10 Secrets a Steakhouse Chef Will Never Tell You

Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes of your favorite steakhouse? A professional chef answers all of your burning questions about what it's like to work and cook at a restaurant.

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Fresh raw beef steak on wood
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Some steaks are thick, others are thin

They all weigh the same, but many steakhouses cut their steaks to different widths to make it easier to accommodate different cooking temperatures. Thicker steaks are much easier to cook to medium rare, whereas thinner cuts will reach well-done temperatures more quickly. Learn the secret to cooking a thick-cut steak at home.

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Sliced grilled steak Ribeye with herb butter on cutting board on wooden background
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It’s all about the butter

Your steak probably tastes better at a steakhouse because we use lots (and lots) of butter. Bonus points when it’s compound butter! Even the dishes that aren’t served with a pat of butter on top are likely doused with a ladle of clarified butter to give the steak a glossy sheen and a rich finish.

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Chef salts steak grill pan. Preparing fresh beef or pork.
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Salt, salt and more salt

The pros really know how to season meat. Coating the steak with an even layer of salt brings out the meat’s beefy flavors. You might be shocked at how much salt we use, but almost no one sends back a steak because it’s overseasoned. Underseason it, though, and the customers will complain that it tastes bland.

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steaks cooking over flaming grill
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Super high heat creates the best crust

If you want to replicate steakhouse dinners at home, crank up the heat. A restaurant’s wood-fired grills can reach upwards of 700° F, and fancy steakhouses use infrared grills that can get over 1,000° F. The best way to replicate those conditions is to use a charcoal grill, but a smoking-hot cast-iron skillet works in a pinch, too.

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Fork with pieces of delicious barbecued meat on gray background
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Practice makes perfect

How do steakhouse chefs know when your steak is finished cooking? Some use a meat thermometer (which is what you should do at home), but many have developed a sixth sense. After you prepare hundreds of steaks, you just know what medium rare feels like when you poke the meat with your finger!

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Steak Ribeye with spices on the graphite tray.
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Orders for well-done steaks annoy us

Cooks are a finicky bunch, and those well-done steak orders tend to get under our skin. They take longer to cook than any other item on the ticket, so it takes more effort to get the food to finish at the same time. We’ll do it, but we probably won’t be happy about it. This is how to order a steak the right way.

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Variety of Raw Black Angus Prime meat steaks Blade on bone
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Unless it says Prime beef, it’s not

You might assume fancy restaurants source the best quality beef, but many of them do not. Most steakhouses use Choice beef, and not just because it’s less expensive. Only 2% of the beef produced in the United States is classified as Prime!

By the way—we found the best steakhouse in all 50 states.

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Grilled T-Bone Steak with salt and pepper on meat cutting board on dark wooden background
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Grill a bone-in steak, griddle a boneless one

Grilling isn’t necessarily the best way to cook a steak; boneless steaks actually cook better on a flat surface. You likely don’t have a restaurant-style flat top griddle at home, but you can use a cast-iron skillet to achieve similar results.

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Master chef cooking delicious grilled meat steak with vegetables on a barbecue
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It’s hot and sweaty back there

If you’ve ever been designated the grill master at a backyard barbecue, you know how hot that grill can get. Imagine doing that for an eight-hour shift! Many steakhouse restaurants also require cooks to wear gloves, and it gets pretty sweaty underneath the plastic.

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Dry Aged Cote de Boef on Cutting Board
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Dry-aged doesn’t mean it happened in house

Many steakhouses have expensive, dry-aged steak options on the menu, but that doesn’t mean they’re aging the beef in the back room. The process requires a specific environment to safely dehydrate the meat and concentrate its flavor, so most restaurants order them from high-end butchers.

Lindsay D. Mattison
Lindsay has been writing for digital publications for seven years and has 10 years of experience working as a professional chef. She became a full-time food writer at Taste of Home in 2023, although she’s been a regular contributor since 2017. Throughout her career, Lindsay has been a freelance writer and recipe developer for multiple publications, including Wide Open Media, Tasting Table, Mashed and SkinnyMs. Lindsay is an accomplished product tester and spent six years as a freelance product tester at Reviewed (part of the USA Today network). She has tested everything from cooking gadgets to knives, cookware sets, meat thermometers, pizza ovens and more than 60 grills (including charcoal, gas, kamado, smoker and pellet grills). Lindsay still cooks professionally for pop-up events, especially when she can highlight local, seasonal ingredients. As a writer, Lindsay loves sharing her skills and experience with home cooks. She aspires to motivate others to gain confidence in the kitchen. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her cooking with fresh produce from the farmers market or planning a trip to discover the best new restaurants.