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how to cook tri tip

How to Cook Tri Tip

Some of ya’ might know that I’m from California’s central coast – and growing up there is was essential (yes essential) to know how to cook tri tip. Every Thursday we would head downtown to the local farmers market where local pit masters would be cooking up this local favorite. I can still smell the BBQ and salty-umami aroma. I simply love this special cut of meat originating right where I grew up. It’s full of nostalgia. So needless to say, if I love it, I want you to know about it too.

how to cook tri tip
Photo via Oh Sweet Basil

So read on for my guide on how to cook tri tip to perfection! Like most meats, there are various ways you can prepare and grill it to get a delicious and easy meal that will please the entire family.

Whether you want to learn how to cook a tri tip in the oven or on a grill, I’ll guide you through the entire cooking process with a few simple, easy-to-follow instructions.

Let’s focus on the most popular ways to go about knowing how to cook Tricorn tip. Don’t worry if you aren’t sure which method to try first. Both are amazing. Let’s start with a little background on this unique and delicious cut of meat.

Grilled Tri Tip Beef
Photo via Jessica Gavin

What Exactly Is Tri Tip?

Tri tip is a cut of beef. More specifically, tri tip is a triangular cut of bottom sirloin. Sometimes referred to as a triangle roast, a triangle steak, or a Santa Maria Steak, this cut of beef is especially here on the west coast in California on the central coast of the state.

If you want to get really specific, “tri-tip roast” and “tri tip steak” are actually two different things. Whereas the “roast” encompasses the entire piece of meat, “tri tip steaks” refers to the individual sticks that are cut from the whole roast. 

how to cook tri tip with marinade
Via Erin at Plating + Parings

Determining and remembering the different cuts of beef can get confusing, but no need to worry. I promise if you ask your local butcher for tri tip, they’ll know exactly what to get you.

You are probably wondering. What is Tri tip so good? Great question. Tri-tip is an incredibly flavorful cut of meat with a a rich, beef flavor while being extra tender. This is due to its rich marbling – which are flecks of fat – it’s so good because those flecks melt into the steak as it cooks making it extra flavorful.

Speaking of shopping, you should also get any extras you may need to complete the meal while picking up the meat. Tri tip pairs excellently with light to medium wines – check out my guide on Wine from A-Z for suggestions.

You might also want to consider adding a side—like this salad recipe—to your meal plans. That said, you will need to have a few different things on hand before you start learning how to cook tri tip. 

Making the Proper Preparations

Santa Maria Grilled Tri Tip Beef Ddmfs 1x1 1 517a088b88a8431c8a41b81c1e978758
Photo via All Recipes

Like any meal, there is a bit of prep involved when making tri tip. I’ll get more into the specifics in each recipe, so now let’s just go over the kitchen essentials that apply to any recipe.

First, you’ll need a cutting board. Not only will this make clean-up a lot easier, but it also helps your kitchen top counter last longer.

Next, you’ll want a good meat-cutting knife, and a small mixing bowl or two on hand. These are especially useful when you’re making a marinade, creating a dry rub, or experimenting with mixing herbs and spices. 

how to cook tri tip for a steak salad

If interested in the latter, check out my post on growing your own herbs for a fun, indoor project that will help you make the most in the kitchen.

Another essential is a meat thermometer. Using an instant-read thermometer will help you accurately determine both the level of doneness and the final temperature of your meal.

Consistency is key when it comes to cooking if you want to impress your diners with every meal. Sure, you should just google “how long to cook tri tip in oven” and go off that. However, differences in meat thickness, stove models, and other factors can drastically affect the final outcome.

Using a thermometer will not only help you tell the difference between a medium and medium-rare steak without cutting it open, but also ensure that your meal is safe to eat. Trust me: it’s worth picking one up!

Simple Grilled Tri Tip Steak 336383 Hero 01 7926666109a74cffac074e2463d4cecc
Photo via The Spruce Eat Julia Hartbeck

Last, you’ll want spice organizer! Okay, so you don’t really need this one, but I find having one to be extremely helpful. Even if all you use frequently is salt and pepper grinders, staying organized just makes cooking more enjoyable. 

Having to search around for specific spices and herbs whenever you need them gets frustrating very fast. Save yourself the headache by adding a simple basket organizer—like this one—to your kitchen!

Alternatively, if your entire kitchen just needs a makeover, check out my post on swapping kitchen cabinets to get some in-depth guidance. The process isn’t as complicated as you may think.

Alright, with all of the essentials out of the way, let’s get to the real reason y’all are reading: the recipes.

How to Cook Tri Tip in Oven

how to cook tri tip in the oven

For most people, learning how to cook tri tip in the oven will make the most sense. Below is a recipe that I absolutely love! It’s fairly straightforward, making it an excellent option for anyone who wants to learn how to cook tri tip steak.

What You’ll Need:

  • 2 lbs. tri-tip roast
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp dried minced onion
  • 2 tsp dried lemon peel
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp fine sea salt
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
  • Avocado oil or olive oil
how to cook tri tip and serve it
Photo via Meggan from Culinary Hill

The Steps

  1. Combine the aforementioned spices in a bowl, mixing well to create a steak dry rub. 
  2. Prepare the meat by trimming off any silver skin left on the cut. If the fat cap is excessive, consider trimming some—but not all—of it off. You can cut an “X” pattern into the fat cap, giving you extra space to spread the rub. This isn’t required when learning how to cook a tri tip roast, but doing so can help give your meat some extra flavor!
  3. Coat the meat with your steak rub and leave it at room temperature for one hour. When this time period is almost up, preheat your oven to 250ºF.
  4. Use the avocado oil to pan-sear your tri tip, using a skillet from your kitchen cookware set or a cast iron skillet on medium-high heat. This process should take about 10 minutes to sear every side of the meat.
  5. Move the tri-tip over to a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet. Either works, so long as it has a rack! Before placing the tri tip in the oven, stick a meat thermometer in the center at the thickest point.
  6. Roast the meat in your pre-heated oven with the fat side facing up. Let the meat cook until it has reached your desired doneness. This process should take around 30 minutes, but you’ll want to look at the thermometer as you go. 130ºF is medium rare, whereas 140ºF is medium.
  7. Remove the tri tip from your oven, leaving it to rest on the roasting rack for ten minutes before moving on to the next step.
  8. Cut the meat into serviceable sizes, making sure to cut against the grain.
  9. Congratulate yourself on an amazing cooked meal and let your diners know that it’s time to eat! Serve with sauces (if desired).

How to Cook Tri Tip on Grill

How to Cook Tri Tip on Grill

If using an oven doesn’t seem fitting then you’ll need to learn how to cook tri tip on a grill. Although not always practical, using the grill is my favorite way to cook tri tip!

That said, grills can be a bit more temperamental than using an oven, which means you won’t always get the best results every time. Even so, with a bit of practice, I know you’ll be able to master the technique in no time!

What You’ll Need:

  • 3 to 4 lbs. of tri tip (trimmed)
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ½ cup lime juice
  • 5 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp avocado oil
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper

The Steps

Preparing the Marinade & Meat

how to cook tri tip recipe
Photo via Creme de La Crumb
  1. Combine all of the marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Stir until well-mixed, then transfer the marinade into a large zip lock bag. 
  2. Place your tri-tip in a large zip lock bag, then pour the marinade inside the bag with the meat. Seal the bag, move the bag around to ensure the meat is coated, then marinate for a minimum of one hour—up to 48 hours—in the fridge.
  3. Remove the bag from the fridge one hour before cooking, leaving it at room temperature in the bag.

Using a Gas Grill

  1. Preheat your gas grill to 500ºF. 
  2. Grill the meat until both sides have grill marks. This should take roughly four to five minutes per side. 
  3. Reduce the temperature to 400 degrees F. From here, you’ll need to start flipping the meat every four to six minutes as you grill. Continue grilling the meat until it’s cooked to your preferred doneness (see chart below for reference). Use a meat thermometer to check the progress of your tri-tip.
  4. Remove the tri tip from the grill once cooked, placing it on a cutting board. Let the meat sit for fifteen minutes before cutting, and slice your tri tip steak against the grain. That’s how to cook tri tip on gas grill!

Using a Charcoal Grill

How to Cook Tri Tip
  1. Heat your charcoal grill for twenty minutes or so. While heating up, the coals will turn white. However, you’ll want the coals to have a golden glow about them before moving on to adding the meat.
  2. Noting which section of your coals is the hottest, place the meat directly over the coals. Sear the meat for four to five minutes per side, leaving deep grill marks on each side.
  3. Turn the meat and repeat this process, ensuring that every side has a crisp. Once the tri-tip has been sufficiently crisped, move the meat over to the low/no-coal side of your grill for indirect heat.
  4. Stick a meat thermometer in the tri tip, taking note of the temperature. Cover the grill and continue cooking it for ten to fifteen minutes until it’s cooked to your liking. You’ll want to flip the meat once, roughly halfway through the low-temperature grilling time.
  5. Remove the meat from the grill once you’ve deemed it done. Place it on a cutting board, letting it sit for fifteen minutes before slicing it up against the grain.
  6. Serve and enjoy! If you find yourself running low on dinner plates, I recommend picking up this cheap plate set while the price is low.

Getting Your Temperature Right


Unless you’re new to cooking, chances are, you’re fairly familiar with levels of doneness and cooking temperatures. However, I wanted to include this quick reference chart anyway. Cook your tri-tip cut with confidence!

Rare125 – 130ºF
Medium Rare130 – 140ºF
Medium140 – 150ºF
Medium Well150 – 160ºF

What to Do With Your Leftovers

how to cook tri tip with sauce
Photo via Delish and Erik Bernstein

Whether you’re roasting a tri-tip steak or cooking it on a grill, the end result will almost surely be amazing. Flavorful and tender, there’s a reason why this specific cut is getting increasingly popular across the States.

With that in mind, you probably won’t have any leftovers. Still, if you do end up making a bit extra, you’ll want to know the best way to store it.

Using storage containers is an option, but I would recommend going for—at a minimum—an airtight container. The best option is using a vacuum sealer for each piece; a cheaper alternative is using the freezer bags you can find at nearly any grocery store.

Regardless, you’ll want to make sure to remove as much air as possible before storing your leftovers away. Freeze them if you plan on not eating them in the next three days.

And That’s How to Cook a Tri Tip!

Fairly straightforward and extremely rewarding, cooking tri-tip is one of the best ways to enjoy a luxury meal from the comfort of your own home! Even if it doesn’t come out perfect the first time, keep at it. You’ll be cooking the perfect tri-tip in no time.

Well, that’s all I have for today. If you’re on the hunt for more recipes, I recommend checking out this recipe book. Or, just read one of my many other cooking-related posts!

As always, let me know if you tried the recipe for yourself, either in the comments or over on Instagram. I look forward to hearing from you!

Frequently Asked Questions

How is tri-tip best cooked?

Opinions vary, meaning that your idea of the best results may not match mine. However, I will say that using a grill gives the meat a smoky flavor and blackened surface that you won’t get while roasting!

Honestly, I would suggest just giving both a try and see which method you prefer.

How do you cook tri-tip so it’s tender?

The best way to get tender tri-tip is to marinate it before you cook it. However, cutting against the grain is just as important. Doing so prevents you from ending up with long, stringy muscle fibers in your meat!

Should tri tip be cooked low and slow?

You certainly can, but whether you do—or don’t—ultimately comes down to personal preference. If you decide to go with this approach, I recommend smoking the meat. To do so, preheat your smoker to 225ºF. Season the meat then smoke it up till just below your target internal temperature. At this point, simply sear it for 2 to 3 minutes per side using butter. Lastly, remove the meat, let it sit for fifteen minutes, then cut it as normal.

Should I sear my tri-tip before baking?

Yes, you’ll want to sear the meat for roughly ten minutes or so, making sure to sear every surface before moving on to roasting.

Why does my tri-tip come out tough?

Assuming your cooking time and techniques were correct, the issue is most likely your cutting technique. Failing to cut against the grain will always make your tri-tip chewy!

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