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A barbecue steaks breakdown for you

Two barbecue steaks lie on the grill surrounded by flames

During these turbulent times we have all had countless hours to pause and muse on all kind of random topics – thanks lockdown. On your cerebral travels did you ever voyage back to mid-15th century Scandinavia? Well if you did (by some random quirk of fate) then you would have seen a load of imaginary, yet gargantuan, bearded folk mentioning steik, or steikja – you are at the etymological birth of the word steak. Perhaps you’re not so interested in the origins of the word steak. However we know you’re all about grilling barbecue steaks that’s for sure. Get into your bunker because we’re about to drop another BBQ blog bomb on you. It’s time to explore the moist and magical world of barbecue steaks, from recipes and ideas, to cuts and execution on the grill.


How to choose a steak for grilling?

We’re sure that you’ve heard a few steak references on your culinary journey: from ribeye and sirloin to tomahawk and filet mignon. Or perhaps you’ve come across terminology like chuck, plate, flank and round? Be honest: how many of you know the actual difference between tenderloin and a loin? What we’re getting at here is that to choose the perfect steak for grilling, you need to know about the anatomy of the cow itself, including where the meat is located on the body and the characteristics of the flesh in that particular part. With this knowledge you will always get the juicy results you are looking for from your barbecue steaks and barbecue steak recipes. Read up more about a Cow’s anatomy here.


 A diagram of a cow’s anatomy indicating where the different barbecue steaks come form



For the best barbecue steak ideas get up and personal with the cuts

Scanning the beautiful illustration above, you can clearly see and identify the principal 8 cuts. These are the parts of the cow from which all your moist and magnificent barbecue steaks are born. To summarise, various barbecue steaks are taken from these various cuts. Each cut has different tastes and textures depending on the fat, muscle and tissue content within that specific part of the cow’s anatomy.

Check out the eight main cuts:

  • Flank
  • Short Plate
  • Rib
  • Loin
  • Brisket
  • Shank (shin and leg)
  • Chuck
  • Rump


One of a set of raw barbecue steaks lies seasoned and waiting to be grilled


The most premium barbecue steaks come from cuts within the centre.

In case the headline wasn’t clear, the softest premium barbecue steaks come from the rib or loin section. It’s basic biology guys. The cow’s muscles do the least work in these areas as these muscles are far away from the hooves and horns. Less work means less muscular development and less muscular development means softer and tender muscles. More on this in a minute.


Where do your barbecue steaks come from? Connecting cut and steak together.


A cow’s backbone and ribs make up the rib cut. Did you know there are in fact 13 rib pairs? But only the sixth to the twelfth rib are usually included in the actual rib cut? Barbecue steaks from here are bursting with flavour thanks to the copious amounts of fat marbling in that region of the cow. Again minimum muscle movement means maximum flavour, so the rib cut definitely delivers in this regard Delmonico steak, ribeye steak and Cowboy steaks live in the rib cut.  Here’s a quick and delicious barbecue rib recipe for you.



Chuck meat is taken from a cow’s shoulder region. Obviously the shoulder is constantly working as the cow moves around doing cow things, so chuck cuts can be quite tough. However what they lack in tenderness they make up in flavour. The barbecue steaks and barbecue steak recipes you get from chuck mainly revolve around top blade steak and flat-iron steak.



If you’re looking for a cheaper cut for your barbecues steaks and barbecue steak ideas then the rump could be right up your BBQ street. As the rump cut comes for the area around the cow’s back legs and actual rump, the meat is tougher with a thicker texture due to the increased muscle work in this are. Famous barbecue steaks from the rump include the eye of round, round steak, top round steak, tip steak and cube steak.



If you look just below the loin you will find the flank. Yes this cut is a little tougher but it is boneless and packs a flavourful punch. London broil and flank steak are the top barbecue steaks from the flank cut.



The plate or short plate is another source for short ribs. Basically the plate is in close proximity to the abdomen so it has increased fat and fatty tissues – meaning more delicious succulence. Philadelphia steak and skirt steak come for the plate.


Enjoy the finest barbecue steaks? Enter the Land of Loin.

The loin moves in a horisontal fashion, from just below the centre of the cow to the hind legs or rump and extends up from the cow’s mid section to its top just behind the rib. Once more for clarity: the cow’s muscles don’t perform much work her, so expect softer and tender meat with that OMG dissolve on the pallet type experience.


One loin. Three parts

The loin is fractured into three sections: the sirloin, the short loin and the tenderloin.

  • The end of the loin is referred to as the sirloin. This is the home of the famous, and much in demand, top sirloin cut. You’ll also find the bottom sirloin cut here.
  • Located at the front of the loin cut lies the short loin. Essentially the short loin runs form rib 13 to the top of the femur. There it joins back with the hipbone.
  • Finally the tenderloin is long, lean and extremely narrow muscle running horizontally beginning in the loin and ending half way into the short loin.


Six barbecue steaks lie on a grill uncooked and garnished


Breaking down the barbecue steaks for the sirloin

Yes sirloin isn’t as tender as short loin, however it is actually more flavoursome due to the higher fat content. Usually the sirloin is split into two cuts: the top sirloin and bottom sirloin The sirloin is home to the sirloin steak, top and bottom sirloin steak, tri-tip steak and ball tip steak.


Breaking down the barbecue steaks from the tenderloin

There’s no debating that the tenderloin is the most tender beef cut for your barbecue steaks and barbecue steak ideas. With this accolade comes a price tag too. The tenderloin muscle AKA the psoas major, lies underneath the ribs just by the backbone. The world famous filet mignon and chateaubriand come from the tenderloin.


Breaking down the barbecue steaks from the short loin

Here’s a list of the usual suspects found in the short loin: filet mignon and tenderloin, T-bone, strip steak, New York strip, KC strip and porterhouse barbecue steaks.


How to grill steak on charcoal grill?

Now you’ve got the background barbecue steak knowledge, it’s time to bring on the barbecue steak recipes and barbecue steak ideas.


Three barbecue steaks are cooking on a grill engulfed in yellow flames


1. Select your barbecue steaks

As you’re now a connoisseur this is the fun part. Simply choose from the plethora of barbecue steaks out there. If your mind is racing a million cows a minute we can narrow down your focus. We’d recommend a Scotch fillet, fillet, rump, porterhouse, round, blade or tomahawk for the perfect barbecue steak.


2. Get your barbecue steaks to room temperature

Naturally your barbecue steaks should be kept refrigerated until close to grilling. About 30 minutes to 2 hours before your cook, remove them and let them sit in normal conditions. This will get your steaks up to room temperature leading to an evenly distributed cook throughout the meat. .


3. Time to prepare your barbecue steaks

Keep your barbecue steaks simple guys – think meat, flame and not much else. All you need to do is add a little olive oil to both sides of your barbecue steak. After this a little seasoning with pepper and salt just before you put the steaks on the grill. Don’t season your steaks too early or the salt will extract all the juicy goodness leading to some jaw breaking toughness and texture.


4. Select the charcoal for your barbecue steaks

Please please please do not underestimate the importance of charcoal in the process of cooking your barbecue steaks. Your charcoal is absolutely vital. It is the fuel that determines everything about your cook and end result. We’re talking grilling temperature, taste, texture and overall look on the plate. Basically if you have bought some lovely quality beef, you need lovely quality charcoal to go with it. Enter Big K. With over 50 years in the industry, we are definitely charcoal experts. Our diverse range of charcoal is testament to this fact. quality professional restaurant grade charcoal will work wonders for your BBQ steaks. We would advocate every single one of our charcoals to cook your barbecue steaks to perfection. However if you need some suggestions, we would suggest our pro Marabu charcoal, Dura and our classic lumpwood. All of these amazing charcoals deliver quality, performance and consistency. Check out our full range now.


5. Select the best grilling technique relative to the thickness of your barbecue steaks

Grilling barbecue steaks can be a science and an art form. The more seriously you take it, the better your end result. Here’s some knowledge. Your grilling technique is directly related to the thickness of your barbecue steaks – so depending on thickness you should adopt a singular or 2 phased approach. Any barbecue steaks less than ¾ of an inch thick require a simple one phase cook with direct heat. If you’re grilling barbecue steaks that are 1 inch thick plus you should use a two phased cooking approach. Phase 1 is a simple sear over direct heat. Phase 2 involves cooking the steaks through with indirect heat.


What temperature to grill steak?

Check out this table for cooking times and temperatures.


5a Set up the charcoal for your cooking method

If you have lean and thin steaks then you will be using the one phase direct heat technique. To set up your charcoal for direct is cooking is simple – just create an even and flat spread of glowing charcoal on your grill base. Basic stuff. Absorb some more info on charcoal setup and heat types here.


For those going extra thick and extra juicy, you will be using the two phase approach using both direct and indirect cooking. To set up your charcoal for this process, simply move your charcoal pile to one side of your grill base leaving the other side empty. The side with the charcoal is your direct cooking zone for searing. The empty side is your indirect cooking zone for the rest of the cook. Need help lighting your BBQ? Check this out.

6. Chose how you are going to cook your barbecue steaks and follow the cooking times

Barbecue steaks are awesome. Why? Well you can really customise your cook. Bleu, rare, medium rare, medium, medium well: all these options are possible. This is thanks to the fact that bacteria cannot pass through the meats surface once seared. After this step your steak is perfectly safe to eat – it’s just a matter of carnivorous preference.


Barbecue steak marinade and barbecue steak recipes?

Well that was whirlwind tour the barbecue steaks town! Here are some steak recipes and marinade info to help you out as well.

Stay tuned for more bloggy vibes soon; stay grilling and most importantly stay safe.