Smoked Tri Tip – Everything For A Satisfied Dish!

As it was first rooted on the West Coast, the unique smoked tri tip soon satisfied US citizens’ taste to make their way through the country. 

There are many ways and techniques to cook this dish: grill, roast, smoke, sear, or even brisket style. With the correct recipes and methods, they will be full of appetizing flavor and sure to leave your guests craving more!

In this guide, we’ll provide tips and techniques so you can make an incredible smoked tri tip yourself like a professional cook!

What is Tri Tip?

Tri tip is a triangle-shaped beef cut from the animal’s backside, normally in the bottom sirloin. At first, in the 1950s, they were used for hamburger meat and became more popular to be a standalone steak in Western America and Central California. 

A tri-tip consists of the main proportion of fat and a small side of silver skin, so it is quite a lean taste of meat. Yet, it can be super juicy and delicious when cooked precisely with a tender slice against the grain. 

This meat is already trimmed when bought, and now you just need to grill or smoke immediately! This way, a trimmed tri tip will weigh around 2-3 pounds from the original 5 pounds.

You can also cook this steak with different techniques, season it with various seasonings such as black pepper, garlic, and Kosher salt, and enjoy it with wine for the most fulfilling dish!

Smoked Tri Tip

A smoked tri tip is a great way to make it worth a try with the steak. This method is also popular and simple to reach the incredible result from the meat, just requiring some well-seasoned and a great-sliced cut. 

Source: Flickr

If you are not ready to make your own smoked tri tip recipe, don’t hesitate to follow our guide. It sure will be tasty, and then you can go for your own way of seasoning, sauces, and wines to serve. You can use a smoker, pellet grill, or charcoal grill to smoke this steak. Let’s just play around until you can find yourself the best recipes with smoked tri tip steak!

Overall, the perfect outcome of this dish depends on three main steps: seasoning, smoking, and searing. Try to master all of these three, and you’ll have the water-mouthing and juicy tri-tip after all!

What Size Tri Tip To Smoke?

At the store, let’s choose one with an entire large roast; it should not be cut into small pieces. For an original and juicy steak, the roast should remain triangle-shaped as it is.

The weight ranges from 1 ½ to 3 pounds. For an ideal one, go around 2 pounds. You can easily overcook it as it can be so lean, don’t try to smoke it for hours on end!

As we have experienced before, with this tri tip recipe, it is not essential to render this beef for long. Its tissue is not dense like brisket, thereby not calling for several hours to sear, except for when you want to make a brisket tri tip style.

How Long To Smoke Tri Tip?

It will take around 60 minutes for a rare roast with a 2-pound piece of steak and up to 90 minutes for medium rare if smoking. It should be best to cook at the exact temperature but not the time.

You can try using a useful instant thermometer reader such as Thermapen One or a Bluetooth-connected Smoke Unit to get the right temperature!

Source: Flickr

How To Make a Smoked Tri Tip

Preparation

Ingredients

  • One 2 pounds roast or more
  • Olive Oil or Hot Sauce
  • Salt, garlic, black pepper, or dry beef rub 

Equipment

  • An offset smoker, charcoal grill, or pellet BBQ grill
  • One cast iron skillet

Useful Information

  • Prep Time: 20 – 30 minutes
  • Dry brine time: about 1 -2 hours
  • Cook Time: around 2 hours
  • Smoker Temperature: 225°F
  • Finish Temperature: 130°F
  • Recommended Wood Used: pecan or oak

Steps to Smoke a Tri Tip

Trim the Fat

You’ll notice that a 2 pounds tri-tip will have a nice, good-looking texture on one side and a fat cap on the other side. With different density tissue, the fat cap will not withstand the heat when cooking at a hot temperature. You’ll have to cut off the fat cap and cook the steak well.

One little note for you: salt will not absorb the fat when we dry brine. It will remain the same without any hint of melting or absorption. So, if you leave the fat out of the way, you can make room for dry brining.

Trimming the steak is easy, but it makes a vast difference in your final product. Pay enough attention to this step! 

Dry Brine

This step is simply to add a layer of salt to the meat and let it be there. Next, the moisture from the salt will gradually slip on the surface as it melts or dissolves. Then the salty solution will seep into the meat, which is similar to wet brining but in a better way.

It is recommended to use ½ teaspoon of salt for a pound of meat when dry brining. But, you don’t need to stick to this rule, as to each his own, so you can go for dry brine based on your expectation.

Source: Cookipedia

For dry brining, you coat the salt on one side and flip over to do the same on the other side. Then, cover the meat and place it in the fridge for about 1-2 hours. Wait and follow the next step.

Season the Tri-Tip

After the tri-tip sits for 1-2 hours in the fridge, take it out and put some seasoning on it. This is our favorite part as we can mix any flavors together and see how well they can blend without worrying about messing it up. This smoked Tri-tip recipe is versatile and can pair nicely with almost any rub and flavor. 

Source: Flickr

You can try either some unique spice mixture or just go with typical salt, garlic powder, and black pepper. 

Before layering some dry seasoning, it’d be better to apply a binder first. Some will combine oil, mustard, and hot sauce. Going with olive oil is not a bad idea and is quite popular. Still, we stick with salt and put some low salt rub as a seasoning to cook for the most part. 

You can apply the Texas-style rub to your binder, and the meat and seasonings can blend well together. It’s also a good point to warm the meat up a little.

Now it’s time to heat up the smoker!

Setup the Smoker

The techniques are the same for any equipment to smoke the tri tip, including a charcoal grill, pellet smoker, electric burner, or gas. The only thing required here is it burns with indirect heat and sets the heat around 170F – 225F. Cooking in this temp range yields superior smoke results. 

When the tri-tip is halfway through the process, which is at an internal temperature of nearly 130F – 135F, it is best for rare medium options. 

The higher temperature you maintain for smoking, the faster the steak gets to the desired internal temperature. But don’t rush, or you will fail to get a gorgeous smoke ring.

Smoke The Tri Tip

First, lay the tri-tip steak on the grate above the smoker. Otherwise, use something, such as a Weber grill pan or Bradley rack, to transport it easier and leave less of a mess on the smoker.

Then, all you need to do is pay close attention to the temperature, as it’s the only way to identify whether a tri tip roast smoked is perfect.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

From the range of 1 – 2 hours, you should have a close look at the smoker as different equipment and thickness of the steak will result in a different outcome. This technique will also give you a flexible cooking time. 

If you are busy and can’t babysit the smoker, you can set the lowest smoking temperature and let it be there to take in as much as the smoke flavor.

But if you want a quick result, you can cook with a large amount of wood, and it can speed things up. Like seasoning, you are free to use different types of woods, such as oak or alder. Don’t fret. You can not really screw it up anyway .

Sear the Tri-Tip

Once you have reached the internal temperature of 110F to 115F, it’s time to remove the tri-tip from the smoker and set it above some hot coals. At this stage, the texture and color are not good-looking and appealing, but don’t worry; we’ll make it happen soon.

For different equipment, we’ll guide you with details for each one:

  • Gas grill: set the heat high for about 30 minutes, then place the tri-tip on for searing. At this point, get the grill grates as hot as possible. If you own some pair of GrillGrates, it can manage the meat well. Sear them until it gets hot and place the tri-tip on different sides and repeat. A couple of minutes for each side is ideal. 
  • Charcoal chimney, as weird as it may seem, the magic here is to lay a small grate on top of the charcoal chimney, and it can be good for searing. Instantly move the steak around so that you can cook it evenly, as the opening from the top of the charcoal chimney can be a little smaller for the size of the whole meat.

Source: Flickr

  • Electric oven with a broiler: though you will sear the broiler on an electric oven from the top down, it still does a bang-up job here. Move the smoked tri tip steak into a pan to avoid messing up. Lay the tri-tip on a rack and ensure it is from 8-12 inches above the broiler. The concept behind is cut from the same cloth of the gas oven: you will keep the steak in a typical broiling drawer below the flame.

Let It Rest and Serve

Once the temperature of the steak reaches 130 F, it’s great to remove it from the heat. 

Let it wrap slightly in foil to get the best out of it for a resting time of about 10 -15 minutes. This period will make all the juice redistribute to the meat instead of escaping from the cutting board once you slice them right away! Then, slice them nicely and serve!

How to Slice Tri Tip

The grain of the smoked tri tip steak separates into two patterns, so apply a proper method to cut them perfectly. Carefully examine how the muscle fibers run, which is still visible after you put the seasoning and smoke the steak.

First, cut it up into pieces about the thickness of a pencil but for an appropriate tenderness; ensure to slice against the grain direction. For example, if you notice the grain runs lengthwise, then cut the steak crosswise. Remember that each steak cut might bear different grain directions, so you’d better cut it in half to determine the direction of each part.

After the first slice, look closely to see if it’s the right direction to go. If you realize it comes from the same run, change at once!

Source: Silver Brown on Food

One tip for the best outcome, slice as thin as you can but keep it clean enough to be juicy. 

Best Tri-tip Recipes

As we have discussed, with a tri-tip steak, there are many ways to make your own fish. Here we’ll provide you with some common recipes so that you can make the most of that sweet beefy flavors:

  • Smoked Tri Tip Steak with coffee rubber. It can exceed your expectation for a unique combination of coffee and beef to make a full, rich buttery tri-tip.
  • Brisket-style tri-tip will surprise you with a whole new experience that you may not expect.
  • Grilled Tri-tip – It’s easily cooked and prepared for dinner options to leave your family and guests wanting more.
  • BBQ Tri Tip – Another great option for a fun BBQ party with friends and family!
  • Smoked Tri-tip with Chili seasoning for a nice added flavor!

Source: Flickr

How To Reverse Sear Tri Tip

Have you ever thought of reversing the sear tri tip? This technique requires some slow cooking of the meat and then searing it. Reversing sear beef is a great option to try and might reach unexpected, incredible results. Here are the following steps:

  • Place the tri-tip with seasoning first.
  •  Set the smoker at 225F
  • Heat the smoker with steak for about 60 to 90 minutes until it hits the ideal internal temperature of 125 F, entirely cooked all over the steak. Don’t let the direct heat near the meat when you use a grill. Be sure to use indirect heat for a well-done job! 
  • Take it out of the grill and heat the smoker or grill to the highest temperature of 425 F – 500 F.
  • Searing time! Let sear each side for 5 minutes.
  • Remove it and let it rest for 10-15 minutes.
  • Slice sweetly as guided. 

Brisket-Style Tri-tip

A tri-tip brisket may be exotic to you, yet don’t knock it off until you try it! The brisket cooking technique is quite similar to the smoking one. Just applying some tweaks can bring a different style to the meat. 

Source: Flickr

The only difference for this recipe is the longer cooking time, dividing into smaller pieces, but it delivers the similar tenderness and smoky flavor as the smoked steak. The smoked tri tip pit boss can solve the problem when you don’t want to pay attention to the steak all the time while cooking. 

You just need to leave it in the smoker in the morning, and it’ll be finished by the evening! Great way to go for a brisket long made!

One more advantageous point for a brisket tri-tip style is that it is a budget-friendly dish you should consider!

Ingredients

  • A 2-pound tri-tip meat cut
  • A tablespoon of yellow mustard
  • BBQ rub according to your choice
  • Butcher paper 

How to Cook Tri Tip Like a Brisket

After adding seasoning to your tri-tip, it is time to heat this meat up on the smoker. If you are not ready, the following instruction will help. Get ready to have the best brisket style tri tip ever!

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Set Up The Preheat Mode And Smoke

As with the techniques for smoked tri-tip, for this brisket style, set the temperature at around 225 degrees F. You’ll lay the whole seasoned beef cut on the grill grates directly and leave it there for 4 to 5 hours. It will soon reach the internal temp at about 160 degrees F.

Wrap The Meat

Take the roasted tri tip out of the smoker or grill. Next, wrap it tightly in butcher paper.

Complete The Smoking

Bring back the wrapped tri-tip to the smoker and continue to smoke it for 3-4 hours as long as the steak reaches the temperature of 200 degrees F. At this stage, the right temperature at 200 degrees is essential and required for ideal structural integrity. This way, you will achieve a wholesome fatty steak.

FAQs

How Can You Keep The Tri-tip From Drying?

It is easy for the tri-tip to get dry. To fix this, you should layer some BBQ sauce or beef broth and then round it up tightly in foil. The foil locks in the moisture in the steak and keeps it moisturized for more than 30 – 45 minutes if you freeze it. 

Before smoking, it’s best to rub the steak with salt and put it in the fridge the night before. Always cook it on indirect heat and allow the meat to sit for 4-5 minutes before slicing.

Source: Flickr

Should You Wrap Tri-tip in Foil?

Yes. A tri-tip wrapped in foil is the perfect match for some slow-cooking techniques. The heat will gradually break down the chewy connective tissues of the meat and give a perfectly tender steak in return. 

Enveloping it in foil will keep the moisture in the meat for longer use and remain the original flavor. To add more notes, you can cook it slowly with some favorite vegetables inside.

This tri-tip wrapped in foil technique is normally cooked at a slow pace on the grill, which is ideal for cooking something while gathering outdoors with friends on a chilly day.

How Long Does it Take to Smoke Tri Tip at 225?

First, for medium-rare options, you have to smoke tri-tip at 225-250 degrees until the meat reaches its ideal internal temperature of around 130 degrees. It takes 30-45 minutes for each side, depending on the different equipment you use for smoking.

So a 2-pound steak requires a total of an hour or more to make it medium-rare smoked. And a 3 ½ pounder will take more than an hour and 45 minutes for this smoking stage. Consider the size of the meat to smoke it thoroughly without ruining the dish!

Source: Silverbrow on Food

Should I Cover My Tri-tip in The Oven?

Absolutely yes, you can apply this technique when covering it in foil to keep it warm and moisturized. However, many people don’t find it necessary because it will require slow cooking and is quite complicated. So, if you value quick cooking, just remember to slice it thinly and properly, then serve it with your preferred sauce and choose steak sandwiches and wine to go with.

Can You Season A Tri-tip The Night Before?

Of course, you can. Doing this can intensify the flavor the most, but you don’t necessarily do it. You can preferably season it 1-2 hours before smoking, and it’s still good to go!

Conclusion

If you are looking for a meat cut for multiple meals and versatile use, why not choose prime grade tri-tip? The smoked tri tip is easy to cook, yet, its flavorful, tender, delicious flavor surely makes your day! 

Preparing dinner with this dish will offer your family and friends the most satisfying experience. Get ready to cook tri-tip like a pro with our recipes above, and let us know about your results!

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