Smoked Tri Tip

Nicely Browned Smoked Tri Tip on Serving Platter

If you've enjoyed it grilled or roasted, you'll love smoked
tri tip. But it might be hard to find in your neck of the woods.

In most of the country, it's cut into sirloin tip steaks. If you don't see it, be sure to ask for it.

What Is Tri Tip?

Two Raw Tri Tip Roasts In Store Packaging

The tri tip roast is a triangular shaped single muscle taken from the bottom sirloin. The meat is lean, tasty and versatile. It can be grilled over direct high heat, rotisserie grilled, slow cooked with indirect heat, oven roasted or smoked.

Smoked Tri Tip Recipe

Tri tip has been the regional specialty of Santa Maria, California for the last 50 years. The cut is often labelled as a Santa Maria steak, in addition to being called tri tip and triangle roast.

For smoking, it's best to choose one that still has a decent layer of fat still remaining. Often the tri tip is trimmed of almost all fat, and for smoking is less than desirable. The fat will melt as the meat smokes, and you know what that means...more flavor, more juice!

This recipe is for a pair of 2 to 3 pound tri tip roasts.


1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Combine the tri tip rub ingredients.

Season each of the tri tips with if you got it. Use about 2 teaspoons of salt per each roast, one teaspoon per side. Let the roasts sit salted for a few minutes, then season with the tri tip rub. Go ahead and pack all of it on.

Seasoned Beef Roast, Fat Cap Scored In Criss-Cross Pattern

When placing the tri tip in the smoker, position the fat cap up, so as it cooks it bastes the meat. To help the fat melt, and to get seasoning flavors into the meat, cut score marks across the fat cap before seasoning.

Smoking Tri Tip

Tri Tip Roast Partially Cooked, Halfway Through Smoking, On Rack Above Disposable Aluminum Pan

Traditionally, tri tips are cooked over a fire of red oak, so if you can get red oak, use it for the smoke. Or burn it if you have a wood fired smoker. Use two, maybe three foil packs of wood in your electric smoker or on top of your charcoal, or a couple of fist sized chunks buried in your charcoal.

If you can't find red oak, or any oak for that matter, use a little mesquite. Or whatever you'll still taste good!

Smoke your tri tips at 225-250ºF for about 2 hours, or until the meat reaches medium rare, or to your desired level of doneness. Because of its leanness, it's best if not cooked more than medium done.

Rare 130ºF Remove at 120-125ºF
Medium Rare 140ºF Remove at 130-135ºF
Medium 150ºF Remove at 140-145ºF
Medium Well 160ºF Remove at 150-155ºF
Well Done 170ºF Remove at 160-165ºF

Smoked Whole Beef Tri Tip Roast, On White Platter Resting on Bamboo Cutting BoardOak-Smoked Beef Tri Tip Roast

Remove the smoked tri tip and let it rest for at least 20 minutes before slicing across the grain and serving to your more than grateful family. A bit of bbq sauce is good with this, and sliced thin, makes great sandwiches.

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