Just when you thought you knew all of the cuts of beef, you hear about tri-tip.
This is a flavor-packed cut, called the tensor fasciae latae. Or to us regular folks, the tri-tip.
It can be chewier than tenderloin or strip if not cooked correctly.
But it is bursting with flavor and it doesn’t take as long to cook as a brisket. Only around 2 hours!
Like all beef, it is best served medium rare!
It doesn’t matter if you haven’t cooked tri-tip!
You have to try my smoked tri tip recipe (you’ll master it in no time)
What Is A Tri Tip?
The trip-tip is a beef cut that comes from the lower section of the sirloin.
The tri-tip gets its name from its triangular shape.
Tri-tips are usually purchased trimmed from the butcher and weigh around 2-4 pounds. If it’s untrimmed, the tri tip will have a large fat cap and as well as a layer of silver skin and can weigh nearly 5 pounds.
It is are a popular cut in California. Tri-tip is also known as Santa Maria, Calfornia Cut, or I have even heard it be called the poor man’s brisket.
How to Smoke A Tri Tip (4 Easy Steps)
I believe there are just three steps to mastering the perfect smoked tri-tip.
Firstly, it’s all about the seasoning
Second is getting your smoke right
Thirdly It’s about the sear!
1: Season Your Tri Tip
If it’s your first time cooking with tri-tip just keep it simple. Start by preheating your smoker to 225°F
First, pat your meat dry then apply the rub. I use my brisket rub recipe which includes black pepper, salt, garlic powder, and onion powder in. Rub it all over your piece of tri tip, liberally, which you can see below. Then let it sits for at least 30 minutes.
2: Smoke Your Tri Tip Low and Slow
Once your smoker reaches 225°F place your tri tip on the rack. You want to reach an internal temperature of 135°F. This usually takes around 3 hours.
You can use any type of smoker for tri-tip, however, I believe the best type is a pellet grill!
It allows for automation which eliminates any mistakes (and lets you relax more!). If you don’t have a smoker you can use your gas grill as a smoker.
Note: Make sure your smoker can maintain a good 225 degrees F. This ensures an even cook
3: How to Sear Tri Tip
The third and final step is a high heat sear. This ensures you lock in all of those yummy juices and get a good crust.
You can either do this on a gas grill or in a really hot cast iron skillet. Ensure you get a good sear on all sides. If you’re going to use a cast iron pan, make sure you use heat-resistant bbq gloves when you do this!
4: Rest The Meat, Then Slice
Once the tri-tip has been seared you need to rest it. To rest, place on a cooling rack and cover with foil. Let rest for 15 minutes. When slicing, make cuts to your preferred thickness making sure to cut against the grain.
How Long to Smoke A Tri Tip?
Make sure you allow 10 – 15 minutes prep time and at least 3 hours for smoking tri-tip.
You will also need 5-8 minutes of cook time for your searing and then 15 minutes for resting.
Depending on your cut of meat, taste, marbling, muscle structure, and the doneness you are trying to get, the times vary.
I have a chart below that can give a rough guide to the correct cooking times.
Make sure you have a meat thermometer to check your internal temperatures. This makes for a fool-proof cook and will lead to perfectly smoked tri-tip!
The Ideal Internal Temperature of Tri Tip?
Personally, my ideal internal temp is 135°F.
Tri Tip Temperature Guide
Not sure how long it should take to get your tri-tip smoked? Check out my guide to timings below
|Doneness Level||Beef Temperatures |
(F Internal Temperature)
|Beef Temperature |
(C Internal Temperature)
|Blue / Extra Rare||80 – 100||26 – 38||10 minutes|
|Rare||120 – 125||49 – 51||10 minutes|
|Medium Rare||130 – 135||55 – 57||10 minutes|
|Medium||140 – 145||60 – 63||10 minutes|
|Medium Well||150 – 155||65 – 69||10 minutes|
|Well Done||160 – 175||71 – 79||10 minutes|
Smoked Tri Tip Recipe
Smoked Tri Tip Recipe
- Smoker (of your choice)
- Wire cooling rack
- Baking dish
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt or sea salt
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
- 1 beef tri-tip around 2-1/2 pounds
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- Preheat your smoker to the desired temperature of 225°F as per your smokers instructions. Ensure the tri tip is not in the refrigerator and has come to room temperature.
- Trim your tri-tip of any silverskin or membrane. This is not a must, however, you will be left with a more tender result. Silverskin and membrane do not render down during the cook so it leaves a nasty texture in your mouth.
- Combine your dry rub ingredients in a bowl. Mix thoroughly with your hands. Place tri tip inside a baking dish and coat well with olive oil. Then cover with the rub. Be sure to give it a good rub to thoroughly coat all sides for the best flavor.
- Place tri tip tray in your smoker and close the door. You are wanting to smoke until the thermometer reads an internal temperature of 135° F for medium rare at the centre. This should take around 2 to 3 hours.
- Preheat your grill or cast-iron skillet to sear the tri-tip. When your tri tip is close to your desired internal temperature, preheat your grill or cast iron skillet over high heat. Remove your tri tip from the smoker.
- Sear the tri tip for 2-3 minutes per side. If you're using a cast-iron skillet, I would suggest using a few tablespoons of butter.
- Place the tri tip cooling rack (with a foil pan below for drippings), cover with foil and rest for 20 minutes until the meat has rested
- Once you have let the meat rest, cut 1/4 inch slices against the grain and serve. My personal favourite is to make sandwiches with freshly baked bread and lots of crisp salad. Delicious!
Looking to get the perfect bark? Follow my guide on how to get bark on brisket in an electric smoker to get perfect bark every time.
Have some leftover tri tip? My favourite combo is adding some to this breakfast sandwich with fried eggs, yum!Samantha Reeves (Charlies wife!)
There it is, the cooking process for my smoked tri tip! Its as simple as that.
If your cooking it for a crowd, I would recommend using a faux cambro.
This way your guaranteed your tri tip steak will be cooked to perfection, if your guest aren’t ready to eat!
Are you a fan of the tri tip? Let me know your favorite way to cook it, even if its not via the smoker!
What to Do Next?
Have a read of some of our guides below. They will help you become a better pitmaster!
Read: Cold Smoked Salmon Recipe
Read: Got a moldy grill? Learn how to get rid of mold in your grill
Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)
You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!
You can read more on our About Us page.
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