Tuesday Tri-Tip

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Tuesday is my day off and since the weather improved from awful to pretty bad (yesterday was rainy and in the high 50’s, today there’s no rain but it’s barely above 60), I decided to brave the elements and BBQ a tri-tip.  This cut of beef from the sirloin primal is not very popular outside of California and I’m not sure why.  Along with the brisket, it is probably the beefiest piece of … uh … beef you’ll eat.  Tender and juicy when cooked properly, its big beefy flavor stands up to hardwood smoke wonderfully.

Other than the smoke, I think the key to a nice tri-tip is trimming it properly.  Some places (like Sam’s Club) over-trim.  They completely remove the fat cap on the top.  The fat cap is what makes the tri-tip juicy and succulent.  Without it, you’ve pretty much assured yourself of beef jerky since tri-tip is relatively lean.  But usually there’s way too much fat on top, and you’ll have to perform surgery.  Slice away all but about a quarter inch of fat cap.  Don’t freak out, most of it will render away during the cooking process and the rest can be easily trimmed off as you eat (but I have no idea why anyone would want to do that).  But more importanly, you’ve got to get rid of the silver skin.  This rubbery tissue doesn’t melt away and it is almost impossible to get your teeth through it.  Do your best to get rid of it and you’ll have one mighty fine piece of meat!

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It takes just a bit of patience and a good knife to get the silver skin off. See how stretchy it is?

Here's the tri-tip post-trimming.  You can see how much fat and membrane I took off on the right.  Sweet knife, huh?

Here's the tri-tip post-trimming. You can see how much fat and membrane I took off on the right. Sweet knife, huh?

After trimming, here comes the rub.  My tri-tip rub is a mixture of celery salt, granulated garlic, chipotle powder and black pepper.  Simple, yet teeming with assertive flavors.  I let it “marinate” for just a couple hours.  You can let it sit overnight, but it’s not necessary.  A tri-tip isn’t all that thick and the salt will draw out a whole bunch of moisture.

Using a full chimney of lump charcoal, I start my tri-tip directly over the coals to give it some good color and form a tasty crust.  It takes just a couple minutes on each side.  I’m not about to tell you exactly how long because it really depends on your grill and the intensity of your fire.  You’ve got to baby sit it for a bit, than you can move the tri-tip over to one side, mound your coal over on the other side, and throw in a couple chunks of hickory.  The authentic Santa Maria BBQ is with oak (which I like, too), but hickory is my go-to wood.  I try to hold a temp somewhere in the mid 300’s, and I’m usually done in about an hour.

Start right over the coals and don't be afraid of a little color!

Start right over the coals and don't be afraid of a little color!

After a few minutes of searing, the indirect smoking process begins.  From this point, you're about an hour away from some good eatin'!

After a few minutes of searing, the indirect smoking process begins. From this point, you're about an hour away from some good eatin'!

If you BBQ regularly, you’ll get to a point where you can tell the doneness of your meat by feel.  I can press on a steak and pretty much know if it’s rare, medium rare (the BBQthDirector’s choice), medium or torched (well done).  Until you get to this point, invest in a good meat thermometer.  I usually pull my tri tip out of the smoker at about 130 degrees, but I blew it this time and it got to 138.  Let it rest, for about 10 minutes (the temp will climb another 10-12 degrees), then slice against the grain.  Just start at the tip and work your way toward the fatter end.  This will make for a more tender mouth feel.

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The finished product!

Overall, I’d have to give my tri-tip effort a B-.  It was mighty tasty, but I think it was just a tad oversmoked and definitely overcooked for my taste.  It was a lot closer to medium well than medium rare.  Still, not bad for a midweek lunch in the dead of winter!

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17 comments so far

  1. Renae on

    Thanks for the pics of you trimming the fat off! I am not a fan of pics like that! 🙂 oh well! I am glad it turned out good!

  2. Becka on

    Wow, I am so hungry now. And ignore Renae. lol She has a weird aversion to any meat that is uncooked. lol That looked delicious and if I lived down the street from you like I used to, I would be over at your house right now hoping for a slice! 🙂

  3. Becka on

    Oh, and yes your knife is uber cool. 🙂 I want one now. 🙂

  4. jaynepomuceno on

    Squeamish, Renae?

    Becka, that knife is beyond uber cool. It’s bordering on… stellar! What’s more, you can get it for less than $10 at Wal-Mart.

    Just drive up to the one in Anchorage, and you’re set!

  5. rpdizzle on

    I just have to say that I cannot believe that you let it get 8 degrees too hot! Jay, I honestly thought you were above that! I just don’t look up to you in the same way that I used to!

  6. Jane Pardon on

    I just have to say that I cannot believe you let the temp get 8 degrees too hot! I am disappointed! I used to look up at you, but I just don’t know how I can knowing this!

  7. Becka on

    lol I’ll have to check here. Not even close to Alaska, but….:)

  8. jaynepomuceno on

    Robby/Jane, please give me another chance! I’m gonna do some ribs soon. I promise perfection!

  9. lonestarpreacher on

    Looks great! It actualy looks alot like a brisket. Are they similar?

  10. Jane on

    Sorry, I was on my family’s computer when I sent that comment so I was accidentally signed in as Robb, but that was not from him, just me!
    But okay, I will give you another chance. But the next one better be amazing!!!! You have an image to live up to you know!

  11. janet2000 on

    Mmmmm… *drooling* 🙂 I’m sure you ate it the Santa Maria way, right? With salsa and some beans!

  12. L.A. Food Bloggin on

    Great info, thanx! What kind of grill do you use? By the way, congrats on getting to 10,000 so fast. It took us about six months to get there. check us out when you get the chance.

  13. James on

    I love a good piece of tri-tip. And Becka, I know all about here odd aversions to uncooked meat. I much prefers medium rare, becuase it contains more of the flavor-full juices, Renae doesn’t like to see any pink at all, so it’s interesting grilling. I’ll generally put her meat on the grill a few minutes before I’ll put mine on, so that they are done about the same time.

  14. jaynepomuceno on

    James, you’re a good man! I cringe when I hear someone order a steak well done. Good night, just have a burger!

    Lonestar, two different worlds. My wife actually told me that “succulent” isn’t the best description of tri-tip. Brisket will melt in your mouth. Tri-tip has a bit of a chew to it. It’s hearty. Definitely for beef lovers.

    Janet, no authentic Santa Maria lunch this time. Our tri tip was garnished with some steamed broccoli and mediterranean garlic sauce.

    Lots of great info on lafoodblogging!

  15. mc on

    You have a most impressive site! Makes my mouth water and tummy growl just looking at your pictures. Very well done although I like my rather rare. mc

  16. jaynepomuceno on

    mc, thanks for coming by. Oh, and, lafoodbloggin, I use an offset firebox smoker. Just a cheap Chargriller I picked up a few years ago at a sporting goods store.

  17. […] primal, this cut has big, beefy flavor, but can be a bit chewy if not treated properly (click here for simple tri tip surgery instructions).  Tri tip is central to the Santa Maria style of BBQ, […]


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