Modern meters deliver very good results and you have the right idea about evaluating a scene for a wide brightness range.

One of the biggest improvements I learned when shooting both digi & slides is dont try to shoot a scene that can't be handled by whatever recording media you happen to be using.

Use creative solutions like cropping within your frame to exclude harsh bright areas or very deep shadow areas compared to the rest of your main subject.

This approach isn't always possible and then you can resort to graduated neutral density filters if possible.