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 is known to be chewier than tenderloin or strip. But it is bursting with flavor and doesn’t take as long to cook as a brisket. Only around 2 hours!
Like all beef, it is best-served medium rare! For those of you who have never cooked tri-tip you have to try my smoke tri tip recipe first!
What Is A Tri Tip?
The trip-tip is the beef roast that comes from the lower section of the sirloin. The tri-tip gets its name from its triangular shape.
You will find that 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.
How to Smoke A Tri Tip
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 and thirdly its about the sear!
1: Season Your Meat
If it’s your first time cooking with tri-tip just keep it simple, that way you can really taste the original flavors. I go for black pepper, salt, garlic powder and onion powder. Distribute it all over your piece of meat.
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!).
Also make sure your smoker can maintain a good 225 degrees F. This ensures an even cook and makes it easier to keep an eye on the cook time. However feel free to use your gas, electric or charcoal smoker.
The third and final step is a high heat sear to ensure you lock in all of those yummy juices and get an amazing 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. Make sure you use heat resistant bbq gloves when you do this!
4: Rest The Meat, Then Slice
Once the tri tip has seared you need to rest it. To rest, place on a cooling rack and cover with foil. Let rest for 20 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 2 hours for smoking a tri-tip. You will also need 5-8 minutes cook time for your searing and then 10 -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 is makes for a fool-proof cook and will lead to perfectly smoked tri tip! Personally, my ideal internal temp is 135 degrees Fahrenheit.
Looking to get the perfect bark? Follow my guide from how to get bark on brisket in electric smoker to get perfect bark every time.
Not too 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
- 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 manufacturers 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 the olive oil. Then cover with the rub. Be sure to give it a good rub to thoroughly coat all sides for best flavor. If you have a digital thermometer place it inside the tri-tip so the end of the probe in at the centre.
- Place tri tip tray in your smoker or grill and cover. You are wanting to smoke until the thermometer reads an internal temperature of 135 degrees F for medium rare at the centre. This should take around 60 – 70 minutes.
- Once the tri-tip has reached temperature move onto a wire cooling rack (with a foil pan below for drippings), cover with foil and rest for 20 minutes until the meat has rested and it has cooled to your desired temperature.
- 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!
Have some leftover tri tip? My favourite combo is adding some to this breakfast sandwich with poached eggs, yum!Sam 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 nature with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork)
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!
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