For all their elegance and tradition, steakhouses can be intimidating places to dine. The maître d’ in a three-piece suit, the old-man waiters in their starched white aprons, the rich mahogany tables and leather-bound menus, and that “market price” denotation next to several menu items all indicate a level of sophistication that has to be learned over time. Wouldn’t it just be easier to just hit up your favorite Italian restaurant or French bistro?

Of course, steakhouses are still the quintessential “special occasion” spot, a once-a-year restaurant meant for birthdays, anniversary meals, or when someone else is picking up the tab. No one’s a regular at a steakhouse—unless you’re a corporate card-carrying client entertainer or a mafioso—so it can be hard to ever not feel like a deer in headlights when entering these temples of beef. What signs indicate that you're getting quality beef? Which cuts are the most flavorful? Is it tacky to ask to look at the meat before it's cooked?

But you need not worry any longer, as we've tapped several experts to reveal some insider tips for how to navigate the complexities of ordering at a steakhouse: Kim Owens is the Vice President of Operations for Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House in Manhattan, chef Wade Wiestling works for Mastro’s Steakhouse, and Raymond Weber is executive chef at CUT NYC. 

From differentiating the tenderness of various cuts, to explaining dry-aging and Japan's esoteric beef grading system, these pros will help you order confidently next time you decide to ball out at a steakhouse.