Isn’t it great when you walk away from a meal out with absolutely no complaints? When you’ve been completely satisfied with the food, service, atmosphere, and every other aspect of the experience? This is what dining out is all about, especially when it’s a special occasion, or just a much-needed night out with friends and family.

But these experiences seem rare. Why is that? Why do so many meals fall flat, and why are they forgotten so soon — or remembered in the wrong way?

In the case of steakhouse experiences, it could be any number of things. The quality of the steak itself is a big one. Many steakhouses just don’t invest in quality cuts of meat, which means that no matter how perfectly the chef prepares it, and no matter how great the service and atmosphere, the experience just won’t be all it can be — because corners were cut at the very beginning, when it was time to source the beef.

The most reputable steakhouses out there will have extensive knowledge of the beef they’re serving, including where it came from and what makes it special. Even the least expensive steak on the menu will be impeccably prepared and will be of good quality.

Let’s say the quality of the meat is fine, or even good. Another reason why many patrons leave steakhouses unsatisfied is that the steakhouse chef didn’t do a good job cooking the steak as ordered. People tend to be very particular about this, and if the steak is ordered medium-rare (for example) and it comes cooked medium or even medium-well, the customer might still enjoy the steak — but they won’t have gotten exactly what they wanted, and the experience would have been just that much better if they had.

Another mistake some steakhouse chefs make is to use too many spices or marinades in their steak preparation. When you’re handling a high quality cut of beef and preparing it using professional appliances and tools, very little is needed in the way of flavor enhancements. A little rock salt pounded into the meat is often the only thing used by professional steakhouse chefs. A lot of people can’t believe this, especially if the steak is really flavorful. But that’s the beautiful thing about steak — the best cuts are prepared in a way that simply brings out their natural flavor, without using species or sauces to cover it up too much.

Timing is another thing that can wreak havoc on an otherwise great steakhouse experience. When you have a table full of people, all of whom have ordered steaks, the chef needs to be very skilled in order to get the timing right. All those steaks need to be hot, along with the sides, and brought out at the same time in order to succeed in creating a good experience.

How to find a steakhouse that does all these things

Look for established, reputable steakhouses that have plenty of good customer reviews and high scores in social media. And when get there, ask a few questions about the steak. You should have a fairly good idea whether this is going to be worth an encore visit!