Barbecue Tri Tip Roast on Your Charcoal Grill

Tri tip roast on a charcoal grill

“Steak” is not a singular cut of meat. You have t-bone, tomahawk, flank steak, etc. The tri tip, or “triangle steak,” gets its named from the triangular muscle along the sides, below the bottom sirloin. Beef tri tip has a moderate degree of variance in fattiness, meaning one tri tip’ flavor may be completely different level from another bought at the same time, but note section two. But there’s a secret to cooking perfect tricks tip on a charcoal grill every time. 

When buying tri tip, you want streaks of fat running through the cut; this indicates a flavorful cut. If closely trimmed, white streaks can be easily seen throughout the grain. Some beef tri tip is sold without trimming, meaning a moderately thick layer of fat remains on one side. When buying a fatty steak, trim that external blubber down to less than a 1/4″ of thickness-exterior fat contributes far more to flare-ups any extra flavor.

Barbecue Tri Tip Roast on Your Charcoal Grill

What to Know Before Cooking Beef Tri Tip on a Charcoal Grill.

No matter how good a tri tip you may have, beef tri tip does not offer much flavor by itself. It is for this reason that I have penned ways to nudge the flavor and tastiness of this particular cut into the next level.

Approach #1: Tri Tip Marinade.

A marinade is a combination of acids/enzymes, aromatics and oil. Marinades are great for giving your meat a citrus or herbal flavor. Marinades are best used on thin cuts; a marinade cannot properly saturate a thick cut of meat. If your marinade incorporates an acid or enzyme, like pineapple, only leave it on the meat a few hours, enzymes can destroy a steak’s tenderness if left alone for long spans of time.

Tip: Always use glass when working with acidic marinades; metal containers can negatively react to acids, which influences the meat.

Approach #2: Tri Tip Rub.

A rub is a dry mixture of salt, pepper, herbs and spices designed to produce a well-seasoned crust that adds texture and flavor. Salt is the only aspect of a rub that needs to reach beneath the “skin.” Salt needs at least 40 minutes to penetrate the meat, so make sure to wait at least that long before grilling.

Tip: A good rule is one tablespoon of rub per pound of meat, based on the level of saltiness present in the rub by itself. If you taste a store-bought variety and can only sense salt, use slightly less; if the salt tastes fine and you can sense other flavors, the 1 tbsp:1 lb ratio rule is fine.

As to whether to use a rub or a marinade, it depends on your end goal. Use a sauce or marinade if you want to specific flavors in your meat; rubs should be used when you want to give the beef tri tip flavor with a crust.

Juicy tri tip roast

Step-by-Step Recipes for Grilling Tri Tip on a Charcoal Grill.

Recipe #1: Garlic-Lime-Apple Marinated Beef Tri Tip.

Ingredients

  • Tri tip roast, 2 pounds.
  • Garlic, cloves, minced, 5.
  • Lime juice, 2 tbsp.
  • Liquid smoke, 1 tbsp.
  • Onion powder, 2 tsp.
  • Sea salt, 2 tsp.
  • Paprika, smoked, 1 tsp.
  • Pepper, black, ground, 1 tsp.
  • Apple juice, splash.

Optional:

  • Optional: Herbal butter.

Directions

  • Combining the garlic, lime juice, liquid smoke, onion powder, sea salt, paprika and black pepper until you have a paste.
  • Add a bit of apple juice to the paste, just enough for it to be easily spread. Spread the paste over the meat and leave it pasted for a minimum of one hour-longer is preferable.
  • Load some briquettes into your charcoal grill’s chimney starter and let things progress until 90% of the coals are glowing hot. This should take around 15 minutes.
  • Dump the coals into one side of the grill, leaving the other side bare.
  • Place your grill grate and clean it with a wire brush.
  • Grilling the beef tri tip fat side up. Apply a direct sear with the grill’s hot side for 5 to 7 minutes. Repeat the process with the other side.
  • Transfer the steak to the indirect heat side and allow it to continue cooking for roughly 15 minutes, turning as needed, until its thickest part reaches medium rare (between 130ºF and 135ºF.
  • The steak’s thickness and the desired doneness will be the final arbiter of when to finish cooking.
  • Once your steak is fully cooked, transfer it to a cutting board, tented loosely with foil and allow 10 minutes of rest. If using herbal butter, apply it before covering the meat with foil. Carve by slicing against/across the grain to maintain a tender texture.

Notes:

  • If your tri tip has little exterior fat, consider drizzling it with olive oil to prevent drying out.

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Tri Tip Roast on Your Charcoal Grill
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Tri Tip Roast on Your Charcoal Grill

Beef tri tip is an underappreciated cut of beefsteak that deserves praise, especially try tip on a charcoal grill. If you made it this far, you now know how to take this cut of beef and make it a real surprise. Just remember to flex some creativity and work your own magic with this cut; whether you choose the path of the tri tip rub or the tri tip marinade, the end result is going to be something that will earn plenty of “mmms.”

Prep Time45 mins
Cook Time1 hr 30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Tri Tip Roast
Servings: 4
Calories: 179kcal

Ingredients

  • Tri tip roast, 2 pounds

  • Garlic, cloves, minced, 5.

  • Lime juice, 2 tbsp

  • Liquid smoke, 1 tbsp

  • Onion powder, 2 tsp

  • Sea salt, 2 tsp

  • Pepper, black, ground, 1 tsp

  • Paprika, smoked, 1 tsp

  • Apple juice, splash

  • Herbal butter

Tri Tip Rub

  • Salt

  • Pepper

  • Herbs and spices

Instructions

Garlic-Lime-Apple Marinated Beef Tri Tip.

  • Combining the garlic, lime juice, liquid smoke, onion powder, sea salt, paprika and black pepper until you have a paste.

  • Add a bit of apple juice to the paste, just enough for it to be easily spread.

  • Spread the paste over the meat and leave it pasted for a minimum of one hour-longer is preferable.

  • Load some briquettes into your charcoal grill’s chimney starter and let things progress until 90% of the coals are glowing hot.

  • This should take around 15 minutes.

  • Dump the coals into one side of the grill, leaving the other side bare.

  • Place your grill grate and clean it with a wire brush.

  • Grilling the beef tri tip fat side up.

  • Apply a direct sear with the grill’s hot side for 5 to 7 minutes.

  • Repeat the process with the other side.

  • Transfer the steak to the indirect heat side and allow it to continue cooking for roughly 15 minutes, turning as needed, until its thickest part reaches medium rare (between 130ºF and 135ºF.

  • The steak’s thickness and the desired doneness will be the final arbiter of when to finish cooking.

  • Once your steak is fully cooked, transfer it to a cutting board, tented loosely with foil and allow 10 minutes of rest.

  • If using herbal butter, apply it before covering the meat with foil.

  • Carve by slicing against/across the grain to maintain a tender texture.

  • If your tri tip has little exterior fat, consider drizzling it with olive oil to prevent drying out.

Nutrition

Serving: 85g | Calories: 179kcal

Recipe #2: Simple Rubbed Beef Tri Tip.

Ingredients

  • Beef tri tip, 2.5 lbs.
  • Tri tip rub, 2-3 tbsp.

Directions.

  • Trim any excess fat from steak.
  • Evenly apply the tri tip rub along both sides of the steak, then refrigerate overnight.
  • Fill your charcoal grill’s chimney with around 100 briquettes. Once the coals are primed, place them in a two-zone, medium fire and place a drip pan by the coals. Replace the grate and allow it time to heat up. Make sure that all your vents are completely open. Oil the grate with long-tongs by using a paper towel saturated with cooking oil.
  • (Optional): Add some extra smokey flavor to the end-product by tossing in 2-3 cups of hickory or mesquite wood chips. Make sure the wood has been soaking in water for at least half an hour prior before adding them.
  • Place the beef tri tip on the warm side of the grate. Close the lid and grill for 20-30 minutes. Flip the steak over and repeat. Once the tri-tip is nearly fully cooked, remove the lid and give both sides a direct sear over coals.
  • Use an infrared thermometer to check doneness. Remember that meat continues to cook after it leaves a grill. Depending on the specific tri tip, the temperature can rise by as much as 10°F during the resting period.
  • After the tri tip is removed from the grill, give it a loose covering of foil and allow it to rest 10 minutes. Cut thinly across the grain.
Juicy tri tip roast

Recipe #3: California-Style Charcoal-Seared Tri Tip.

Ingredients

  • Beef tri tip, 1 lb.
  • Salt, kosher, 1 tbsp.
  • Powder, garlic, 1 tbsp.
  • Pepper, black, 1 tsp.

Directions

  • Mix the salt, pepper and garlic powder into an even mix and then rub it along every surface of the tri tip. Then allow the meat to sit and absorb the rub for at least 45 minutes.
  • Light the grill and set it up for indirect heat-light one side of the grill on high and keep the other unlit. If using charcoal, this means putting all of your coals to one side.
  • After the grill is ready, place the tri tip on the grill’s hot half and allow each side to sear just a few minutes. Use the heat to give the tri tip a nice dark, caramelized crust.
  • Once the tri tip has been fully cooked and the right color, transfer to the grill’s cool side and close the lid.
  • Roast the tri tip for around 25-30 minutes, just until it hits an internal temperature of around 140°F.
  • Once the tri tip roast is “done,”, take it off the grill and lit it rest on a platter for 10 minutes.
  • Thinly slice the roast against the grain and serve.

Sidebar: On Wood and Charcoal.

While a charcoal grill requires a fuel source just like a gas grill, it offers more variety in approaches to cooking food, even giving you the chance of imparting different flavors.

  • Proper charcoal grilling requires high quality, restaurant-tier stuff. Unlike with wood, storing charcoal is finicky; you have to ensure it stays dry; damp charcoal is useless. Charcoal is great for when you want a simple way of imparting a smokiness to your grilled meat.
  • When it comes to grilling, you should only consider hardwood. While oak is common, some vendors have begun offering grill-centric hardwoods soaked with spirits like whiskey. You may also consider various fruit woods as these can impart some trace of their source crop’s flavor to the meat.
Smokey flavor

In Conclusion.

Beef tri tip is an underappreciated cut of beefsteak that deserves praise, especially try tip on a charcoal grill. If you made it this far, you now know how to take this cut of beef and make it a real surprise. Just remember to flex some creativity and work your own magic with this cut; whether you choose the path of the tri tip rub or the tri tip marinade, the end result is going to be something that will earn plenty of “mmms.”

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