Texas Tri-Tip

Texas Tri-Tip

     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.

Look at the price on that sucker!

     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.

Cluck and Squeal Beef Specific Seasoning and 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.

Baked taters (started 30 minutes prior) and tri-tip on the Egg

     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.

Some corn was added after about 15 minutes

     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.

Getting the final sear

     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.

When slicing, make sure to cut across the grain

     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.

All sliced up

     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.


36 thoughts on “Texas Tri-Tip

  1. Nice looking tri tip! But you are right, brisket wins in my book too. ;). Ya know, I actually prefer flat iron over tri tip… More steak-like and less roast-like. Still a tasty cut of beef though. Again, nicely done!

  2. Jason have you tried Costco? Look in the meat department for a marinaded Morton tri-tip. See if they have it they sell it up here by the millions. Your wife is right a good chimichuri sauce is a good. My only Input on this issue is like most meats a good tri tip is all in the quality and selection of the meat. I have had bad expierences but mostly due to grade of the meat. If you do not have it at Costco let me know I will send you a couple to try again.

    1. We’re members of Sams, so I’ll check there. Otherwise I’ll ask my mom to look at Costco. It seemed like it was a good cut. Nice marbling and a good fat layer on one side. Who knows?

  3. Okay, I agree. Comparing tri-tip and brisket would be like comparing pork butt to beef brisket. Totally different things. Well made smoked brisket is hard to accomplish without it turning into something that reminds me of pot roast, so I hold it up in higher regard as one of those technically challenging but absolutely delicious items. Tri-tip is much more technically available to the home cook and super delicious, so I can really appreciate that.

  4. My husband is in agreement with you on this and we are from Northern California where there are tri-tips aplenty. My husband gave in to the “tri tips are great” mantra again after having gone several years without cooking one. He saw a deal on it and bought it. He says he won’t be tempted again. He says he doesn’t like the fact that they cook unevenly and unless you add rub or sauce or marinade, they are flavorless. He says “Amen to the rib-eye.” He also loves brisket but there is the pesky time issue. He frequently grinds up brisket (don’t hate us) for great tasting burger.

    1. I don’t hate you. I’ve been wanting to grind up some brisket to try in my next batch of ground beef. Does he grind the whole packer (flat and point) or just the flat?

      1. I’m pretty sure it’s just the flat, but boy does it make wonderful meaty hamburger. He says he wants to add some short rib meat to his mix some time, but it’s a little pricey right now. Your meat always looks so delicious!

    2. You are right, if not done right it will cook unevenly. I’d say anyone can grill it but to do it right you will need to be familiar with the grilling style needed. I’ve seen it cooked perfectly with a perfect ring on a Santa Maria Style Pit.

  5. You think finding a tri tip in Texas is hard? Try being in Tennessee! (or anywhere East of the Mississippi).

    Despite what you say, I still have to try one myself…whenever I find one.

    1. I’ve been meaning to get up there and check it out. I’ve heard some pretty good stuff about it from a few people who’s opinions I hold in high regard.

    1. Seems to be a California thing. Most other places use it in ground beef, although it is showing up more and more. Try going to a real butcher shop and asking for one. If not, you might ask the butcher at your grocery store. Sometimes they have things in back that aren’t on display. I’ve had to do that for beef short ribs before.

  6. Omaha Steaks sell them and they are delivered to your home. A bit expensive but for those of us in places that don’t sell them it’s a good alternative.

    1. Never been a big fan of Omaha steaks myself. Recently, I’ve had luck going to local butchers. The meat is better quality and if they don’t have it in stock they can generally order it for you.

  7. I used to live in California and I agree … the SoCal’s can be a little “militant” about their Tri-tip. I do like it however but … a Brisket is a Brisket and a Tri-tip is well … just a Tri-tip. Good post Sir … stay hungry !!

  8. You stupid redneck…tri tip wins every time. Keep your bland brisket with your bush whacking pallet in the trash! Texas trash yall’, YEEHAW!

  9. If you ever make it out to Santa Maria, Ca. You will see how prideful everyone is about their BBQ. Unfortunately not everyone is as good as they may think. Any given day, especially on the weekend. You can drive down any block and you will smell the open SM Style pit. We use Black, Blue, Red, White oaks in our pits. You will generally find red and white oak being used. I can’t really say its fair for me to say Tri-Tip is a overall better tasting meat and cut compared to the Brisket. I personally have tried to love Brisket. On the Kansas City BBQ shows all you see is how great Brisket is. I’ve tried it smoked from a place that smokes it 24 hours or so. The best way I have had it was from my cousin who moved back from Arkansas . I think he roast it, then makes a sort of Sloppy Joe style out of if. Other than that, I don’t favor the cut. I’ve tried it and I don’t enjoy the texture. I know you can have it sliced or chopped. Yes Rib Eye’s are great and I love to grill those too but theirs nothing like grilling a tri-tip on a Santa Maria Pit. I’ve tasted the best tri-tip cooked with in 45mins by #GrillMasterRonnyCavazos @BBQInTheStix #SantaMariaStyleBBQ Also most folks here use Susie Q – Santa Maria Style Seasoning. If you go that route. I’d prefer the red label with no MSG.

  10. Your honesty is what I appreciate the most. I am from Northern California Shasta County and enjoy Tri Tip once a week. Indirect is the only way to go, although traditional sear and then indirect is my favorite, and it’s the way I learned.
    I will agree with you on Brisket over Tri Tip. The Fat and marble taste in a brisket far exceeds any over seasoned piece of meat. The natural flavor is what makes a Brisket a winner. “You can always season afterwards, let the cut off meat Speak for itself” my Wife says.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s