How to Cook a Tri-Tip without Ruining It

by tipsy on June 24, 2012


When I first moved to California's Central Coast many years ago, I was introduced to the Tri-tip. Tri-tip is a triangle-shaped cut of beef from the bottom of the sirloin. There are two per animal. When I temporarily moved away from California some time back, I found it is almost impossible to find tri-tip at the local market.


Tri-tip can be roasted, but most commonly it's grilled. It is wonderfully marbled with fat and if cooked properly, is a succulent, juicy piece of meat. Unfortunately, many of the "cowboys" around here don't know how to cook it without ruining it. They stab it, trim ever piece of external fat off, stuff it with garlic cloves, and constantly fiddle with it on the grill. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Here's how to cook a tri-tip perfectly every time. Your guests will think you're a great cook, but this method involves doing less. Just remember - "less is more." (Repeat that over and over as you cook.)

Selecting Your Tri-tip

Tri-tips are usually available in "trimmed" or "untrimmed" versions. The untrimmed version has a thick layer of fat on one side, and is understandably cheaper by the pound. Some people leave the fat on, and some trim it off at home.

Also, when selecting the meat, look for nice, even marbling. There shouldn't be any section wider than your finger without the little lines of fat running through it.

Preparing to Cook a Tri-tip

Which is right? Trim the fat layer off or leave it on?

Well, it really is a lot of fat. And it causes flare-ups on the grill. My advice is to trim off most of the fat layer, but leave a little. When you cook it, place the fat layered side up. As the meat cooks, the fat will melt and baste the meat.

I have seen the local "cooks" randomly cover their tri-tip with all kinds of salt, pepper, garlic, Lawry's seasoned salt, you name it. Seasoning is good, but just arbitrarily throwing it on the tri-tip can ruin the meat's potential.

I've cooked literally hundreds of tri-tips over the years. Here is the best way to cook yours:

This is important: Take the tri-tip out of the refrigerator 2-4 hours before you cook it. It should be at room temperature when you grill it or roast it.

  • If your tri-tip doesn't have much marbling, you can use a very light sprinkling of Adolph's meat tenderizer - use Adolph's and not some cheap store brand. It's the real deal. Don't use too much though or your meat will get mushy. No one likes mushy meat.
  • Follow with Grizzly Joe's "Trail Dust" as a dry rub all over the meat - I've tried everything, this is the absolute best spice for tri-tip (and this is NOT a paid endorsement).
    • As a guide to how much rub - you should still be able to tell it's a tri-tip when you're done. You're not wrapping a present, just seasoning the meat.
  • Set the meat on a cookie sheet and let it reach room temperature. If you cook it when it's cold inside, you'll burn the outside and the inside will still be raw.

Not too hard right? But many backyard cooks have the habit of stabbing the meat and stuffing garlic inside. If you do this, the juice will just run out as you cook the meat, and it will be dry. Another thing I've seen is slathering the meat with oil, then pouring on the spices. The oil is not necessary. This meat is pretty fatty already. Just rub it, and leave it. The natural juices from the meat dissolve the salt and spices and pull that flavor into the meat as it waits for grilling.

Grilling the Tri-tip

I prefer grilled tri-tip over oven-cooked. I've done both and they are both excellent. Here we'll talk about grilling your tri-tip. (For my instructions on cooking tri-tip in the oven click here.)

Get the grill nice and hot. I shoot for around 400 degrees F. I have a gas grill with three burners. I start with the burners all on high. Once I'm ready to put the meat on, I set the left one on high, the middle one on low and the right one on low. Then I place the tri-tip, fat side up over the space between the center and right low burners. It will drip and flare up so don't put it right over the fire. This gives a nice indirect heat to the meat. The corners of the roast are thinner and cook quicker. It's easy to dry them out.

A lot of wanna-be cowboy grillers poke, and cut, and flip the meat over and over - then poke it again just for good measure. Never, ever stab the meat. Every hole you make lets more juice run out. Poking and flipping the meat should also be done as little as possible. Leave your meat alone! Let it cook. (Note: You can find yourself some good barbeque tongs at the very end of this post.)

I always flip the meat the exact same number of times for every tri-tip. ONCE. Flipping the meat does not help your meat cook sooner, or more evenly, or anything. It is just the sign of an impatient cook. There is only one reason to flip your meat over. To cook the other side. Do it one time - usually after about 15 minutes of cooking on the first side.

Once you've turned the tri-tip, and cooked it for 5 minutes or so, press the center to test the firmness. If it feels mushy like raw meat, you may need to raise the heat just a bit. Most people like their tri-tip pink in the middle. Medium to medium-rare. It should not be hard when you press on it. You are looking for about the same texture as the muscle in the palm of your hand just below your thumb.

Generally, about 25 to 30 minutes should be plenty for a tri-tip, depending on size of course.

Let Your Meat Rest

The meat will cook another 10 minutes or so when you take it off the grill. You need to let it rest. If you don't, you'll have dry, tough meat. Remember, you're cooking a muscle. When that muscle gets hot it contracts, squeezing the juice out of the center. When it's taken off the heat, it relaxes and the juices are drawn back into the center of the meat, making it juicy to eat.

Let the meat rest under a tinfoil tent on your cutting board for about 10-15 minutes.

Cutting Tri-tip

Tri-tip has a definite "grain" to the meat. Cut against the grain for best results. I like to cut the meat into steaks about 1/2 inch thick. Many people cut tri-tip very thin, which is good for sandwiches. But the real reason they cut it thin is because they've poked, stabbed, flipped, salted, and burned it into a hockey puck. The only way to eat a hockey puck is to cut it thin.

If you're tri-tip is juicy and flavorful, cut nice steaks onto your guest's plates. It is my favorite piece of a bovine.


Serve tri-tip with garlic bread, salad, and maybe a potato. If you use the Grizzly Joe's seasoning, you probably won't need to add steak sauce.

You may not be able to pick this up at your local store. But if you ask your butcher to get tri-tip for you, he or she may be able to order it, or cut it special. It's well worth the effort.

Finally, since you won't be stabbing your meat to put it on the grill, flip it, or take it off the grill, I recommend some good barbeque tongs. Click here to see the most popular barbeque tongs available.

Go Get a Tri-Tip!


{ 278 comments… read them below or add one }

Janet B. August 30, 2014 at 7:49 pm

Right off, I have to admit that I am not a very good cook. I have my moments but they are few and far in between! I love Tri-Tip and always seem to overcook it….year after year. So today while the gas grill was heating up I decided to Google “How to cook a tri-tip” and one of the first results was the Tipsy Cook! Yay! It was all I could do to stop myself from turning and turning the meat and cutting into it to see how done it was. I restrained myself, followed your method and surprise, surprise!!! My tri-tip was ever so juicy and tasty. I had put ground pepper, garlic powder, a little Himalayan Pink Salt and a little Mrs. Dash (we really like Mrs. Dash). Even though my tri-tip was mostly medium – medium rare it was still very, very good. I usually eat my meat blood rare (not cold rare though) and was disappointed when I first cut into the meat (after resting for 10 minutes or so). Barely pink….I thought that I had ruined it AGAIN! BUT….it was excellent even though not rare. My Husband who likes his meat cooked to a lovely “dried out and burnt” state thought it was really good too. We both couldn’t believe how much juice poured out of the meat. He even went for seconds and didn’t pour soy sauce all over either (his usual over cooked dried out meat solution…yuck!).
I’m wondering if I could cook it on the grill for maybe 11-12 minutes max per side but end up quite a bit more rare?
Thank you So Much for your advice! Much appreciated!!!!


D Lambert August 21, 2014 at 6:52 am

You might want to read this article.

You should really try the reverse sear technique for this cut (and for a lot of other foods / cuts). I cook tri tips indirect at 225 degrees until the internal temp gets to 120, then blast it with ultra high heat for a minute or so on each side to get a nice crust.
BTW…it is OK to pierce a steak. Steaks are 70% or so water so letting a 1/4 oz of juice out won’t affect the flavor.
The reason people apply oil to meat is that a lot of the spices are oil soluble.
Resting meat is a bad idea as well. Read this:
I realize I am pimping the Amazing Ribs site but they have done a lot of scientific research to back up their techniques


Grouchy August 15, 2014 at 6:08 pm

I’ve now officially bookmarked this link, as it’s the best advice on grilling tri-tip out there. I’ve cooked it about 20 times over the past 3 years, but my 45-year old brain has slowed down.


Dale August 9, 2014 at 4:20 pm

Tipsy , you rock ! To stray away from your directions would be foolish . You have it dialed in ! I can now cook for guests with complete confidence and no anxiety , thank you , thank you


Curt July 19, 2014 at 12:52 pm

I have never fixed a tri tip, but have seen them in the butcher case all my life. I have been told it should be fixed the same way as a brisket. However, after reading your recipe, I can see that they were wrong. My question is that I live in a appartment complex and can not have a grill with a open flame. Therefore I have an electric grill and for burgers and dogs, it not to bad. How would you fix a tri tip on this type of grill since there is not a way to cook over indirect heat? I can adjust the temp upto 450 and it is big enough to place upto 3 tri tips on the grill.


Rupert Ronco July 15, 2014 at 5:01 am

I applaud your attempt to help people cook better.

” I always flip the meat the exact same number of times for every tri-tip. ONCE. Flipping the meat does not help your meat cook sooner, or more evenly, or anything. It is just the sign of an impatient cook. There is only one reason to flip your meat over. To cook the other side. Do it one time – usually after about 15 minutes of cooking on the first side.”

Apparently you also do not read books, or know how to cook properly.


tipsy July 28, 2014 at 5:14 pm

Hi Rupert,

I think nearly 300 positive comments show that I know how to cook (at least a tri-tip) properly.

In your “comment,” you fail to mention why there is any benefit to flipping your meat more than once. (If you cook it properly – you won’t need to flip it more than one time.)

Secondly, the article you reference is an article about cooking steak (not tri-tip) – and it’s written by a chef who states his favorite foods are, “Asparagus. Ramps. Freshly made tofu. Brussels sprouts.”
Really? That’s who you go to for advice on cooking tri-tip?

According to well-known chefs Anthony Bourdain and Alton Brown, the meat should be “left alone” while cooking and not poked and flipped. They both eat meat. I listen to guys like that.

Finally, I’m not sure why you feel my reading habits are apparent from my post, but I do read books.

Sorry you were mistaken, but I applaud your attempt.



Wolfman August 5, 2014 at 3:02 pm

Very well put Tipsy! I can grill with the best of them and I totally agree with your tri tip recommendations. Booyah!


Holli July 11, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Hi! Here’s a question for you. Have you ever cooked a tri-tip on a Traeger wood pellet grill? We want to try this tomorrow and could definitely use any tips anyone might have!


Steve June 29, 2014 at 4:42 pm

I like your no bullshit attitude toward cooking meat. Salt, pepper and 1 turn is all any tri-tip needs.

@Lisa If you have an open grill then you can take a large piece of foil and make a tent over you grilling surface. Poke a couple holes in the top. I would literally make a tent, where the foil doesn’t touch the tri-tip. If it is touching then it is not going to heat evenly.


Steven Schlobohm June 26, 2014 at 2:08 pm

Hey Tipsy, I use Suzie Q seasoning, you can only buy it on the central coast and on line, have you ever tried it?


tipsy June 26, 2014 at 2:48 pm

I haven’t tried it. But I’ll watch for it and pick some up.




Lisa June 17, 2014 at 3:15 am

I’m cooking tri-tip for a wedding I’m catering. Usually I cook for myself in smaller quantities on a covered gas grill using indirect heat. Since I’m cooking a larger quantity, I’ve rented a larger gas grill, but it’s open (no cover). Can you cook indirectly on an open grill? Or?

Waded through about 1/2 the 264 comments, and didn’t see a similar inquiry. Sorry if this is a duplicate and there’s one buried in there somewhere :)


tipsy June 17, 2014 at 9:21 am

You can definitely cook tri tip on a large open grill. They were originally cooked over open pits many years ago.

The large open fire will just make it more difficult, but it’s still possible to get a great tri tip.

You might want to leave the meat “un-trimmed” so that the fat gives a bit of insulation to the meat and also helps baste it during cooking.

Also, you can cook over a bed of coals, but make sure you have a grill that allows you to get the meat high above them for a longer, slower cooking process.

You need to let the fire mellow down into the coals (preferably oak) and “sneak” up on rare or medium rare.

At rare or medium rare, wrap each piece in foil and keep in a cooler to keep the meat hot. It will “coast” up one or two more steps in doneness.

Finally, slice it across the grain and serve. Catch the juices and pour them back over the meat as you go.


Rene June 14, 2014 at 10:42 am

Hi Tipsy! Thanks for the article! I can’t wait to try your grilling method on my tri-tip. I found a recipe that calls for wet ingredients in the marinade such as soy sauce, lemon and oil, along with spices. I see that you recommend a dry rub. Is there a specific reason? And does adding wet ingredients to the marinade lengthen grilling time from your experience? I’m going to do a trial run before a party, but am trying to decide between a dry rub and a wet marinade. Any advice would be helpful. Thanks!


tipsy June 14, 2014 at 3:18 pm

Wet or dry doesn’t make much of a difference in my opinion. The main thing is make sure it’s at room temperature before you cook it.


Rene June 14, 2014 at 10:13 pm

Great, thanks for the quick response!


Paula June 13, 2014 at 8:50 am

I grilled last night for 30 minutes, following the directions, on a charcoal grill by indirect heat. When we cut it, it was RARE. Can I put back on the grill with the cut side down? Or shall I cut it into steaks and regrill? My family won’t eat it this raw.


tipsy June 14, 2014 at 3:16 pm

Hi Paula, sorry, it’s not an exact science, but yes, you can just cook it some more as is or as steaks until it’s to your liking.


Todd June 5, 2014 at 6:37 pm

He mentions Grizzely Joes trail dust. Is the only way to get it online ordering from the source are do any ‘chain’ grocery stores carry it. I live in Seattle if that helps. Have 6 tri-tips looking to grille this weekend for many of my friends and family who have never had it.

Appreciate any feedback.


tipsy June 5, 2014 at 8:49 pm

Grizzly Joe’s Trail Dust is the best spice rub I’ve had for tri-tip. If you contact them at to see if there is a store near you that sells it. They’ve always been very responsive to me.


Gail May 29, 2014 at 7:42 pm

Made this tonight- Texas rub with Applewood smoke. Best ever! Thanks for this- not just instructions but the reasons why. It matters!


Kevin Whitmer May 28, 2014 at 11:55 am

Rarely does an online article regarding a particular cooking method compel me to write a review, but in this case I simply had to. This tri-tip came out better than any other tri-tip I’ve ever tasted, and I’ve been eating it for years! Having lived in SoCal my entire life, tri-tip has been readily available to me, and that includes many BBQ restaurants around town. Simply put, I will NEVER deviate from this method…ever. The author has, indeed, nailed it!
Since the article didn’t give exact details on my particular grilling equipment, I had to slightly improvise, but I pretty much stayed on Tipsy’s path and modified it slightly to fit my grill. It came out so unbelievably amazing that after my first bite I started laughing. Laughing at how f’ing delicious it was, and also how simple it really is if you adhere to the basics. Here’s how it went down:
I began with a simple “Rancher’s Reserve” cut from Vons supermarket – 1.98 lbs, nicely marbled, but by no means exceptional. I didn’t want to try this out for the first time on a more expensive piece. I checked the meat carefully (I opted for the “trimmed” piece in the meat case) and it had a perfect ¼” fat layer on the bottom. This is super important, as Tipsy mentions. You want this fat layer to baste the meat. Next, I prepared a simple dry rub that I’ve used for years, which is a blend of Kosher salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, brown sugar, paprika, Gebhardt’s chili powder, and cayenne pepper. I like a little heat in my rub. I also ground it up a bit more fine by using a spice grinder. This helped me get it in all the crevices of the meat and removed the chunks of brown sugar. After letting the meat come to room temp for a couple of hours (another critical step), I prepared my grill.
The grill that I own is a simple Char-Broil Infrared Grill from Costco that I bought about 3 years ago for about $300. It gets super-hot since it’s an infrared grill, (550°-600°) but it’s a small grill – only two burners total, so I couldn’t really follow the advice and turn one burner on high, one on medium, and one on low. I’ve seared the meat on this grill before and it always worked out “ok”, but it tended to burn the brown sugar in the rub that I use. Instead, I began with the left side on “high”, and the right side on “low”. I monitored the temp carefully, and when the left side reached about 475°, I turned the right burner off completely. This kept the right side at a steady 400° of indirect heat. I put the tri-tip on the right side of the grill, fat side up, and closed the lid, setting my timer to 15 minutes. I resisted the urge to lift the lid, instead trusting Tipsy’s advice. I watched the temp closely and the right side dipped a bit when I put the meat on, but it didn’t fall below 390°, so I left it alone. After exactly 15 minutes of absolute torture, I lifted the lid and flipped the meat – once. It had a gorgeous-looking bark to it from the brown sugar, which was nicely caramelized. Because I didn’t have direct heat, I didn’t get a single flare-up, so the sugar didn’t burn. The lid went right back down, and my timer was set again for 15 more minutes. At 5 minutes in, (following the article exactly) I checked the meat for feel, and it felt exactly as the author described. I closed the lid and left it alone for the last 10 minutes. At this point the smells emanating from the grill were killing me.
At the timer’s end, I pulled it off the grill and set it on my cutting board, putting the nice tinfoil tent on top. I let it rest for about 15 minutes before the moment of truth. One slice into the middle of the tri-tip revealed a perfectly cooked medium-rare, with pink throughout – and a nice warm, red center. One bite and I was convinced that this was different than any other tri-tip that I’ve had, and that difference was the fat. Instead of the typical chewy, gross fat layer that you cut around and discard, I was rewarded with beautifully rendered fat that melted away in my mouth, adding so much more flavor to the meat I couldn’t believe it. The only way I can describe the consistency is comparing it to that of crispy bacon. You know when you have a nice crispy piece of bacon the fat has a crisp bite to it that just melts away? This had that EXACT same mouth feel. Not that “fast-grilling” tri-tip is even in the same league or conversation with slow-cooked Texas BBQ, but it reminded me of eating Franklin BBQ’s beef brisket in Austin, TX. That’s how freaking good it was, as that’s saying A LOT!

Click below for images:


otehlia cassidy May 5, 2014 at 1:58 pm

This was great! My steak came out perfectly! I rubbed it with a mixture of garlic, guajillo, hatch hot, thyme, salt and brown sugar.


Brian January 26, 2014 at 9:55 pm

Amazing! I’ve followed your instructions for two dinner parties and people can’t stop talking about it. Using my trusty Weber charcoal grill and a nice cut from Costco. Thanks for the tasty steak!


Gabriel January 2, 2014 at 6:07 pm

hey just had to come by and thank you for the easy to follow instructions. i was so scared of ruining such a great (expensive) cut of meat my first time. i followed the directions very closely. i let the meat coem to room temperature, i cleaned alot of the fat off (left about 1/4 inch), seasoned with generously with garlic salt, fresh ground rainbow peppercorns, and lawrys seasoned salt. i have a 4 burner gas grill so i did the middle 2 on low and the outer 2 on high, 15 min on both sides (no peeking) and it came out INCREDIBLE. heres a pic for reference —


Kevin Whitmer May 20, 2014 at 8:39 pm

Looks perfect! Great temperature


Rick December 26, 2013 at 12:15 pm

Tipsy I too have been cooking Tri Tips for years and I look forward to using your cooking method. I thought I would share mine with you for what ever it’s worth. I typically preseason my Tri’s with plenty of fresh ground pepper, Lowrey’s seasoning salt and Lowrey’s Garlic flakes with parsley. I season both sides and with my finger tips press the seasonings firmly into the meat. I then leave the meat out to come to room temperature and hour to 90 minutes. On the grill I turn on two burners to max and when the grill is hot enough I turn the burners to their lowest setting and place the Tips fat side down right over the burners with hood down. I let the fat cap cook for ten minutes to develop a good seasoned crust after which I then turn over the Tip and cook the other side for ten minutes. because I’m cooking directly over burners I then turn the meat over approx every six minutes or so. Do this until fifty cooking minutes have been reached and you will have Trip Tip that will be cooked from medium at the ends to Medium Rare in the center.


tipsy December 26, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Thank you Rick. That sounds delicious. I especially like the crispy fat. Makes my mouth water.


D December 23, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Have you had much experience with Buffalo Tri Tip? If you have would you say that the procedures change very much?


tipsy December 26, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Hi D, I have not tried buffalo tri-tip. But I’ve cooked other buffalo meat and it tends to be much leaner than beef. Because of that I’ve noticed that it dries out much quicker. If there was anything I’d change, I suppose it would be based on that. Maybe a longer, slower cooking time and I’d be checking for done-ness a lot earlier by poking it with my finger.


sharon December 5, 2013 at 12:14 pm

just ordered a 20lb tritip from our local butcher-having 16 to 18 people fior agettogether-so—- just grill this on your gas grill? about how long will it take for med-rare? thanks for your your good advice.


tipsy December 5, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Wow – that would be a huge tri-tip. Generally, they are only around 2.5 t0 3 lbs. If you ordered 20 lbs of tri-tip, you will probably get several, in which case you would just follow the same directions as you would for one. It’s hard to say how long for med-rare because I don’t know how much heat you’re using. With a gas grill at about 375-400 deg. F, I’d say around 25 min. But I just use the touch test to tell when it’s done.


shelly October 30, 2013 at 12:23 pm

I’m from Mississippi and didn’t blink an eye at ‘tin foil’ until I saw the comment!!! And I’m in my 40′s!! What we’ve always called it!!!! HA!
Gotta love the South – - – trying your receipt tonight – can’t wait!! First time for tri tip – my CA friend told me about it – finally found one!! I’ll let you know!!! ‘TIN FOIL’ Yea! My new favorite word!!!!


jerry October 2, 2013 at 11:52 am

I live in Georgia and will cook my tri-tip on a Big Green Egg.
Some real good tips here. Many Barbeque competitions in our part of the country so an abundance of dry rubs to choose from. Thanks


Lowell Johnson September 25, 2013 at 10:51 am

I cook Tri Tip for Sons of Norway every year. Sometimes as many as 125. Generally use the same techniques, however, have had great success in doing a three day marinade with Montreal Steak powder combined with Chaka Sauce. I put two steaks in a one gallon sealed bag. Hot fire, cover, turn once 35 mins or so later take off and rest for 15. Use sharp knife or Hobart slicer. Enjoy!


Rabah Rahil September 17, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Awesome post! I am trying my hand at cooking one tonight. What is a good amount for two people ? 2 lbs?




tipsy September 17, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Rabah, You should have leftovers if you’re cooking a 2 lb. tri-tip for two people. I’d say between 4 – 8 oz. is a more likely portion size. It depends on how much you can eat. Enjoy!


Trish September 7, 2013 at 12:34 am

What about cooking on an old fashioned charcoal grill?


tipsy September 7, 2013 at 11:20 am

Hi Trish, Tri-tip is very good cooked on a charcoal grill. My advice is getting the coals nice and hot and then moving them over to one side of the grill. Cook the tri-tip over the other side. Not placing the meat directly over the coals will help you avoid flare ups. Since tri-tip has fat marbled through the meat, it will drip and catch fire if you cook the meat right over the coals. The rest of the instructions are pretty much the same. Don’t poke it and flip it. Just let the fire do its job. Enjoy!


michelle August 28, 2013 at 9:44 am

Ive lilved in the Central Valley of CA for 33 yrs, but never had such great success with a tri tip until I found this instruction page. Thank you so much!


Scott August 21, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Great piece, Steve. Is there a problem using the same tongs I use on the raw meat when I put the steaks on, to take the steaks off? In other words, should I wash the tongs in between?
Thanks again.


tipsy August 22, 2013 at 8:33 am

Scott, You should wash the tongs between the raw meat and cooked meat. I hate doing that though, so I just put the raw meat on the grill with my hands. since it’s partly cooked by the time I flip it, I avoid washing the tongs. I keep sanitizer nearby to keep my hands clean.


Rhonda August 19, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Thanks for the tips! I have a few questions. How many tri- tips would you grill for 20 people and how would you adjust your burners? I will have access to two, three burner grills. Also, this is probably a silly question, but should the lid to the grill be open or shut? Lastly, I saw a recipe for a marinade that sounded really good and wondered if that would change the cooking technique. Thanks.


tipsy August 19, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Rhonda, The tri-tips I get here are usually around two and a half to three pounds pounds each (trimmed). I figure 4-5 people per tri-tip, depending on the appetites involved. So you’ll need to cook 4-5 tri-tips for 20 people. You should be able to fit them on two grills and have plenty of room to use indirect heat if you’d like. I cook them with the lid closed. Finally, I don’t think the marinade will make much difference in the cooking technique.


Greg August 11, 2013 at 4:04 pm

Thank you for this. Growing up in Northern California, Tri-Tip was the go to grilling meat. I have had many good and bad Tri-Tips. And I am eager to use your suggestions.


Russell Iida August 10, 2013 at 3:32 pm

I have cooked a few tri-tips but really I had NOT. Until I followed your recipe
and rules and WOW!!! my family thanks you remember the more you flip the more you trip :)


Joshua June 25, 2013 at 3:55 pm

One more thing! I live in sunny Southern California and when it’s really hot outside maybe you might want all 3 burners on low like I am right now because i’m reaching over 400 degress with them all on low. Just a circumstance you might run in to but again terrific article. Very well done…..and not talking about the meat! :D


Joshua June 25, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Excellent article! Been forever since I grilled a tri tip (7 years?) so wanted to brush up on how it’s done. Found out some stuff I didn’t know, thanks!


Conrad June 25, 2013 at 11:26 am

Tipsy, Thanks so much for this way to cook, I have used so many different recipes for cooking tri-tip. and this by far turned out the best. The secret I believe is the indirect heat and not freaking flipping it over and over. It came out juicy and extremely tender. I love tri tip and agree best part of bovine!! I did add to your recipe, Ice cold beer ..use it as a timer to flip you know!


MJ June 24, 2013 at 9:17 pm

Perfect! I’ve BBQ’d tri tip before, but this technique provided for the juiciest and most tender steak. Everyone loved it!


Phil June 23, 2013 at 3:19 pm

What’s “tinfoil?” Tinfoil? I bet you remember when Eisenhower was president!
I do! Ha ha ha.
Delicious…thanks for the good “tips”….(pun intended)


Jennifer Mills June 21, 2013 at 8:05 am

How do you cook it in the oven? Any great suggestions. I like your grill approach but in KY, you can’t always grill outside. Thanks for helping growing cooks like myself. :)


tipsy June 25, 2013 at 10:25 am

Hi Jennifer, I wrote a post about cooking tri-tip in the oven here: I hope you enjoy it!


Tim June 19, 2013 at 9:01 pm

Obviously you do know how to cook tri tip. Until I moved to Santa Maria, I had never heard of it before. As I learned about it, I found out that it was really the only area you could find it, even though it’s available nationwide to any meat cutter who knows how to cut it. Most toss the main part because they feel it is too fatty and won’t sell. I’m sure that if anyone who can’t find it should be able to get it if you have stores with a butcher’s counter. I have found that most cuts that aren’t usually available in the meat racks can still be ordered. Just be sure to specify that you want untrimmed, otherwise you will get it bare bones trimmed.

When I cook it, it usually takes between 45 minutes to an hour. I heat the bbq to temperature then turn the heat to one side totally off. By not cooking over direct (covered gas bbqs only) heat you don’t have flare ups as it takes flame to cause the flare up. By doing this I don’t even have to keep an eye on it. When the 45 minute timer goes off I do poke it through the fat down into the meat. If it reads 160, then the actual red meat will be about 145 as the fat will cause the thermometer to read higher since it heats up faster than the red meat. If it reads 160-165 it is done and comes out medium rare. If not I will cook 1 minute more for each degree it still needs to cook. If you really want it to be medium, then I would cook it for 75 minutes, but it will not be nearly as moist.

I do not use any rub or marinade. I see the packaged Santa Maria Style Tri Tip at the store all the time and I have never seen anyone in Santa Maria make tri tip that looks like it. I cook it devoid of any spices and seasonings and supply Lawry’s Seasoning Salt and salsa to anyone who wants more flavor than the meat itself has. Granted, I would never be able to cook tri tip in a judged cooking competition since every competition I have seen on TV, the judges always deduct a large number of points for not using salt before or during cooking. It is as though tri tip is bland otherwise, but it is far from that. It is one of the tastiest cuts of meat out there, comparable to rib eyes but one-third the price. Also, I put the emphasis on SALSA! The salsa, preferably homemade, to me is the icing on the tri tip. It adds another layer of flavor.


Henry June 17, 2013 at 6:12 am

I cooked one for fathers day. Although I did not follow the above advise, wish I’d seen it first, it still turned out wonderfull. I did end up pocking it…..with a meat thermometer. Strange, even though there was no pink, never got the thermometer up to 130+. Thinking about using a drip pan under it (center burner off) while the left and right burners are on?????


Steve June 16, 2013 at 2:29 pm

The author has nailed it. The tri-tip is by far the most enjoyed backyard BBQ cut of meat in California. I use an untrimmed 2.25 pound cut with a Montreal steak seasoning which is primarily salt and pepper with some other herbs. I apply a light rub of the seasoning and cook it a touch cooler at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes with a five minute rest period. With a three burner gas BBQ, I leave the two outside burners on low and the middle one off with the meat over the middle burner.
It’s a bit of work to keep the flare-ups down with the untrimmed cut but it’s absolutely worth it.


tipsy June 16, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Thanks so much Steve – I love comments like that, making my mouth water.


Matthew Mumau June 15, 2013 at 12:14 pm

So you don’t sear your entire Tri Tip over a hot flame or pan before you let it slow cook? I figured if I sear the whole thing quickly just a little it would keep the inside more moist… is this true?


tipsy June 16, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Matthew, I don’t sear it first. I suppose it’s because there is a lot of fat marbled in this piece that keeps it pretty moist without searing.


Jenn June 13, 2013 at 4:02 pm

I am so excited to try this recipe! I have been looking at tri tip recipes for an hour and you have made it seem so do-able.. How many pounds would I need to make tri tip sandwiches for 20 people?


tipsy June 13, 2013 at 4:45 pm

I like around 1/4 lb. of meat on a sandwich. A lot depends on the people you’re feeding, and the type of bread, etc. But that’s probably a safe measure. That would put you at around 5 lbs of tri-tip. (But get at least 6 lbs to allow for the crusty ends and tidbits you’ll want to snack on while you make the sandwiches.)


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