Tri-Tip

published Jan 24, 2022
Tri-Tip Recipe

This flavorful cut of beef from California needs only a quick sear and roast in the oven to yield tender, juicy meat.

Serves4 to 6

Prep5 minutes

Cook25 minutes to 40 minutes

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tri tip steak sliced on a plate with chili and green beans
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Tri-tip roast is a distinctly Californian cut of beef — one I didn’t eat very often until my brother-in-law came along. He went to school in San Luis Obispo, an area famous for cooking tri-tips, so he’s eaten his fair share and now cooks tri-tip beautifully at home. With a few tips from him, I learned that tri-tip is a flavorful, beefy cut that’s actually easier and less messy to cook at home than a few rounds of steaks.

Tri-tip is often seasoned with Santa Maria seasoning, which at its core has granulated garlic, salt, and black pepper. Some blends add brown sugar and other spices or dried herbs, but I think the simple trifecta of the original is tasty enough. And while tri-tip is also often served with a side of pinto beans, it’s right at home next to grilled vegetables or other side dishes you would have with a steak.

What Is Tri-Tip?

Tri-tip comes from the bottom part of the sirloin, which is the end part of the loin at the hip of the cow. This triangular-shaped roast is also known as a bottom sirloin steak, California cut, or triangle roast, and is mainly found on the West Coast in California. It has a loose grain that’s almost spongy in texture.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

What’s the Best Way to Cook Tri-Tip?

Tri-tip is often grilled over wood in California, but searing it and then roasting it in the oven is another great, easy way to cook it (and the method used in this recipe!). You get a flavorful crust on the outside from direct contact with a hot pan, and the thicker end cooks more evenly in the heat of the oven (plus you don’t have to monitor it). It’s much easier to cook a single tri-tip than multiple steaks for a few people.

What Temperature Do You Cook Tri-Tip At?

Even though tri-tip is fairly well-marbled, the meat can still be a bit tough when cooked rare or medium-rare. It’s best cooked until right at the border of medium-rare and rare, about 125ºF in the thickest part. This yields tender, rosy slices when cut properly across the grain. The thicker end will be more pink and the thinner tip end will be more on the medium side, which is great when you’re serving a group that likes a variety of doneness for their beef.

What Can I Use Instead of Tri-Tip?

Butchers on the East Coast often cut tri-tip roast up into sirloin or steak tips, so you can try asking for uncut steak tips. Flap meat has a similar texture and flavor but is often a thinner cut and will thus probably need less cooking time, so check on its doneness a little earlier.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Tri-Tip Recipe

This flavorful cut of beef from California needs only a quick sear and roast in the oven to yield tender, juicy meat.

Prep time 5 minutes

Cook time 25 minutes to 40 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    granulated garlic

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    coarsely ground black pepper

  • 1

    (about 2 1/2-pound) beef tri-tip roast

  • 2 tablespoons

    vegetable or canola oil

Instructions

  1. Stir 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper together in a small bowl. Pat 1 (about 2 1/2-pound) beef tri-tip roast dry with paper towels. If there is any silver skin on the surface, trim it off (here’s how). Rub all over with the garlic mixture. The tri-tip can be cooked immediately or transferred to a plate and refrigerated uncovered for up to 8 hours.

  2. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 400ºF. If the tri-tip has been refrigerated, let it sit out at room temperature while the oven heats.

  3. Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large oven-safe or cast iron frying pan (at least 12 inches wide) over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the tri-tip smoother-side down and press down on it briefly so it has good contact with the pan. Cook undisturbed until well-browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Flip the tri-tip.

  4. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the tri-tip registers about 125ºF for medium, 20 to 30 minutes.

  5. Transfer the tri-tip to a clean cutting board and let rest 10 minutes (tent loosely with aluminum foil if the kitchen is cold). Cut the roast in half at the center point. Cut each half across the grain into slices about 1/2-inch thick.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.