When it comes to cooking a steak to perfection, it seems like everyone has a different opinion. Some people swear by certain types of marinade, while others say a little salt is all you need. Some insist that steak should be cooked for a long time on low heat, while others believe in cooking for short periods of time at very high temperatures. Then there’s the question of how and when you turn the steak, where you position it on the grill, whether you add any spices or marinades during the cooking.

And of course, there’s the all-important question of how your steak should come out in the end — rare, medium, well-done, or anything in between. This comes down to personal taste, but there are still people who insist there is “right way” and a “wrong way” to prepare steak.

So if we look at several different reputable steakhouses, talk to steakhouse chefs, gather the opinions of steak aficionados, and conduct online research on steak preparation methods, what do we end up with? Are there any trends or “general truths” in terms of the best method for cooking steak?

The reality is, training and experience count for a lot. Unless you’re going to put in the time to learn how to cook steak like a professional (and invest in the kitchen tools to do so), you probably won’t be able to reach quite that level of consistency. But here are a few professional tips for “upping your game” when it comes to steak.

1. Focus on the meat

If you’re using a low-grade piece of beef, it’s going to be virtually impossible to get the results you really want. Spending a little more for a higher grade steak is the right first step if you’re serious about a better DIY steakhouse experience.

2. Season it well

The pros don’t use a lot of fancy spices. Rock salt and pepper, olive oil and butter are often the only ingredients used. At good steakhouses, these are usually applied 20-40 minutes before cooking.

3. Sear the outside

If your cooking surface is hot enough to sear the outside of the steak, you can seal more juicy tenderness into the steak.

4. Don’t overcook!

Good steakhouses use very hot broilers to give the meat a good sear, then finish cooking at lower heat. This makes it easier not to overcook the steak.

Getting your information from the source

A reputable steakhouse should be able to give you all the detail you need on how the steak is prepared, and why it’s better that way. Not every steakhouse will prepare steak in the exact same way, and different chefs do have different styles and opinions when it comes time to turn out a beautiful steak. But as a steakhouse patron, you should feel comfortable asking these and any other questions while you order from the menu. In fact, waitstaff should be happy to answer your questions — and check with the kitchen if they don’t know the answer. For many people, steak is truly an experience. Understanding the methods and techniques that go into a perfect steak is a worthwhile part of that experience for any steak lover.