Want to smoke a brisket but don’t have the time? Might be a good opportunity to try cooking a Tri Tip. This low cost cut of meat is praised for its robust and rich flavor. However, its unique triangular shape and tapered “tip” – cut from the bottom of the sirloin – requires special attention when cooking. Unlocking its flavors to their fullest potential takes more than just a sprinkle of salt and pepper. It requires method and precision. Whether you’re a seasoned grill master or an amateur chef, here are some tips on how to cook tri tip.
You can buy tri tip trimmed or untrimmed. You need to have a knife sharp enough to trim it yourself. Just like a brisket, cut off any ragged ends and silver skin, trimming down the fat as much as possible. It’s fine to leave a little fat, just get rid of the thick chunks. You should end up with a lean, boneless, boomerang-shaped piece of meat.
Tri tip is incredibly versatile and works well with both dry and wet rubs. You can keep things simple and season liberally with salt and pepper. Or try your favorite blend of spices such as garlic powder, onion powder, or paprika for an added kick. To help seasonings stick, first rub it with a neutral oil and coat it in your preferred spice mix.
A simple marinade of olive oil, vinegar or citrus juice, and your chosen spices can also enhance flavors. Experiment with both methods and see which results you prefer. Cooking is all about finding your unique style and taste preferences.
Tri tip cooks like a tender steak but slices like a brisket. It can be smoked, grilled, or roasted, but it’s always best when cooked to a nice medium rare, before letting it rest and slicing.
Cook in a low oven at 275ºF or smoke on the grill with indirect heat for about 45 minutes, letting the meat cook evenly. Always use a meat thermometer and aim for an internal temperature of 120ºF–125ºF. The triangular shape will mean that the tail or “tip” will be more done, while the center will be slightly pinker.
Once desired doneness is reached, transfer the tri tip directly onto charcoal grill or a hot pan to give a final sear on the outside. Allow the meat to rest for 5–10 minutes before slicing.
Tri tip has two distinct grain patterns, one vertical and one horizontal. Cut the steak in half where the two grains intersect. Then slice each piece against the grain. This will ensure the most tender, mouthwatering slices of meat.
Now that you know all about how to cook tri tip, try one of these recipes provided below to further hone your grill master skills!
Stout Marinated Tri Tip
3-4 pounds Tri-Tip Roast
1 large, sweet onion cut into large slices
2 Large cans of dark Stout Beer
1 1/2 Tablespoons of Horseradish
2 1/2 Teaspoons of Black pepper
2 Tablespoons of coarse grain Dijon Mustard
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
3 sprigs of rosemary
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Sea Salt to taste
Place the tri-tip in a large sealable plastic bag. Rough up the rosemary by rolling over it with a rolling pin or smashing it with a pan to release the flavor. In a non-reactive bowl (ceramic or glass) combine 1 can of stout, mustard, mustard powder, horseradish, pepper and rosemary. Mix and pour into the plastic bag over the meat. Add the onions and seal the bag – removing as much air as possible. Don’t let the rosemary poke through the bag. Massage the marinade into the meat and ensure that it is well coated. Leave the meat in the fridge or cooler for 4 hours. This is a good time to drink the second beer.
Remove the tri-tip from the bag and pat dry. Strain the marinade into a saucepan and reserve the onion. Reduce the marinade in a pot on low heat for approximately 20 minutes until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Wrap the onions in aluminum foil and throw onto the grill during the last 20 minutes of cooking, making sure to flip the packet occasionally.
Heat the grill to medium high (350 degrees). Rub the roast with olive oil and season with salt. Place the meat on the rotisserie and roast at 250 degree F and baste with the thickened marinade every 20 minutes. Cook until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees, (about 2 hours.) Use two foil packs of soaked wood chips as described above to impart a wonderful smoky flavor to the meat. Hickory is a good choice and if you want something really bold, cabernet chips will work wonders as long as you don’t go overboard.
Let the meat rest for at least 10 minutes before serving, always cut against the grain with tri-tip and serve with some extra horseradish. Plan on about 1/3 to ½ pound per person.
Colorado Tri-Tip with Santa Maria Salsa
Cook Time: 40 minutes (plus 15 minutes to rest)Serves: 4–6
for the Santa Maria salsa:
2 large ripe tomatoes, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
2 scallions, chopped
2 roasted green chiles, diced
¼ cup (8 chopped cilantro
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon cumin
kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
for the steak:
1 (about 3-lb) tri-tip roast
½ cup beef rub, such as Coffee Junky from Spiceology
To make the salsa: in a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, celery, scallions, green chiles, cilantro, garlic, vinegar, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce and cumin and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
Preheat your pellet grill to 250°F. While the grill is heating, prep the tri-tip by trimming away some of the hard fat. You can also trim the silver skin. Season the meat liberally with the rub. It is a large cut and can take a lot of seasoning.
Place the tri-tip in the center of the grill and cook for about 20 minutes. Begin checking the internal temperature every 10–15 minutes until it reaches 120°F, about 35 minutes. Then transfer to a cutting board and tent with foil.
Increase the grill temperature to 450°F. Then sear the tri-tip on the grill for about 2 minutes on each side, and remove from the grill when the internal temperature reaches 130°F for medium-rare.
Let the meat rest for 15 minutes. Remove the salsa from the fridge and taste again to see if you need to adjust the seasonings. Slice the steak and serve with the salsa.
Smoked Tri-Tip with Shreve-O-Chili’s Sweet BBQ Rub
Serves: 4 - 6
1 tri-tip, 1.5–2 pounds (higher grade meat is worth the price)
For Shreve-O-Chili’s Sweet BBQ Rub:
We use a 5-4-3-2-1 matrix on this. For a single tri-tip, tablespoons are sufficient but can be scaled to suit any size dish. This is the basic formula. Don’t be afraid to experiment based on your own tastes.
5 tablespoons paprika
4 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons garlic powder (not garlic salt)
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
Optional spices: (add any or all of the following for different flavor profiles)
red pepper (for a touch of heat)
cinnamon (for a different kind of kick)
cumin (for the adventurous)
rosemary (for a touch of traditional Santa Maria tri-tip)
Set the grill up for indirect heat at 225°–250°F. For indirect cooking on charcoal grills, arrange the glowing coals around the edge, placing the meat in the center. For gas grills, only light the burners on one side, placing the meat on the unlit side. You can also cook tri tip on a pellet grill.
Mix all the Sweet BBQ Rub ingredients in a medium-size mixing bowl using your fingers until all the brown-sugar clumps are broken up and the ingredients are well mixed.
Rub the tri-tip generously with the rub. Use a little olive oil on the surface of the tri-tip to help the rub cling to the meat, if needed.
Place the tri-tip over indirect heat (preferably of a charcoal/wood fire), shut the lid, and low smoke to an internal temperature of 110°F, 1–2 hours depending on the individual cut. Leave it alone, except to start checking the temperature after an hour or so. Remove from the grill and let the tri-tip rest very loosely covered with foil, 10 minutes.
Build up the charcoal/wood fire for direct grilling. For gas, turn the lit burners to high and place the meat over them. This part is about getting a good sear.
Finish off the tri-tip over direct heat to your liking. We cook to 135°F for a nice slight medium-rare, 3–5 minutes. If cooking to well done (not recommended), additional rub may be needed in the last few minutes of direct grilling.
Noneed to rest the meat again. Slice the tri-tip against the grain (just like a brisket) and serve with black beans and salsa.