Smoked tri tip super beefy flavored meat that is great right off the grill. But it also shines as a leftovers in beef stroganoff, and for sandwiches like french dip and Philly cheesesteak. It gets even better since it is quick to smoke or grill.
What is Tri-Tip
The tri-tip is an elongated triangle-shaped piece of meat from the sirloin area (bottom by the hip) of the cow. The cut is from the bottom of the sirloin area (technically called sub primal) where three areas of muscle meat give it a triangle shape. This means when you go to cut the meat you have three points where the grain changes. It is full of beefy flavor and is naturally tender from the marbled fat throughout.
Weighing in between 1-1/2 – 3 pounds it is great to feed a small group or to provide the meat for future meals. It can be labeled differently across the United States. The most common nicknames are triangle tip or triangle roast, Santa Maria, bottom sirloin roast, etc. To make thins even more confusing, the roast can be cut into steaks and those steaks also have a bunch of nicknames like Newport steak, Santa Maria steak, or triangle steak.
Compared to other lean cuts like brisket or flank steak, which both come from different areas of the animal, the brisket is much larger (up to 20 pounds) and more involved to cook properly, flank steak is much thinner and leaner and thus less tender.
Smoked Tri-Tip on a grill
You can smoke a tri tip on your grill (although I love my Traeger). With just a little advanced sleuthing to figure out what burner setup will give you a consistent temperature for indirect cooking, you can cook low and slow with the grill you already have.
A thermometer is necessary to get an accurate reading on the temperature in the grill. Don’t go by the dial that is found on the grill as it doesn’t tell you how hot it is where you will be putting the meat. Once you figure out you burner setting to get 225°F over the indirect cooking area you are good to go.
With the temperature figured out, you need to work on getting smoke. There are wood chip smoke boxes you can buy at most hardware stores wither grilling accessories are located. Wood chips can also be purchased there. In a pinch, you can make a DIY foil packet. Get directions here.
This recipe calls for a cooking temperature of 225°F which is low enough to get the smoked flavor into the meat. Remember every time you open the grill lid, it drops the temperature and affects the cook so it is a good idea to invest in a probe thermometer to get an accurate gauge of how the meat is cooking.
How to Slice Smoked Tri-Tip
Correctly slicing tri-tip is vital to creating tender meat. Remember the cut has interconnecting muscles that change the grain of the meat. You always want to slice meat against (across) the grain of the meat. After the tri-tip has rested and it is time to slice it, find the crook of the roast and cut the meat into two pieces. The grain changes direction there, fanning out from the middle, so it’s helpful to cut the tri-tip into two pieces first. Slice as much meat as you want for the meal. Save the remaining meat unsliced for future meals.Print
Smoked tri-tip is cooked low and slow in about 2 hours on a grill or smoker. The marinade gives a great herbal note to the beefy flavor and the dry rub creates a wonderful seasoning to each slice.
- 2–3 pound Tri-Tip (look for lots of marbling)
- 2/3 cup cranberry juice
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon honey or agave syrup
- 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1–1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, stem removed and leaves minced (1 sprig)
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Tri-Tip Dry Rub
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons turbinado sugar
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- Reserved marinade (to equal 1 cup)
- 1 teaspoon beef bouillon
- 1 cup of water
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
- 1 tablespoon water
- Trim fat and silver skin from the tri-tip.
- In a large zip-close bag, combine the marinade ingredients and mix well. Add the tri-tip and seal. Marinate for at least 8 hours to overnight in the refrigerator. (Occasionally rotating the bag so the meat is fully submerged.)
- After the meat has marinated, remove the tri-tip from the bag and pat dry (reserve marinade to use as the base of the sauce. Return the marinade to the refrigerator until ready to prepare the sauce.)
- Using your favorite beef dry rub or combine the rub ingredients above and generously cover all sides of the tri-tip with the rub. Allow the meat to rest and come to room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Soak cherry or hickory wood chips in water and preheat a gas grill for indirect cooking. Test your grill to figure out the best set up to maintain a constant 225°F cooking zone.
- Fill a smoke box or create a foil pouch with the wood chips. (If making a foil pouch remember to poke plenty of holes in the top to let the smoke out.
- Arrange the tri-tip on the grill over the indirect cooking zone and let the meat cook low and slow for about 60-70 minutes until it reaches an internal temperature of 115°F.
- Remove the meat from the grill and cover loosely with foil. Increase the grill temperature to high or 425°F.
- When the grill comes up to temp, sear the tri-tip for 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove when the internal temperature reaches 125-130ºF or your desired doneness.
- Remove meat from the grill and tent loosely with foil. Let the tri-tip rest for 20 minutes.
- In a small saucepan, bring the reserved marinade to a boil for 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of water and 1 teaspoon beef bouillon and stir to combine.
- In a small bowl stir together the cornstarch and water to create a slurry. Whisk the cornstarch slurry into the boiling sauce and stir to thicken. Remove from heat and taste. Adjust seasoning as needed. Transfer sauce to a serving dish.
- Slice the tri-tip against the grain into thin slices and serve warm with the sauce. Pay attention to how the grain runs since it changes direction at the crook of the tri-tip.
Choose a tri-tip roast with good marbling throughout.
For food safety, make sure the reserved marinade comes to a boil for at least 2 minutes.
See the above diagram for instructions on how to slice the tri-tip.