What is Tri Tip?
Tri Tip comes from the bottom part of the sirloin which is near the rear of the cow. It’s a triangular shaped piece of meat, hence the name “tri tip”, and weighs anywhere from 2 – 5 pounds and anywhere from 1 – 3 inches thick. Tri tip was first sold and marketed as a cut of meat in Central California back in the 50’s. As the story goes, butchers used to ground up the cut to make hamburger out of it but due to a hamburger excess at the Santa Maria Safeway store in late 1950’s the local butcher decided to season it with some salt, pepper and garlic and throw it on rotisserie. As they say, the rest is history. Tri tip has become a lot more well known since the 50’s and for good reason. The cut is fairly lean but is still super tender and has incredible flavor. I think it is a little more forgiving than most other cuts of beef as well, which is one of the reason’s why it’s one of my favorites.
How To Smoke Tri Tip
Since tri tip is a larger cut of meat, I think it is easier to cook than most other steaks. You have to worry less about over cooking it like you would a ribeye or new york strip. There are a ton of recipes out there that call for brining the tri tip before you put it on the smoker and then call for you to sear it after it has been on the smoker for a while but I think those are just unnecessary steps that add time and opportunity for you to over cook it. I think there are really only four steps needed to smoke the perfect tri tip and they are; marinate, season, smoke and cut/serve.
- Two words – Balsamic Vinegar. If you have never marinated beef or chicken in balsamic vinegar you have to try it out. I promise you will love it.
- Use your favorite steak seasoning. I switch it up but I enjoy garlic powder (I put that on everything) and Montreal steak seasoning.
- Heat your smoker to 225 degrees. Once it’s there, throw tri tip on. That’s it. One thing that I think is absolutely necessary is a good meat thermometer. That way you will always cook your tri tip to the exact temperature you want.
- Another thing that is absolutely necessary is cutting it across the grain. If you don’t, your slices will be stringy and tough to cut. Cutting the tri tip across the grain make it more tender. For more info see our article on how to slice tri tip properly.
Really, it’s that easy. I recommend marinating the tri tip for at least two hours before you smoke it but even longer is better. I usually marinate it over night. Use as much seasoning as you like. Don’t be afraid to put too much on. Remember, it’s a thick cut of meat, so once you slice it, the vast majority of the slices wont have much seasoning on them. Since tri tips come in all different sizes, it’s hard to pin down an exact time for how long to smoke it. I plan on anywhere from 1 – 2.5 hours. Unless you are a pro at telling how meat is cooked by feel, invest in a meat thermometer. It will be worth every penny and you will start using it with most things you cook. You might want to identify what way the grain of the meat is going before you season it. That way you will know what way to cut it once its done smoking. You will want to cut at a 90 degree angle from the grain of the meat and make the slices about a half inch wide for best results.
Smoked Tri Tip Recipe
Smoked Tri Tip
- Plastic Zip Lock Bag
- Cutting Board
- Carving Knife
- Meat Thermometer
- 1/2 cup Balsamic Vinegar
- 1 tbsp Garlic Powder
- 1/4 cup Favorite Steak Seasoning add seasoning to your liking
- 1 Tri Tip
- Place Tri tip in plastic bag and pour the balsamic vinegar and garlic powder in. Place in fridge and let sit for two hours.
- Remove the tri tip from the bag and place on cutting board. Season with your favorite steak seasoning to your liking.
- Heat your smoker to 225 degrees. Place the tri tip in the smoker until the center is at desired temperature. 125 degrees = rare135 degrees = medium rare145 degrees = medium155 degrees = medium well165 = well doneA good meat thermometer is essential.
- One the tri tip is at your desired temperature place on a cutting board. Contrary to popular belief, letting the meat rest will not make the tri tip soak up any juices it has lost. Cut the tri tip against the grain of the meat in roughly 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Tri Tip Leftovers For The Win
One of the best things about smoking a lot of tri tip is the endless possibilities for left overs. I always smoke a whole extra one just so we can make left over dishes and the best part is, it usually feeds us for the rest of the week. Don’t get me wrong, left over tri tip steak is amazing but sometimes you need to switch it up a bit. Here’s a few ideas for you.
- Tri Tip Cheesesteak Sandwiches
- Tri Tip Street Tacos
- Tri Tip Nachos
- Tri Tip Topped Chef Salad
Really the possibilities are kind of endless. If you are a horseradish fan, make sure to check out our simple creamy horseradish sauce. It also goes great as a spread on Tri Tip Cheese Steak Sandwiches!
That’s A Wrap
If you have never tried tri tip, I think you are going to like it just as much as me. Make sure to comment and let us know how much you liked smoking your first tri tip!