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Tri Tip: Good Eat’n, Great Price!

Posted on: September 14th, 2012

I’ve been a huge fan of the Tri Tip ever since I started cutting meat in the late 70’s.  It may not be the most tender steak in the case, but proper cooking and thin slicing cures that. Its flavor is fabulous, especially when marinated and grilled – and since it’s a fraction of the price of most other steaks, it has always fit nicely into my budget!

Tony’s Santa Maria Tri Tip grilled with grilled onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes and heirloom tomato salad.
What Is A Tri Tip?
A Whole Tri Tip and a Tri Tip ‘Newport’ Steak
The Tri-Tip roast/steak is a 1.5 to 2.5 pound triangular-shaped cut from the beef
sirloin. Is it a steak or a roast? It’s actually both. Its flavor and
tenderness is good enough to be a steak, which we call the Newport Steak, but its small size and shape make
it ideal for roasting or grilling whole and slicing thin.

Cutting Tri Tip
The problem with the Tri Tip is that it’s not very
convenient for the butcher.  It’s located
in an odd spot, making extraction a pain, and the triangular shape makes it
hard to cut into steaks.  Minor problems
for a real butcher or a steak loving grill-master!
Cross Section of the Sirloin – Tenderloin, Top Sirloin and Tri Tip

For years, the Tri Tip found itself as part of the bone-in
sirloin steak, hanging off the end as an odd shaped strip that usually got cut
off and made into kabob meat or cube steaks.
With a mere 4-5 LBS or so per animal, nobody really missed it.

Cooking The Tri Tip
I’ve been cooking Tri Tips for over 30 years now and know
them well.  Firstly, I prefer cooking
them whole and slicing thin because they taste better, are more tender, and they go further. Also I always
marinate a Tri Tip for 24 hours. Any beef marinade you love will be great, but in
my opinion, the best two are our Tony’s Balsamic Vinaigrette and our Santa
Maria marinade. The Vinaigrette is in our produce department, and we always
offer Tri Tips ready to cook in our Santa Maria Marinade, which will be
available in jars very soon.
Balsamic marinated Tri Tip oven roasted with Tony’s Steak and Roast Seasoning 
Oven Roast Tri Tip
Grilled Santa Maria Marinated Tri Tip
You can simply roast your Tri Tip in the oven. I like to do
mine in the top of a 375° oven and will use the convection fan near the end of
cooking if it needs a little more browning. Usually 30-45 minutes does it, but
take care, they’re easy to overcook! A reliable meat thermometer is your friend
here, I suggest cooking to 125-135° internal, remove to a plate, cover with
parchment and a kitchen towel and rest at least 10 minutes before slicing as
thin as possible across the grain (see diagram below).
Like Top Sirloin, the Tri Tip is also a great choice for stroganoff, and some folks cube it small to make an extra special chili – World Championship Recipe below.
Grilled Tri Tip
The oven is great for Tri Tip, but the grill is even better,
especially when you use natural charcoal or wood chips. Brown both sides over
direct medium high heat, and then move to indirect heat to finish cooking
slowly. Keep an eye for flare-ups and start testing internal temperature after
about 30 minutes, finishing exactly as above.
Eggheads Rejoice!
If you’ve got a Big Green Egg, you are in luck – the BGE is the ultimate tool for cooking the Tri Tip (or any roast, or chickens, or ribs, or….).  I shoot for a grill temperature of 275-300° and they usually take about 2 beers to finish (3 if it’s really good beer).


Smoking on the Big Green Egg is the ultimate way to cook the Tri Tip.
Slicing The Tri Tip
Slice across the grain starting at the point, or
cut in half and slice both pieces across the grain.

The Tri Tip is an odd shape, and the grain runs in two
slightly different directions. One great technique is to start at the point and slice all the way down on a bias. Another technique is to split the roast in two, slicing one from the point on down, and the other from the cut on down the tail. Either way I suggest slicing as thin as possible (drop your knives into our shop for a tune up) and slicing at an angle, or on the bias, produces larger slices.

Pick up a Beef Sirloin Tri Tip in our Santa Maria Marinade
soon, take care not to overcook it, and let me know what you think!

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