British Steel saw the band reprise the commercial sound they had established on Killing Machine. This time, they abandoned some of the dark lyrical themes which had been prominent on their previous releases, but some of it still remains. British Steel was recorded at Tittenhurst Park, home of former Beatle Ringo Starr, a recording studio located on Tittenhurst's grounds, after a false start at Startling Studios in December 1979. Digital sampling was not yet widely available at the time of recording, so the band used analog recording of smashing milk bottles to be included in "Breaking the Law", as well as various sounds in "Metal Gods" produced by billiard cues and trays of cutlery. It was released in the UK at a discount price of £3.99, with the advertisements in the music press bearing the legend "British Steal". Songs "Breaking the Law", "United", and "Living After Midnight" were released as singles.
In 2009, Judas Priest kicked off their 30th anniversary tour in the US by playing British Steel live in its entirety for the first time. The only other Judas Priest albums of which all the songs have been performed live are Defenders of the Faith and Rocka Rolla, but neither of them were played in the original LP running order or during the same tour (though the original US LP had a different running order than the UK version).
The 30th anniversary release of the album came with a DVD and CD of a live show recorded on 17 August 2009 at the Seminole Hard Rock Arena in Hollywood, Florida as part of the British Steel 30th Anniversary tour. The live versions of all the British Steel tracks from this release were also made available as downloadable content for the Rock Band video game series beginning 11 May 2010.