Down here in Texas, we don’t stumble upon tri-tip very often. I’m not sure if it’s a conspiracy with the meat packing industry to ship all available tri-tips to California, or if our butchers just cut it up differently (often times it is ground up into hamburger or cubed up and sold as soup/stew meat from what I am reading on the Net). If you were wondering, tri-tip is a cut of beef from the bottom sirloin primal cut and has the meat classification NAMP 185D.
Over Memorial Day Weekend, we went camping with some friends. One of the guys, Tommy, was an old college roommate and from California. One night, as we were sitting by the fire, he went on and on about tri-tip and how great it was. He even went so far as to bad-mouth our beloved brisket! He might have even said us Texans don’t know good bbq, but the beer had been flowing, my recollection is a bit hazy, but I’m pretty sure if he had said that, there might have been some fighting involved. That last part might have been alcohol induced imagination.
I was once asked on Facebook the best way to cook a brisket. Before I could even reply, this same Tommy told the person, “Take you brisket, rub it down generously with your rub, throw it in the trash and go buy a tri-tip.”
So maybe it was fortuitous, maybe it was kismet (those are my two big words of the day, don’t expect anything more) that upon returning home from that trip, I spotted a bunch of tri-tip at the store. I knew I had to pick one up and try it again (I’ve only cooked tri-tip twice before in my life, that’s how hard it is to find here). And to top it off, I was going to try it out on an old buddy from Corpus, Jamin.
I decide to call this a Texas Tri-tip. Why, you may ask? Well, Santa Maria Tri-tip is usually cooked over red oak logs (didn’t have any, used pecan chunks), is cooked on a Santa Maria style grill (also didn’t have, used my Egg), is served with pinquito beans (what?) and basically cuz we’re here in Texas. I’m not sure exactly what goes into a Santa Maria rub for tri-tip. I looked up a few variations and it was common stuff like salt, black pepper and garlic powder. From there, some added paprika, maybe some kind of heat, maybe some rosemary, maybe some other things. I really couldn’t find any one true recipe, so I grabbed a rub that was given to me recently, developed for beef in particular. Ingredients looked similar to what I had been reading and I really wanted to try it out, so I rubbed it down with some Cluck and Squeal Beef Specific BBQ Rub.
To cook my Texas Tri-tip, I decided to go with a reverse sear method. This is where you bring your meat up to a certain temperature over a lower, indirect method and then quickly sear it to finish it off. I went this route, rather than searing over a high heat and then finishing indirect over a lower heat, because due to the heat retention of an Egg, it is much easier to heat it up at the end, than it is to sear it a high heat and then try to bring the temperature down. Either method works well, just depends on your equipment. So I set up my Egg at 400F indirect to start the cook.
You’ll notice I have a probe stuck into my tri-tip. My goal was to measure the temp as it slowly came up and to pull it at 110F. Then, I would remove the placesetter (giving me direct heat) and raise the temp of the Egg up to 600F to sear the tri-tip.
After we had hit 110F, we pulled the tri-tip off, and loosely covered it with foil as we began to raise the temperature of the Egg. While the Egg was heating up, the tri-tip kept climbing until it finally reached 125F. In hindsight, if I had known it would climb this high, I might have pulled it at 100 or 105F.
The tri-tip got a sear on the side with no fat for 1 minute. I was planning on searing fat side for a minute as well, but when I flipped it and the fat began to melt off, the temperature of the Egg rapidly jumped to 850F!! So it only got about 30 seconds.
After allowing it to rest about 10 minutes, we began to slice it up and found it to be pink on the inside. I don’t know if you want to call that medium or medium-rare, which is what we were shooting for.
At first glance, I thought we might have overshot it, but one bite was all it took to determine it was done just right. The rub had a wonderful flavor that complimented the tri-tip well, not to spicy, but you could taste the peppers and garlic in it. The meat was moist and flavorful, somewhat between a steak and a roast. My buddy Jamin kept saying how great it was and that it really had a lot of flavor. Mrs. G liked it as well and suggested maybe adding a chimichurri sauce to it next time.
Me? I thought it was good. Was it a brisket? No, but its a totally different cut of meat. It’s like comparing apples to oranges, two totally different things. They both have their pros and cons. Does it take 15+ hours to cook? No, which makes it a great weeknight cook. Does it get all that smokey goodness that a brisket does? No. To me, it seems more like grilling than BBQ, nothing wrong with that. But at $5.99 a pound….I think I’ll grab a ribeye next time. Or if I got the time, a brisket. To me, nothing says BBQ quite like brisket. Sorry Tommy….brisket wins.