August 22, 2018 admin

Tri Tip 101

We’ve noticed that our customers have been loving Tri Tip lately and we don’t blame them! This California favorite was not originally a part of traditional ‘cue, but has quickly taken the hearts of the BBQ-loving community thanks to its tenderness and unique flavor.

Tri Tip can be a challenging meat to master cooking due to its shape and size, but with some practice and the tips below we’re sure you’ll figure it out in no time.


How did Tri Tip Come into the BBQ world?

Texas has brisket, the Carolinas have pork, Kansas City has sauce, Memphis has ribs and Californians… we’ve got Tri Tip. California’s history with Tri Tip goes back to the 1950’s. At that time, butchers were aware of the triangle shaped muscle located at the bottom of the sirloin but it was not easy to get out. It seemed like it was a  tough piece of meat so it was generally cut up for stew meat or ground into hamburger.

At an old Safeway store in the central coast of CA, a one-armed butcher named Bob Schutz had the idea to spit-roast a crescent-shaped cut from the bottom of the sirloin. Everyone told him that he was crazy and that the meat would be too tough to eat, but Schutz persevered and, alas, the Tri Tip was born!


How should I marinate a Tri Tip?

Tri Tip can be marinated with a dry rub or a liquid marinade. We suggest dry rubs for slow-smoking so that you can create that delicious bark and liquid marinades for high-heat or indirect cooking in order to keep the meat tender and juicy.


What’s the key to getting the most flavor when cooking Tri Tip?

The first step to keeping the flavor in your Tri Tip is keeping the fat cap on. The fat layer will render during cooking and baste the meat as it cooks, which is a good thing for flavor. Unfortunately, that rendered fat is a potential grill flare-up waiting to happen, so if you’re planning on grilling your Tri Tip, make sure to trim it first.

The second step is to make sure you don’t overcook it. Whether you go with a trimmed cut on the grill or an untrimmed baking or smoking, take special care not to leave any Tri Tip on the heat for more than absolutely necessary. Stick with a rare or medium rare preparation and you’ll find this affordable cut of meat to be a juicy choice for any occasion.


How can I cook a Tri Tip at home?

If you have a smoker at home, we always suggest using that! If you don’t you can always use a gas or charcoal grill or throw it in the oven. The general rule of thumb for cook times when cooking the Tri Tip on high or indirect heat is 15 minutes per pound. Tri Tips typically range from 2-3 pounds, so you’re looking at a cook time of about 45 minutes on the grill or oven. If you’re smoking it, we suggest letting your Tri Tip sit in that low heat for 4-5 hours.


How should I cut a Tri Tip?

Cutting against the grain is key! Study the grain of the meat before you cook it as it changes from the thick end of the tri-tip to the thin end. Santa Maria grill masters slice the cooked tri-tip crosswise into two pieces, the natural division marked by a visible line of fat, then carve each separately for maximum tenderness.




From the Restaurant to Private Events & Catering we serve our BBQ throughout Northern California.