Here at GrillinFools.com we LOVE the tri tip. My first, slightly overcooked attempt back in 2011. Three years later, I did tri tip tacos and five years later I did mesquite smoked tri tip tacos for a commercial I did for Coke that aired on NBC during a NASCAR race. It seems I love tacos as much as I love tri tip. Moreover, tri tip makes for a fantastic sandwich, particularly with chimichurri as a condiment, which was done in late 2022. But the most iconic method, and simplest recipe for cooking tri tip, is the reverse sear method. I decided to back this up and lay that very recipe down without all the rest of the accoutrements. I take the tri tip roast and simply season it with salt, pepper and garlic (SPG seasoning). Then slow smoke the sirloin roast on a pellet smoker and finish it off hot and fast with a glorious sear on a Santa Maria grill in this reverse seared tri tip recipe.
Reverse Seared Tri Tip Recipe Ingredients
- 2 trimmed tri tips
- SPG seasoning (SPG stands for Salt, Pepper and Garlic)
- 1 ounce grape seed oil, substitute wagyu beef tallow
From the ingredients list it’s pretty obvious that this recipe is pretty basic. Traditional tri tip is not complicated – simple seasoning of salt, pepper and garlic (SPG seasoning) and open fire. To begin with let’s back up and give a little context here.
What is a Tri Tip?
Tri tip is a sirloin roast cut from the very bottom of the primal sirloin cut. It was originally cast off, bound for the grinder for hamburger. The pitmasters of the Santa Maria region of California took those cast offs and thus fed their cowboys and ranch hands high quality protein for very little money. Tri tip is traditionally cooked over red oak which is plentiful in the Santa Maria region of California. This strange triangular cut, weighing in between 1.5 and 2.5 pounds (after trimming the fat), has the grain run two ways making it difficult to slice properly. Being a small roast, it is ideal for reverse searing in a short period of time. TLDR: Tri Tip is a triangular sirloin roast, weighing between 1.5 and 2.5 pounds after trimming and perfect for reverse searing.
Here are my two trimmed tri tips. These were 1.8 and 1.9 pounds before removing the fat so these are on the smaller side. The fat has been removed in the pic below:
Indeed, leave as much or as little of the fat as you wish. Just make sure to take off the hard, dense fat.
Season both sides with the salt, pepper and garlic (SPG seasoning):
Feel free to apply liberally here. Since we slice this, each slice only has an outer edge of seasoning so go to town.
Don’t forget the edges. Simply dab the edges on the SPG seasoning that missed the tri tip roasts and landed on the cutting board:
How to Reverse Sear
Reverse searing means slow smoking the meat before searing off at the end. If the meat is seared first, it won’t take on much smoke when smoking afterward. By smoking first, we infuse that wonderful smokiness and then get the caramelized proteins from the sear. The best of both worlds. In this reverse seared tri tip recipe, we will smoke on a pellet cooker and then sear on a Santa Maria grill. On a standard charcoal grill, bank the coals on one side and add smoke wood on the coals then put the meat on the other side. On a gas grill, turn on one burner at one end. Place the smoke wood on that side and the meat on the other. Close the lid (on whichever method you are using) and smoke the beef. Also in the case of all three types of grills, when the meat gets to within 10F-15F short of the desired doneness, remove the protein from the grill, stoke up the charcoal or the gas burner (or Santa Maria grill) and sear to get a nice flavor crust while bringing the meat up that last 10F-15F degrees. The other big benefit of reverse searing is no big gray bands around pink meat. It’s coast to coast pink. We reverse sear A LOT on GrillinFools.com. Here are our other reverse seared recipes.
Set the smoker to 225F. Place the seasoned tri tips in the pellet grill (or whatever grill you are using as a smoker) and shove the probe thermometer into one of the sirloin roasts in the very middle:
Even at 225F the tri tip did not take long to get 10F-15F short of our desired doneness of 125-130F. I know some of you are aware of my love for rare steak and are wondering why I’m cooking to medium rare. Because tri tip can be stringy if only cooked to rare. I’m good with medium rare too so this isn’t a problem for me.
After about 45 minutes, the smoked tri tip roasts are 115F and ready to come off the cooker:
Now comes for the best tip I can give in this reverse seared tri tip recipe. The normal process of reverse searing is fairly simple: season, smoke, sear, rest, serve. But I’m going to change that up with: season, smoke, REST, sear, REST AGAIN, serve.
I’m going to leave these smoked tri tips on that plate for a long rest. By letting them rest here for quite a while, I can put a fantastic sear on the outside without over cooking the meat. Conversely, if these went straight from the smoker to the sear then I can only sear so much to take them from 115F to 125F-130F. But what if the temp drops back down to room temp? Then I can sear all day and still not overcook! BOOM!
Time to build my fire on my Hooray grill which is a Santa Mara style cooker and oh so appropriate for this reverse seared trip tip recipe.
***Stay tuned for the traditional tri tip I did on the Hooray that I will be publishing soon***
I busted out some of my Butlerwood stash of smoke wood and sparked up a pile of pecan which pairs wonderfully with both beef and pork:
If you don’t have pecan and want to know what proteins pair well with what you have access too, check this extensive list of smoke woods. Additionally, if you are disappointed in what smoke woods are available near you, check out Butlerwood smoke wood. I love this stuff so much that I ordered 1,700 pounds of it. I’m not kidding. This is in my garage:
That’s a 4’X4′ pallet stacked five feet high with post oak on the bottom, hickory in the middle and pecan on the top. There are a couple other varieties in boxes on the very top so I can play with lots of flavor profiles. I can’t park my car in the garage, however I have lots of smoke wood. It’s called priorities!
And here is that Butlerwood in action on my Santa Maria grill:
I slow roasted another tri tip over this wood for the other tri tip recipe I did that I will publish next week.
Here are those wicked hot pecan coals that smell soooooo good:
After a good 45 minutes, the tri tips have gotten a little dark:
These have cooled and come back to room temperature. Or at least to deck temperature on a 65F degree day.
First, I hit them with a little spritz of grape seed oil. Although, any high heat fat will work here. I’m a big fan of wagyu beef tallow as the flavor crust is SICK, but this is a little less messy with the atomizer spray bottle:
Then, a quick sprinkle of SPG seasoning as lot of that seasoning melted into the tri tip while smoking and resting:
Sear, baby sear!
Additionally, give that fat end of the tri tip a sear as well by holding it over the coals with a set of tongs:
Remember, the target temp is 125F-130F. If you prefer more than that, place the tri tips just off the edge of the coals so they don’t continue to sear. In conventional grills, place them on the side of the grill with no coals or a lit burner. Back in the smoker works too. However, for this cook, we are done:
Finally, after a resting period of 5-10 minutes, it was time to slice. I had planned on getting some overhead shots to show exactly how to slice the tri tip, however I forgot to get those pics. I will cook another one and take proper pics and drop them in here. In the mean time, let’s get to that reveal. And this is the first cut, From the point opposite the long flat side of the triangle, straight across to bisect that flat side.
And a close up:
Coast to coast, BAY-BEE!!!
Alas, the thicker end was coast to coast pink, but the thinner end had some grey banding. That’s the one downfall of the tri tip. With one end so thick and one end so thin, something has to give.
Slicing the rest involves finding the grain in each of those two halves and cutting perpendicular to it:
Plattered on a live edge cutting board:
Reverse Seared Tri Tip Recipe Recap
Simply seasoned, simply smoked, extensively rested, simply seared, rested a bit more and then simply sliced and finally served. It’s not hard to do this. If you can grill a hamburger or a bratwurst, then you can reverse sear a tri tip. This is probably my favorite way to feed a crowd steak for not a lot of money. And I have a bunch of other options there.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below or send me an email.
And if you could leave us a great review that would be most appreciated!
Also, you can follow us on our GrillinFools Facebook page, Instagram, and YouTube feeds
Reverse Seared Tri Tip Recipe
- 2 Tri tips Fat trimmed off the back
- SPG seasoning
- Grape seed oil Substitute wagyu beef tallow
- After removing the thick, hard fat from the back of each tri tip, season both sides and the edges with salt, pepper and garlic (SPG seasoning)
- Prepare the grill for two zone/indirect grilling or set the smoker to 225F
- Smoke the tri tips until they reach 10F-15F degrees short of their desired doneness. For this cook that was 115F and it took about 45 minutes for the tri tips to hit the target temp.
- When the tri tip roasts reach 10F-15F short of the desired doneness remove from the smoker and allow the tri tips to rest for 45-60 minutes
- Crank up a grill to north of 500F and sear the tri tips on each side and the side of the fat end of the roast
- Keep searing/browning the sirloin roasts until they reach your desired doneness, in this case 125F.
- Allow the tri tips to rest 5-10 minutes, slice and serve
- When slicing, make sure to watch for the two different grains that runs through the roasts and cut across that grain.