Most people don’t go out for a steak very often – maybe once a week, if they’re lucky. What does that mean? It means that when you do go out for steak, you want to make the most of it. This is the type of meal you look forward to, anticipate, and remember after it’s over.

The same goes for buying high quality steaks at the market and cooking them at home. You want to make sure you do it right, so that you get the most out of your “home steakhouse” experience.

In either case, however, it’s very much possible to come away disappointed. Here are three easy ways to ruin a good steak – hopefully yours comes out perfect!

1. Overcooking

For steakhouse chefs (and steak aficionados, for that matter), the worst thing you can do to a really good steak is over cook it. Instead of a tender, juicy, succulent expression of the steak’s natural flavor and texture, you’re left with a tough and dry steak that isn’t nearly as enjoyable or delicious as it could have been. Obviously, everyone has their own rules and standards when it comes to eating a steak, and some people still prefer their steak well done. Most chefs would argue, however, that if you haven’t tried moving down the scale to “medium” or even “medium-rare,” you don’t know what you’re missing.

2. Over-marinating

Actually, if you talk to a seasoned steakhouse chef, they might not only tell you that over-marinating can ruin a good steak – they might well say that any kind of marinating will take away from the flavor and grandeur of a high-quality cut of beef. We normally think of marinades as a way to enhance the flavor of meat and poultry, and that’s true in so many cases. In the case of a superior steak, however, most professionals prefer to pound the meat with a little rock salt and throw it directly on the heat. This way, the natural flavors of the steak are able to fully emerge, without being lost in the spices and flavorings of marinade.

3. Not choosing carefully

Sometimes, the biggest mistake is made at the moment you order your steak. Now obviously, if you’re at a really good steakhouse, there won’t be any steak on the menu that isn’t good. But not understanding your options, and not knowing what the distinctions actually are, can prevent you from making the best menu selection. That’s why waitstaff are such a valuable resource of information. You should be able to rely on them for quality feedback about the steaks you’re considering, and to help you make the best possible decision.

Where are the best steakhouses?

The American steakhouse tradition has never been stronger, and in fact, there are plenty of international steakhouses (Brazilian, Argentinian, Japanese, etc.) right here in the states. But these establishments should all have one thing in common: They’re passionate about sourcing and preparing immaculate steaks that put a smile on the face of even the most experienced steak lover.