What kind of steak did you order on your most recent visit to a steakhouse? Do you remember the cut, the source, the preparation? Do you remember how it looked on your plate, and how that first succulent bite tasted?

If it was a really good steakhouse, the answer to these questions is probably yes. If it was a mediocre steak from a mediocre establishment, or a steak from a restaurant that doesn’t specialize in steak, you might not remember much about the experience.

But if we had to guess what type (cut) of steak you ordered that evening, it was probably one of the following:

1. New York Strip

We mentioned this one first because it’s less expensive and more widely available – you tend to see a lot of New York Strips in markets, and at restaurants. It’s a solid steak, to be sure, but it’s a little too chewy for some people, and it doesn’t have a great deal of marbling (fat content) inside. If it did, the price would be higher. But a high quality New York Strip, expertly sourced and prepared, is nothing to shake a stick at.

2. Filet Mignon

This cut is usually at the top of people’s lists – and for good reason. It’s a very tender muscle that does not perform a lot of exercise in a cow’s life. The result is a very smooth and buttery piece of steak, and if prepared right, your steak knife should easily cut through it. The taste is incredible, but some steak aficionados think that the lack of fat in this cut of beef creates a very mild flavor.

3. Rib-eye

This is, of course, another treasured cut of beef. It doesn’t always come with the rib bone in place – sometimes that bone has been removed. Unlike filet mignon, ribeye is quite fatty, both on its edges and inside (this is called marbling). The result is a vibrant and succulent flavor. These cuts are generally not as buttery and soft as the filet mignon – but they’re still tender, and the chewiness adds to the experience of the flavor.

Your next steakhouse experience…

Whether you’re new to being a steak aficionado or you’ve been at it a long time (or maybe you’ve just had your first high class steak dinner, and are curious about having more), it’s interesting to know what the popular cuts actually are. Far more important, however, is the quality of the source. Good steakhouses are very particular about where they source beef, fish, and anything else on the menu – but especially the beef. It should be from a highly reputable source, and it’s always nice to see some local farms on the menu as well. Once you get really good steak into the hands of a fully equipped and experienced steakhouse chef, you’ll be able to fully enjoy the merits of each different cut.

Choose your next steak carefully, and ask where it comes from! Your waiter should be able to give you specific information that enhances your knowledge and enjoyment of steak. Enjoy!