That moment always arrives in every steakhouse experience when your waiter asks how you would like your steak cooked. Many people have answer ready. They know that they like their steak cooked rare or medium rare, or well, or medium well. They always order it the same way, and they’re more or less happy with it.

Other customers so sure. Perhaps it had an experience in the past they ordered stay a certain way and were not very happy with the results, feeling that it was either overcooked or undercooked. Those customers are more likely to pause when asked how they would like to steak cooked. Perhaps they will ask the waiter specific questions about how pink or brown the meat will appear in the middle.

The problem is basically a lack of consistency amongst steak houses, and in particular a lack consistency amongst lower quality steakhouse establishments perhaps don’t have the expertise or the experience to deliver a first class service.

If all steakhouses had the exact same standards and measures of consistency, it would be possible to walk into any steakhouse in America and get the exact same result no matter how you ordered your steak cooked. But that isn’t the reality. So let’s ask ourselves is another important question: how do you define a rare steak?

The “step” above rare, as we all know, is medium rare. This is defined as having a hint of red, and being warm throughout the cut of beef. Rare is also warm throughout the entire cut. The outside may even be charred slightly, and the sides will be brown.

The middle will be bright red. The difference between a “bright red” steak and a “hint of pink” is definitely something that you know when you see it.

For steak lovers out there, it’s worth knowing that there is degree of “doneness” between “rare” and “raw.” It’s known as “blue rare,” and involves a steak that is seared on the outside, but totally red throughout the interior. Whether or not your local steakhouse will serve you a “blue rare” steak is another question — but some people do enjoy steak prepared like this. There is also the famous steak tartare, a famous (and beloved) French dish with completely raw beef and often a raw egg yolk.

You can always travel to France of you want to try raw beef (although it is important to be aware of health concerns) – but if you want a steak expertly prepared exactly how you like it, you may have to put some thought into which steakhouse you go to next.

A good steak is what you make of it

The reality is that not everybody prefers their steak cooked in exactly the same way. It’s just like cocktails, or any other type of cuisine. Mastering the difference between rare and all of the other categories is a basic requirement any reputable steakhouse, and the wait staff at these establishments should also be proficient in understanding the various needs and requests of their clientele.