more slowly than the average. Advances in automated cooking technology mean more of this type of work is being completed at the manufacturing level rather than the retail level.

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