What is tri tip? The tri tip is an incredibly flavorful and lean cut of beef. It is found at the bottom of the sirloin, which is located along the spine of the cow right before the protrusion of the hip bone.
The tri tip is about 2” thick and anywhere from 6” to 12” long. A single cow yields 2 cuts of tri tips weighing anywhere from 2lb (907g) to 4lb (1.8kg) each.
How to Select a Tri-Tip
Selecting a tri tip for the barbecue requires attention to a few details. Like any other cut of beef, if it’s off looking and/or green do not buy or use it.
- Fat Cap – Butchers often remove the fat cap from the outside of tri tip cut. Most people don’t realize that the fat cap is an important part that gives extra flavor and moisture to the meat. Barbecuing a tri tip without the fat cap can leave the meat chewy and dry. Ask your butcher to cut a tri tip with the fat cap attached.
- Silver Skin – Tri tips also have one side that is covered with silver skin (tough connective tissue). Have your butcher remove the silver skin as it can be a difficult to remove at home without losing a considerable portion of meat.
- Roast Or Steak – For the purpose of BBQ and smokers, the only difference is the size of the cut. Again on average a cut of tri tip won’t be any larger than 2” thick. The roast version just means you get a longer piece.
- Other Names For Tri-Tip – culotte, triangular roast, triangle-tip, bottom sirloin butt, and corner cut.
3 Steps To BBQ A Tri Tip
The first step is to season the meat with a dry rub.
Other forms of barbecue use sauces, but tri tips almost always use a dry blend of spices and sugar for flavor.
Simple Dry Rub Recipe
Do not be too concerned with measuring out the ingredients exactly. A dry rub is often a trial and error process resulting in a rub that will become your own special blend.
Apply the dry rub and coat the meat evenly. A good rule of thumb for dry rub is to use one tablespoon of rub per pound of meat.
Make sure the rub is firmly pushed into the meat so that it doesn’t fall off when grilled and helps create a delicious crust around the meat.
After the dry rub or marinade has been worked into the meat, wrap it in cling wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to 10 hours. After removing the meat from the refrigerator, it is important to let the meat acclimate to room temperature so the meat will cook evenly.
While the meat is acclimating, begin preparing the grill.
Here’s another great recipe by Chef John from FoodWishes:
2. BBQ Time
Preheat your BBQ or Grill to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
To help prevent flare-ups from the fat cap left on your tri tip try not to place it direct over any burners if possible.
Otherwise, you will need to keep a spray bottle handy and keep an eye on it at all times.
Place the tri tip on the grill and cook for about 15 minutes before flipping it over.
This is where cooking times may differ depending on the size of the cut and actual temperature of the grill. But it should take another 15-20 minutes to cook.
For cooking temperatures, see How To Grill A Steak.
3. Let The Meat Rest
Take the tri tip over and place it in a covered container or wrap it in tin foil. Let the meat rest for at least 10-15 minutes before cutting.
It is critical to let the meat rest because it will continue to cook and distribute the juices throughout the meat.
If you cut it too early you will be left with a puddle of juice and a dry piece of meat. Don’t worry, if it’s well covered it won’t get cold… unless you’re outside in the winter.
How to Cut a Tri Tip
Tri Tip Cutting Tip – Cutting in the wrong fashion can cause it to be “tough.”
Look at the tri tip and find the grain pattern of the meat. At about the middle of the tri tip, the grain pattern will change direction.
Cut the tri tip in half where the grain pattern changes and then proceed to slice across the grain.