Smoked Tri Tip Recipe (Step-By-Step Recipe)

Are you looking for a smoked tri-tip recipe? This delicious recipe was inspired by the vibrant flavors of Southern California. This West Coast delicacy promises tenderness, and rich flavors whether smoked, grilled, or reverse seared.

But the best thing?  Unlike many cuts that require a low and slow cooking method, the tri-tip is a delightful exception as it can be ready in approximately one hour.

Below is my straightforward method to achieving the perfect smoked tri-tip as shared by a seasoned pitmaster

What Is A Tri Tip?

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. The trip-tip is a beef cut that comes from the lower section of the sirloin and gets it name from its triangular shape.

Tri-tip is a popular cut in California and is also known as Santa Maria, California Cut, or the triangle steak.

I have even heard it be called the poor man’s brisket and it is a good substitute if you can’t afford or find brisket.

If it’s untrimmed, the tri-tip will have a large fat cap as well as a layer of silver skin and can weigh nearly 5 pounds.  

Smoked Tri Tip

To achieve the ultimate smoked tri tip, it is crucial to follow three essential steps: seasoning, smoking, and searing. Each step plays a vital role in creating a tri tip that is bursting with flavor and juiciness.

What You Need for Smoked Tri Tip

Beef Tri-Tip
Oregano
Kosher Salt or Sea Salt
Black Pepper
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder
Dried Rosemary
Olive Oil

Trim The Tri Tip

To trim your tri tip you need a sharp knife to carefully remove the silver skin and fat. Certain cuts may possess a dense layer of sinewy fat on the bottom (or thicker side). Discard it, as it won’t render properly and will result in a tough texture when cooked.

Should You Marinate Your Tri Tip?

You should marinade your tri-tip but some people prefer just using a rub.

However, I think you get a better smoke flavor with a marinade. Plus it helps to tenderize the meat.

See the tri-tip marinade recipe here.

How to Smoke A Tri Tip (4 Easy Steps)

I believe there are just three steps to mastering the perfect smoked and juicy tri-tip.

Firstly, it’s all about the seasoning or marinade

Second is getting your smoke right and using indirect heat.

Thirdly It’s about the sear!

my tri tip steak ready to be seasoned on pan

How to Season Your Tri Tip

To season your tri-tip, start by patting the meat dry with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture. Then, generously sprinkle kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, and garlic powder on all sides of the tri-tip. Make sure to evenly distribute the seasonings for consistent flavor. You can also gently rub the seasonings into the meat to ensure they adhere well.

After seasoning, allow the tri-tip to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes to allow the flavors to penetrate the meat. This resting time also helps the meat cook more evenly.

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 piece of meat dry then apply the rub.

I use my brisket rub recipe which includes black pepper, salt, garlic powder, and onion powder. 

Rub it all over your piece of tri tip, liberally, which you can see below. Then let it sit for at least 30 minutes.

smoke a tri tip on rack getting seaosned for smoker
Giving the tri tip a good rub

How Long to Smoke A Tri Tip?

Allow 10 – 15 minutes of prep time, 2 hours for smoking the tri-tip, 4-6 minutes for searing it and then 15 minutes for resting.

You want to reach an internal temperature of 125°F- 130°F, this is medium rare, which I think is the best way to cook tri tip. I have table I also would recommend you use a internal thermometer. This way you can check the temperature of your meat thought-out the whole cook. This usually takes around 2 hours.

After your steak reaches the desired temperature during the searing phase, transfer it to a cutting board and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.

I have a chart below that can give a rough guide to the correct cooking times.

DonenessSmoking Step (Pull Off Temperature)Searing Step (Pull Off Temperature)
Rare115-120°F125°F
Medium Rare125-130°F135°F
Medium*135-140°F145°F
Medium Well145-150°F155°F
Well Done150-155°F160°F

How to Smoke Tri Tip

Any smoker will work for tri tip but you want to ensure its able to hold a steady temperature of 225°F. Once your smoker reaches 225°F place your tri tip on the rack or grill grates.

Then place a drip tray below, that way you can use the delicious drippings for a sauce later.

It is recommended to remove your meat from the smoker when it reaches a temperature that is within 5-10 degrees of your desired final target temperature.

Note: If you don’t have a smoker you can use your gas grill as a smoker by using the charcoal snake meothd.

smoker tri tip on the grill at 225

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!

How Long to Rest Tri Tip?

After your steak reaches the desired temperature during the searing phase, transfer it to a cutting board and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.

How to CutTri Tip?

Locate the grain: Look for the direction of the grain, which refers to the lines of muscle fibers running through the meat. Tri-tip has a distinct triangular shape, so identify the wider part of the cut, which will typically have longer grain lines.

Position the meat: Place the rested tri-tip on a cutting board with the tip facing away from you. This positioning allows you to cut against the grain, which is crucial for achieving optimal tenderness.

Cut against the grain: Using a sharp carving knife, start slicing the tri-tip across the grain, making perpendicular cuts to the lines of the muscle fibers. Cutting against the grain helps break down the muscle fibers, resulting in more tender and easier-to-chew slices.

Slice to desired thickness: Determine the thickness of the slices based on personal preference. Thinner slices tend to be more tender, while thicker slices offer a meatier texture. Aim for slices around ¼ to ½ inch thick.

Repeat for each section: As you progress towards the narrower part of the tri-tip, the grain may change direction. Take note of the new grain direction and adjust your slicing accordingly, always cutting against the grain.

When slicing tri tip, make cuts to your preferred thickness making sure to cut against the grain.

Slicing my tri tip, almost ready to serve, just need to finish my potato salad.

Looking for More Beef Recipes?
Cook: Smoked Roast Beef
See all my beef recipes here


The Ideal Internal Temperature of Tri Tip?

The ideal internal temp of tri tip is 135°F.

How to Serve Tri Tip

There are many declious ways to serve tri tip

See our favorites below

Smoked Tri Tip Sandwich

Smoked Tri Tip Bao Buns

Not sure what to serve with tri tip? Here are some more ideas.

Have You Tried Sous Vide Tri Tip?

Smoked tri tip is delicious but have you tried the sous vide method?

Using the sous vide leaves the meat tedner and succulent.

See the Seared Sous Vide Tri Tip recipe here.

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 LevelBeef Temperatures
(F Internal Temperature)
Beef Temperature
(C Internal Temperature)
Rest Time
Blue / Extra Rare80 – 10026 – 3810 minutes
Rare120 – 12549 – 5110 minutes
Medium Rare130 – 13555 – 5710 minutes
Medium140 – 14560 – 6310 minutes
Medium Well150 – 15565 – 6910 minutes
Well Done160 – 17571 – 7910 minutes

Have some Leftover Tri Tip?

My favorite combo is adding some to this breakfast sandwich with fried eggs, yum!

Just make sure you know how to reheat tri tip.

Otherwise, it can be tough,

Samantha Reeves (Charlie’s wife!)

Tri tip carved ready to eat
Print Recipe
5 from 5 votes

Smoked Tri Tip Recipe

This a deliciously simple smoked tri tip recipe.
You can use this as a base and add any ingredients to the bbq rub that you like. I often add in cayenne pepper or a tablespoon chili powder for a kick.
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time2 hours 35 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Barbecue
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 506kcal
Author: Charlie
Cost: 12

Equipment

  • Smoker (of your choice)
  • Wire cooling rack
  • Baking dish
  • Digital Thermometer
  • Wood chips or wood chunks

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt or sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
  • 1 beef tri-tip around 2-1/2 pounds
  • 3 tbsp olive oil

Instructions

  • 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!

There it is, the cooking process for my smoked tri tip! It’s as simple as that.

If you’re cooking it for a crowd, I would recommend using a faux cambro. This way you are guaranteed your tri-tip steak will be cooked to perfection if your guests aren’t ready to eat!

Are you a fan of the tri tip? Let me know your favorite way to cook it, even if it not with a smoker!

Happy Smoking

Charlie

What to Do Next?
Have a read of some of our guides below. They will help you become a better pitmaster!
Read: Got a moldy grill? Learn how to clean a moldy grill with ease

Smoke On!

Charlie

Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I have been meat-smoking and grilling for the past 15 years. I have an array of different smokers, thermometers, and have a love for finding the right wood and charcoal combo My favourite recipes are my EXTRA CRISPY smoked pork belly, juicy pulled pork, smoked brisket, duck poppers, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill).

I loves sharing his tips with beginners, helping them navigate the world of smoking. I find it’s not just about cooking; it’s a quest for that perfect smoky flavor.

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 recipes with you!

You can read more about me on our About Us page.

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11 thoughts on “Smoked Tri Tip Recipe (Step-By-Step Recipe)”

  1. Should I cover the meat once it reads 130°F (if I want medium rare at the centre) Also should I cover the meat in the smoker?

    1. Hiya Mike,

      Yep you do want to wrap it while you let it rest for at 20 mins but I think up to an hour well make it waaay tastier! No need to wrap or cover your tri tip in the smoker either 🙂

      Cheers,

      Charlie

      1. 5 stars
        Smoked a Tri tip today on a Brinkmanship electric smoker. Used pecan wood. Great flavor and tender, but was well done at an hour and 45 minutes. Know now to start checking temp at closer to an hour.

  2. 5 stars
    Maaaaate my pork butt came out delicious!! thanks so much, hopefully once this whole situ is over I can have a huge cookout and make it for my friends and family

  3. 5 stars
    Your tri tip recipe sounds great and I will definitely give it a try. I’ve smoked a lot of tri tips and this my recipe. Make sure all fat and silver skin is removed. Take a large fork or meat tenderizer and poke holes all over both sides of the meat. Sprinkle seasoned meat tenderizer all over both sides. Wrap it in aluminum foil and place in the refrigerator overnight. Don’t go too heavy with the meat tenderizer or it will be too salty. The next morning take the tri tip out of the refrigerator and rub all over with olive oil. Sprinkle all over both sides with garlic powder and freshly ground black pepper. Let it rest at room temperature until ready to smoke or grill. I usually grill mine on the Weber over indirect heat using a chunk of post oak for smoke. Grill to desired temp, let it rest for 30 minutes and enjoy! DELICIOUS!

    1. Hiya Riley!! your tri tip recipe sounds delicious, I am adding to my recipe bucket list (love the garlic powder addition) !! Let me know how you go with my one, send some pics if you can, we could add your recipe to the post as well if you like

  4. 5 stars
    I loved this tri-tip and that it’s so full of helpful tips. I found the doneness level table very helpful as well. Thanks for this smoked trip tip recipe, it turned out great!

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