BBQ Tip #16: How Do You Cook Tri-Tip?

The tri-tip is a cut of beef from the bottom sirloin primal cut. It is a small triangular muscle, usually 1.5 to 2.5 lbs. (675 to 1,150g) per side of beef. 

The scientific name of this muscle is tensor fasciae latae, inserted in the fascia lata, the connective tissue covering the quadriceps femoris, also called quadriceps extensor, a group of four muscles which in turn insert in the patella, or knee cap of the animal.-Wikipedia

Last week I published a tri-tip blog post.  I got several emails and social media comments about how others cook this cut of meat.  I got to thinking that it would be a great idea to provide a forum for others to share how they cook a particular piece of meat on the grill or smoker.

Some like to grill, some like to smoke.  Some even combine the two methods.  It doesn’t matter how you cook it, it’s about sharing your skills and talent so others can enjoy some great tasting tri-tip.

Please take a moment and add your tri-tip cooking advice using the comment section below.  I’ll transfer your suggestions and comments to the blog post as they are left.

BBQ Grail reader suggestions and tips for cooking tri-tip:

Dave
food-fire.com

I tend to treat it just like a big, thick steak and grill it pretty hot and fast. I season it with kosher salt, pepper, and garlic powder and grill it at 450°F until it hits 125°F internal (about 5-10 minutes a side).

http://www.food-fire.com/index.php/2011/05/06/tri-tip-the-roast-that-eats-like-a-steak/

Chris Johnson
MeatRake.com

First I throw em in the Marinade Master. Add a couple of cloves of fresh garlic, pressed or chopped. A half a sweet onion, sliced. A cup, or two, of my favorite bbq sauce,(too many to list), a little soy, couple tablespoons of garlic chili sauce and 1/2 cup of water. Marinade for 24 minutes, then grill. Your duration and rotation, makes the tri-tip a sensation. Viola.

BBQPairadise
Twitter.com/BBQPairadise

Most of you know I like to call ‘em Cow Quads or I’ve heard, California Brisket. I have a household of 7. This cut has something to offer everyone’s taste. I have an offset smoker. So far I like Tom Porter’s “Cow Pow” to season it the day before. I put the meat on the far end of the smoker, so the thickest part of the meat faces the direction of heat from the firebox. I place the meat on, to start, at around 350. I let the smoker naturally cool down to around 225 and try to keep it there the remainder. I pull off when internal temp on thickest end is 222 for smaller cuts or 227 for larger cuts. Let rest, partially covered for about 15 minutes. Here’s what this gets the family: The small end of the meat is Well done but not dry, for the kids that like it done more. The middle is Medium Well for my wife and daughter, and the thick part is between Rare and Med Rare, the way I like it. I know my pull time temps seem a little weird but that’s what works best for my smoker and technique. I LOVE to snack on this cold, the next day, for breakfast… still juicy, even cold.

Rick the Web Guy

I just have a ‘gasser’ (which might offend the BBQ Purists), but our family likes it this way:

Season with McCormick’s Steak Seasoning overnight. Remove from fridge one hour before cooking. Set gas grill at 225 (two of four burners). Put tri-tip on indirect side (over the cold burners) fat side up. Slow cook until 125-130F internal (about 2 hours). Turn two burners to full blast, move tri-tip over to hot side, sear the outside (a couple of minutes on both sides). With two burners still full-blast, move tri-tip to indirect side (over the cold burners). Cook until internal at 135F.

Remove from grill, cover with foil, let it rest for 20 minutes to let the juices reabsorb. Slice at an angle starting at the ‘wide’ end. Result is tender and juicy.

Serve with over-roasted garlic red potatos and toasted/buttered french bread. Make sure the tri-tip is big enough for seconds (about 3 servings per pound).

Donald Wynn

Rubbed with olive oil and seasoned with garlic powder, salt, and (key ingredient) lemon pepper. Put it on the smoker at about 250-275 for about 90 minutes. Sometimes I’ll foil it over the last 30 minutes to preserve the natural juices. Let if cool for a few minutes, slice across the grain, and serve. Delicious, cut of beef for an easy after work dinner smoking.

Kevin stewart
Bubbastewbbq.com

I follow a more laid back approach, and smoke it at short 230-250 til the desired Internal temp is reached.(about 1-2 hours depending) 140 it so its where I like it, but it really isn’t too bad to take it to well done 165(that’s what the wife likes)

Wayne Brown
bigwaynerbbq.com

By no means am I an expert at cooking tri-tip. I documented my first experience cooking this cut last weekend. Was it tasty? Yes! Would I do it differently next time? Yeah…

Trey Moran
texasfoodmyway.blogspot.com

Grill it, Smoke it, Braise it… I do all three. marinate it in olive oil & fresh rosemary and grill it over wood until medium, slice andn serve. Coat it in fresh cracked black peppercorns and smoke it with pecan or hickory. Braise it in the oven in a bath of tomato sauce, jalapeno, onions, chile powder and garlic then chop or shred it for tacos, enchiladas or sandwiches. My smoked tri-tip method is here: http://texasfoodmyway.blogspot.com/2010/08/hickory-smoked-pepper-crusted-tri-tip.html

Scott Z
m.facebook.com/pages/Lucky-Dog-Hot-Sauce/18963483…

I find that with tri-tip meat thermometers lie. The cut tapers at the ends and is thick in the middle, so if the middle is at 115, the ends are med-to-med/well. It’s ok, as tri-tip can handle being cooked a bit more, but it’s nice to keep the interior med-rare.

Most often I go by feel – if it’s ~115 in the middle you can poke the thicjest part with a finger & get a really good idea of how done it is. If it’s very firm it’s likely to be over-cooked.

If you pull it when it’s 115-ish in the middle and let it rest for 10 mins it should be med-rare when you slice it. I generally prefer steak rare, but tri-tip is best med-rare in my opinion.

Ernie Rupp
grillingwithrich.com

I grill mine. Season with Kosher salt, garlic salt and Western Sizzle steak seasoning. Sear both sides then start basting with a mixture of vegetable oil and red wine vinegar. Baste every 5 minutes while flipping meat until interal temp is 155 degrees in the thickest part of the tri tip. Let rest for 5-10 minutes (hardest part) then slice against the grain. Serve with steak sauce and creamy horseradish. Or put on a sandwich with cheese and onions and peppers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

16 Comments on BBQ Tip #16: How Do You Cook Tri-Tip?

  1. Just did a Tri-Tip few weeks back wrapped in bacon in the smoker. Came out very good. Injected the meat with an onion, garlic, soy sauce blend, Wraped it in a 1/2 lb of bacon and smoked for 5 hours…YUM GOOD!

  2. I grill mine. Season with Kosher salt, garlic salt and Western Sizzle steak seasoning. Sear both sides then start basting with a mixture of vegetable oil and red wine vinegar. Baste every 5 minutes while flipping meat until interal temp is 155 degrees in the thickest part of the tri tip. Let rest for 5-10 minutes (hardest part) then slice against the grain. Serve with steak sauce and creamy horseradish. Or put on a sandwich with cheese and onions and peppers.

  3. I find that with tri-tip meat thermometers lie. The cut tapers at the ends and is thick in the middle, so if the middle is at 115, the ends are med-to-med/well. It’s ok, as tri-tip can handle being cooked a bit more, but it’s nice to keep the interior med-rare.

    Most often I go by feel – if it’s ~115 in the middle you can poke the thicjest part with a finger & get a really good idea of how done it is. If it’s very firm it’s likely to be over-cooked.

    If you pull it when it’s 115-ish in the middle and let it rest for 10 mins it should be med-rare when you slice it. I generally prefer steak rare, but tri-tip is best med-rare in my opinion.

  4. Grill it, Smoke it, Braise it… I do all three. marinate it in olive oil & fresh rosemary and grill it over wood until medium, slice andn serve. Coat it in fresh cracked black peppercorns and smoke it with pecan or hickory. Braise it in the oven in a bath of tomato sauce, jalapeno, onions, chile powder and garlic then chop or shred it for tacos, enchiladas or sandwiches. My smoked tri-tip method is here: http://texasfoodmyway.blogspot.com/2010/08/hickory-smoked-pepper-crusted-tri-tip.html

  5. By no means am I an expert at cooking tri-tip. I documented my first experience cooking this cut last weekend. Was it tasty? Yes! Would I do it differently next time? Yeah…

  6. I follow a more laid back approach, and smoke it at short 230-250 til the desired Internal temp is reached.(about 1-2 hours depending) 140 it so its where I like it, but it really isn’t too bad to take it to well done 165(that’s what the wife likes)

  7. Donald Wynn // March 5, 2012 at 11:11 am //

    Rubbed with olive oil and seasoned with garlic powder, salt, and (key ingredient) lemon pepper. Put it on the smoker at about 250-275 for about 90 minutes. Sometimes I’ll foil it over the last 30 minutes to preserve the natural juices. Let if cool for a few minutes, slice across the grain, and serve. Delicious, cut of beef for an easy after work dinner smoking.

  8. Rick the Web Guy // March 5, 2012 at 11:16 am //

    I just have a ‘gasser’ (which might offend the BBQ Purists), but our family likes it this way:

    Season with McCormick’s Steak Seasoning overnight. Remove from fridge one hour before cooking. Set gas grill at 225 (two of four burners). Put tri-tip on indirect side (over the cold burners) fat side up. Slow cook until 125-130F internal (about 2 hours). Turn two burners to full blast, move tri-tip over to hot side, sear the outside (a couple of minutes on both sides). With two burners still full-blast, move tri-tip to indirect side (over the cold burners). Cook until internal at 135F.

    Remove from grill, cover with foil, let it rest for 20 minutes to let the juices reabsorb. Slice at an angle starting at the ‘wide’ end. Result is tender and juicy.

    Serve with over-roasted garlic red potatos and toasted/buttered french bread. Make sure the tri-tip is big enough for seconds (about 3 servings per pound).

  9. Most of you know I like to call ‘em Cow Quads or I’ve heard, California Brisket. I have a household of 7. This cut has something to offer everyone’s taste. I have an offset smoker. So far I like Tom Porter’s “Cow Pow” to season it the day before. I put the meat on the far end of the smoker, so the thickest part of the meat faces the direction of heat from the firebox. I place the meat on, to start, at around 350. I let the smoker naturally cool down to around 225 and try to keep it there the remainder. I pull off when internal temp on thickest end is 222 for smaller cuts or 227 for larger cuts. Let rest, partially covered for about 15 minutes. Here’s what this gets the family: The small end of the meat is Well done but not dry, for the kids that like it done more. The middle is Medium Well for my wife and daughter, and the thick part is between Rare and Med Rare, the way I like it. I know my pull time temps seem a little weird but that’s what works best for my smoker and technique. I LOVE to snack on this cold, the next day, for breakfast… still juicy, even cold.

    • Yeah – it’s funny, I’ll BBQ a tritip but they come out a lot more tender when slow cooked. I’ve not smoked one, but baking at 325 for 45 mins to an hour depending on size.

      I’d love to try some of the smoked tritips listed here. Yum.

  10. First I throw em in the Marinade Master. Add a couple of cloves of fresh garlic, pressed or chopped. A half a sweet onion, sliced. A cup, or two, of my favorite bbq sauce,(too many to list), a little soy, couple tablespoons of garlic chili sauce and 1/2 cup of water. Marinade for 24 minutes, then grill. Your duration and rotation, makes the tri-tip a sensation. Viola.

  11. I tend to treat it just like a big, thick steak and grill it pretty hot and fast. I season it with kosher salt, pepper, and garlic powder and grill it at 450°F until it hits 125°F internal (about 5-10 minutes a side).

    http://www.food-fire.com/index.php/2011/05/06/tri-tip-the-roast-that-eats-like-a-steak/

  12. Gary House // March 7, 2012 at 7:38 am //

    In the Cowboy country of Central California they favor an open pit or the versitial U.D.S. (Ugly Drum Smoker). Dry rubbed with the all time favorite “Pappy’s” rub and cooked to medium, served up with potato salad, beans and a roll. I really enjoy my Tri-Tip cut into steaks then cooked on the grill, rub only.

  13. Definitely one of my favorite meats to throw on the grill! I love to marinate it in our Chipotle Garlic sauce with some apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper (link to recipe below). The longer it can marinate the better massaging the tri tip every couple of hours.

    I usually sear it on the grill for 5 – 7 min per side and finish it with indirect heat at about 225 and cook it for another 45 min or so until it’s medium rare in the middle.

    Sliced thin and drizzled with a little more Chipotle Garlic sauce, YUM!

    http://www.allspicecafe.com/recipes/archives/chipotle-marinated-tri-ti

  14. BBQPairadise // April 6, 2012 at 12:34 pm //

    Yikes I retract my comment about internal temp of 222 – 227 should’ve read 122 – 127. Anyway I love this venue and all the various ways people do their thing. I’ll revisit this on my next tri-tip to try a different approach

  15. Here in Fresno people wouldn’t know a brisket if it slapped them across the face. So they/we cook tri-tip.

    A lot of the methods above work. You can cook it direct and get a good sear (just don’t cook it through this way). Sear it off and then finish indirect to 125-130. Tri-tip isn’t like rib-eye. It won’t be tender at rare just by searing it. It still has connective tissues that like to be melted down. One recipe that I use that is best cooked direct is my teriyaki, schirracha and pineapple tri-tip. With the sugar content the crust turns out very nice.

    Some use the reverse sear (mostly in the kamado community). First they indirect cook it to just about the temperature they’re going to pull it and then crank up the fire and sear it.

    Another method is to simply cook it low and slow indirect during the whole process. I’ve done this at 225-240 and it turns out great. You end up missing the char on the outside but its the easiest method and provides the most tender meat.

    Either way you do it just don’t do like the knuckleheads on the most recent BBQPitmasters episode. Don’t cook the internal temp to 200 (or above 145), it will taste like a briquet. And don’t cut with the grain. ALWAYS cut across the grain. If you at least do the last two things right your tri-tip should turn out nicely.

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