My Try at Cooking Tri-Tip

Last weekend, I was down at The Meat House in Charlotte to meet up with the founder of Outta the Park BBQ Sauce.  While I was waiting, I happened to ask one of the guys behind the counter if they had any tri-tip.  Sure enough, they did, and I brought home a beautiful 1.75 lb. piece of meat.  This is my experience of cooking tri-tip for the first time.

What is Tri-Tip?

Folks in most parts of the country may not know what tri-tip is.  The tri-tip (also known as a triangle roast or bottom sirloin butt) comes from the bottom sirloin primal cut and ranges in size from 1.5 to 2.5 lbs. It tends to be leaner than other cuts of meat, thus making it prone to drying out faster.  In the graphic below, the hot pink section represents the entire bottom sirloin.  The tri-tip is the section in the bottom right of the bottom sirloin.

tri-tip diagram

At first, this cut of meat was typically cut into cubes and used in ground beef or sliced into steaks.  Then in the late 1950s, Otto Schaefer started marketing this cut of meat in Oakland, CA.  It was not long afterwards that tri-tip became a specialty in Santa Maria, CA.  The meat was rubbed with a combination of salt, pepper, garlic salt, and other seasonings, seared on a grill, and cooked in a variety of ways.  The method of seasoning tri-tip and grilling it over red oak has come to be known as Santa Maria style BBQ, and the type of seasonings used on the tri-tip are now referred to as Santa Maria style seasoning.

My Try at Tri-Tip

So as I previously mentioned, the tri-tip I was working with came in at 1.75 lb.  Being completely stupid when it comes to cooking this cut, I solicited any advice that I could muster.  Ultimately I decided to model my process closely after this method published on the Tucker Cooker website.  Instead of using Allegro marinade, I opted to use fajita marinade from Brazos Legends because, well…  that’s what I had.  I marinated the tri-tip overnight.


The tri-tip then got a good coating of Oakridge BBQ’s Santa Maria Style Steak Seasoning.  Trust me when I say that this is good stuff.  I will be doing a review on this in the near future.


For this cook, I opted to go with the homemade horizontal grill instead of the Weber kettle.  The grill was set up for indirect cooking, and the tri-tip was placed on the opposite end of where the charcoal was located.  For this cook, I used a cherry Mojobrick to give a small added touch of smoke.  The tri-tip was on the grill until the internal temperature had reached 120 degrees in the thickest part.  Once that internal temperature had been reached, I added a few more lit coals to the fire to increase the heat.  While I was waiting for the additional coals to be ready, I added another light coat of seasoning.


Once the additional coals were ready, the tri-tip went back on the grill over direct heat for a good sear.  Below is the finished product.



Both my wife and I agreed on the following when it came to this:

  • The meat was super flavorful.
  • The meat was super tender.
  • The meat was a bit too salty.

The next time I cook tri-tip, I will most likely omit the marinade and just use the seasoning.  Overall, I was happy with how it turned out.

But Wait, There’s More

So I had some tri-tip slices left over… out came the iron skillet, and the tri-tip got a good searing with a glaze of BBQ sauce from Tiger Q Concessions.  Excellent use of the leftovers, in my opinion!


So there you have it – my first try at tri-tip!  And it certainly won’t be my last.  Hope you enjoyed reading about my misadventures with this wonderful cut of meat!

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Author: Big Wayner

Big Wayner is the mad brains behind Big Wayner's BBQ Blog. A full-time RVer, he enjoys sharing his passion for all things BBQ with anyone and everyone he meets.