If you "poke" a beef steak in a "long metal rod" and then you hold it by hand on a fire to cook it, this is called what?

It's grilling in BrE and you could say: I was grilling the steak. The verb is to broil in UK, and according to Cambridge's dictionary it is "to broil" in AmE, but I never heard "I was broiling the steak"; I don't mean it doesn't exist, just telling you I don't know. What do you say in the scenario above, "I'm broiling the steak, and I like to eat it broiled"? or use a different verb and expression? And by the way, I'm interested in informal speech not formal one.

Could you also rewrite poke and give the name of "long metal rod" in your everyday AmE language?

  • 1
    It's barbeque
    – Maulik V
    Jan 23, 2014 at 9:23
  • Yeah, it seems this is the answer I'm looking for; it looks perfect esp. with the poking correction! I only need this in a formal answer not a comment so other native speakers confirm or improve. Thank you.
    – learner
    Jan 23, 2014 at 9:39
  • 4
    @MaulikV - I disagree; one can barbecue without a skewer. Moreover, barbecue means different things to different people; some differentiate between grilling and barbecuing depending on what's being cooked, and how it will be ultimately served.
    – J.R.
    Jan 23, 2014 at 10:39
  • You can use toast for other things cooked in this way: you can toast bread over a fire, or toast marshmallows over a fire. You wouldn't normally use toast for meat though. Jan 23, 2014 at 10:48
  • 2
    I’ve always seen broiling used to refer to cooking something that is suspended very close to, but under, a heat source.
    – KRyan
    Jan 23, 2014 at 19:22

4 Answers 4


The metal rod is called a skewer. (If it's a bigger rod, designed to hold entire animals and rotate, it's called a spit.)

I would say that cooking over an open fire is called roasting; cooking over a fire on a metal grate is called grilling (or barbecuing, although barbecuing may imply the use of some kind of marinade or barbecue sauce).

Cooking over an open heat source with meat on a continuously rotating spit is called rotisserie cooking.

When meat is on a skewer, that can also be called a kabob, particularly when meat and vegetables are mixed together on the same skewer.

That all said, there is plenty of room for overlap and confusion. One can roast in an oven, or can make barbecued chicken in a crock pot. One can also grill in a frying pan. (Grilled cheese sandwich, anyone?)

Cooking terms are often chosen to indicate the type of heat source, the direction of the heat source, and the dish being prepared.

As for the scenario you described (open fire, using a skewer, no grill or grate), I'd probably call that roasting, although it would be hard to argue for a single, universal "best word" – cooking is simply too diverse for that.

  • I found this question a very good one! ;) I find myself wanting to read more. I have never known the differences between meat cooking methods before today, and I think I need to read more. And yes, there is some confusion. However, I found some interesting paragraph on the barbeque article on Wikipedia quoted in the next comment.
    – learner
    Jan 23, 2014 at 15:32
  • "While there is a vast degree of variation and overlap in terminology and method surrounding this form of cooking, the generally accepted difference between barbecue and grilling is in the cooking time and the type of heat used: grilling is generally done "hot and fast" over direct heat from low-smoke fuels (with the flame contacting the meat itself), while barbecuing is usually done "low and slow" over indirect heat from high-smoke fuels (with the flame not contacting the meat directly)." Source = Wikipedia
    – learner
    Jan 23, 2014 at 15:32
  • Perhaps you can learn more about the differences in these methods of cooking at Seasoned Advice.
    – J.R.
    Jan 23, 2014 at 16:59
  • 2
    Note also that English is very happy to borrow vocabulary from other cultures when the word describes a particular cooking process that English doesn’t have a word for (as seen here with the suggestion of kebab, which is borrowed from a word found in Arabic, Turkish, and Persian and means pretty much the same thing in English as it does in those languages). Note that English speakers will borrow words incorrectly though (such as using a foreign word for “cook” to specifically refer to one particular cooking style from that culture, or using the name of a specific dish for a range of things).
    – KRyan
    Jan 23, 2014 at 19:18
  • 1
    I suggest the verb for this would be to spitroast. (It's often used to imply cooking the whole animal, but that's not as burdened/wrong as using barbecue might be.)
    – Gossar
    Apr 1, 2018 at 4:55

I am assuming you do not poke the steak in a rod, but you poke the steak with a rod, or rather, you skewer it.

The rod is also called a skewer.

Grilling seems to be the right verb for cooking it this way, though roasting is also an option. Roasting does not imply the use of a grill - so it may be better suited for this.

@MaulikV: there is no barbecue mentioned, or anything like it, in the OP's description. Just putting a stick through a piece of meat and holding it over a fire is not the same as putting meat on a metal grill over glowing charcoal (which is a barbecue).

  • There is no grill mentioned either. Jan 23, 2014 at 10:46
  • 1
    Correct. A skewer is mentioned though. True, grilling does imply the presence of a grill - maybe roasting is better. A barbecue means no open fire or holding skewers with meat over open fire.
    – oerkelens
    Jan 23, 2014 at 11:13
  • @oerkelens Is OP concerned about food being cooked that way over open fire or in kitchen? It's just before a source of heat?
    – Maulik V
    Jan 23, 2014 at 11:24
  • Good question, I read "hold it by hand on a fire" as "hold it over a fire", which seems to evoke the idea of an open fire. I guess you could read "fire" as "any heat source, be it fire, glowing charcoal or electrical heat".
    – oerkelens
    Jan 23, 2014 at 11:27
  • I meant open fire made by burning wood outdoors. So it is over fire eh! On a fire is just an L1 interference! I didn't notice that while I'm writing, even after!
    – learner
    Jan 23, 2014 at 15:10

Okay, looking at the comment, I'm not sure whether you want to know the term for the procedure of cooking or the instrument used. Anyway, answering here all probabilities!

The proper word could be barbeque.

Barbecue (transitive verb) - to cook (food) on a barbecue.

Just down there, the full definition of barbecue as stated in Merriam Webster -

Barbecue - to roast or broil on a rack or revolving spit over or before a source of heat (as hot coals)

For the style of cooking, it's called as Rotisserie

For the rod, it's Skewer.

  • As for the tool, I'm interested in the one rod sort of thing not the metal frame, that's why I didn't mention or maybe forgot to mention BBQ. I don't know the fine line- if it exists- between barbequing, which I have enjoyed, and "broiling" that steak in the rod if they are different. Are they the same or different?
    – learner
    Jan 23, 2014 at 9:36
  • 1
    The skewer is what use by hand to broil but I think when it's broiled slowly by a machine it becomes Rotisserie according to the picture in your link.
    – learner
    Jan 23, 2014 at 10:03
  • I have not read the article only read the picture description. Anyway, according to the chunk I read, it doesn't seem what I am looking for. Rotisserie is for big chunks of meat or entire animals. I have to read more to learn. That rod "skewer" too is called spit in Rotisserie.
    – learner
    Jan 23, 2014 at 10:06
  • 2
    Rotisserie implies the spit is suspended from something as well, I would say. I wouldn't call a piece of meat on a skewer held by a person over a fire "rotisserie". Jan 23, 2014 at 10:50
  • 3
    @J.R. In quite some places barbecue implies actually no open fire at all, but glowing charcoal or something similar - though gas-operated barbecues that simulate these cooking conditions do use actual flames for heating.
    – oerkelens
    Jan 23, 2014 at 11:29

I speak AmE, mostly informally; and I have broiled any number of steaks in the past. I like my steak broiled, and I hope to broil many more steaks in the future. I wish I were broiling a steak right now, or that I had finished my cooking and were sitting down to eat my freshly broiled steak.

I usually broil my steaks by laying the steak on a grill over an open fire or under a gas flame or electric heating element.

I could also skewer the meat on a thin (1/8" or so) metal rod 18"-36" in length, and then hold one end of the skewer in my hand and use the other end to hold the meat over a fire (or other heat source) until it was cooked to my satisfaction. ("Skewer" is both the noun for the metal rod, and the verb for getting the food in place on that rod.)

If I got tired of holding and turning the skewer over the fire, I might wish I had a spit over the fireplace: a metal rod at least 1/4" or so in diameter and a couple of feet long, resting in two forked rods standing vertically on either side of the fire, with a handle projecting from one end of the spit. Then once I got my steak spitted onto the rod, I could turn my steak over the fire simple by turning the spit handle. (Once on the rod, the meat has been "spitted" there; but I've never heard anybody use "spit" as the verb for doing this in the present tense. I think I would have to place, put, thread or even skewer the meat onto the spit; or impale the meat with the spit; in order to get it spitted and ready to broil.)

If I used a grill, I would call mine a grilled steak, or a broiled one.

If I used a skewer, I would call my steak broiled or roasted.

If I used a spit, I would call it a roasted steak.

I would not call it a barbequed steak unless I had applied a barbeque-type sauce to it during cooking, even though I might have used a barbeque grill to cook my broiled steak. (However, I have only ever lived along the West coast of the US. For serious BBQ and serious BBQers & BBQ terminology, you'll need someone from the southeastern US.)

  • This matches my usage exactly (Also West Coast AmE)
    – Adam
    Mar 16, 2015 at 14:59

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