Treat yourself today to something new. Tri-tip steak is a juicy, flavorful and inexpensive alternative to your traditional steak cuts. Its triangular shape, which gives it its name, makes it a real easy cut to cook because it preserves the amount of thickness needed for ultimate tenderness.
It also has the right level of marbleization to keep the juices in. A simple rub, sauce, or marinade is all you need to enhance the flavor of this already flavorful cut. Did you know that this cut is so tender it cuts like butter? Well, if you haven’t tried it yet, follow our lead and you will be the queen or king of the grill.
What is tri-tip?
Tri-tip is a special cut of meat because there are only two tips on each side of a steak. This particular triangular cut comes from the ends of a sirloin steak.
As you probably know already, the sirloin is the perfect cut for grilling and even pan frying. It has, by far, the perfect tenderness at a not-so-high price.
Still, tri-tip is a bit elusive in the meat market. It is not as easy to find tri-tip as it is to get a whole sirloin, so give your local butcher a friendly call and ask if you can get a couple of tri-tip cuts for your next grilling venture. We promise you that you won’t regret it. It is literally the best cut of meat to feed a family because it is delicious and inexpensive.
Things you should know about tri-tip
Like with any other cut of steak, you can choose how thick or thin you want your meat. Keep your tri-tip thick for a perfect medium rare finish. This thick cut will not let the meat overcook- unless, of course, you leave it in the fire for too long.
Rare to medium rare tips should acquire an internal temperature of 125-135 and be removed immediately from the grill.
For a medium to well-done steak, opt for a thinner tri-tip and cook it until your thermometer shows an internal meat temperature of 155 to 160.
Another thing you should know before cooking is that, whatever kind of seasoning you use will ultimately affect the cooking of the meat. Olive oil, butter, dry rubs and sauces still come in between the meat and the heat, so be sure to use your meat thermometers to determine when it is time to remove the meat from the grill.
Introduction about ways of enhancing the flavor: marinating tri-tip or using dry rub/seasoning
Here is the part where you can get creative: enhancing the flavor of meat. The good news is that tri-tip tastes so deliciously that you won’t need much to enhance the flavor. Whether you use a marinade for more flavor infusion, or the dry rub for instant spice, you will still get the flavor you want and crave quite easily.
The basic brine recipe for marinades includes the following elements:
- A “binder” such as oil
- Salt and pepper or a combination of both in adobo, chicken salt, or “soul food seasoning”
- Something spicy
- Something sweet
- Some herbal touch
- A “wildcard” seasoning (or, a seasoning of your own to add pizazz to your recipe.)
This said, let’s explore a traditional brine for marinating:
- Binder: 1cup olive oil (less, if you are cooking a small piece of food)
- Seasoning: Adobo, soul food seasoning, or Himalayan Pink Salt and ground peppercorns (the fresher, the better)
- Something spicy: 2-3 TBSP paprika, tajin, or tabasco sauce
- Something sweet: ¼ cup brown sugar
- Herbs: Cloves, cinnamon, cumin, and rosemary (combined)
- ½ cup white wine vinegar
- Wildcard: For this rogue element, choose something super flavorful such as ½ cup Coke, hoisin sauce, Worcestershire, soy, or liquid smoke. All should work.
Whatever you put in your brine is your prerogative. So, stick to one of each of these ingredients and you should be good to go. There has really never been a “bad marinade” out there. After all, the purpose is to enhance the meat’s natural flavor, not to mask it or take over it.
How long to marinade?
Marinades are used to dunk the food in and let them rest anywhere from 1 hour to overnight. Many people prefer to leave their meat in marinade to maximize the flavor and allow for the juices to penetrate the fibers of the meat, thus making it tenderer to the cut.
The beauty of tri-tip is that it is already naturally tender, so any enhancement to its texture or flavor will result in a party to your taste buds.
Rubs are essentially dry marinades. They do the same effect: penetrate the tissue, infuse meats with flavors, and help tenderize their texture.
Just like with marinades, the beauty of rubs is in the eye of the beholder. They are another opportunity to get creative and get the exact flavor you crave. Let’s use a similar algorithm for rubs as we use for marinades:
- 1 sweet
- 1-3 salts
- 1-3 savories
- 1-2 spices
This said, you could plan out a rub like the following:
- 1 sweet: ¼ cup brown sugar
- 1-3 salts: 1 or ½ teaspoon Pink Himalayan salt, truffle-laced salt, adobo
- 1-3 savories: 1 tsp celery seeds, smoky paprika, cayenne pepper, or bbq spice powder
- 1-2 spices: oregano, rosemary
When you apply rub to meats, it is wise to first prep the meat with a thin layer of olive or coconut oil. This will bind the crushed herbs and spices more firmly to the meat.
Then, like the name suggests, rub them in a form of massage all over the cut, the more you massage the meat, the more the components of these herbs will break down into enzymes.
You can leave your meat saturated in rub for up to two days refrigerated and covered properly.
When you cook the meat, remember that you rub or marinade will get a degree of caramelization that will also add crunch to your trip tip. Delicious.
Here are the step by step instructions on how to grill the perfect tri-tip. We include blue cheese crumbles because they add a dimension of flavor to the steak. This is still optional. You can also use butter, or any other kind of “fatty” topping
- Be sure you meat is already seasoned. If marinating, be sure to remove excess liquid. You can re-use leftover marinade during grilling.
- Pre-heat your grill and set it to high heat
- While waiting for the grill, and to ensure that the meat cooks the way you want, you may want to slice the top into very thin slits. These slits, you can stuff with the blue cheese crumbs, butter, or extra goodness that we suggest.
- Add more rub or marinade to the meat
- If the grill is taking too long, refrigerate the meat again.
- Once the grill is ready in high heat, place the tri-tip on direct flame.
- Here you will depend on your meat thermometer to determine if it is cooked to your liking. 5-10 minutes per side is normally what we use. Remember that medium-rare steaks should read about 135 before you remove and let the heat in the meat continue to cook it.
- Cover in foil before slicing, and let the meat cool off.
- Slice against the grain.
In conclusion: Go get your tri-tip cut now!
You will totally enjoy cooking and eating your tri-tip steaks. Our recommendations are that you cook it medium rare for the ultimate flavor and tenderness. Whether you prefer to marinade or rub the meat is entirely up to you. Just keep in mind that either of these processes will definitely make an impact in the final flavor, making the meat more tender and delicious than ever.
You can serve your tri-tip with a variety of side dishes. Our suggestion is that you choose a side dish that does not take the thunder away from the main character, the tri-tip.
You can enjoy this delicious meat with white corn on the cob, roasted vegetables, fried potatoes, butter noodles, and even dry side dishes such as chips and salsa, gourmet potato chips with truffle oil, a traditional house salad, or never-failing side dishes such as mac and cheese and mashed potatoes.
Other amazing pairings include sweet potato fries, truffle fries, zucchini fries, and even spiralized zucchini salad. The choices are endless. We know you will really make tri- tip your new go-to cut of meat for feeding your family.
Have you tried grilling tri-tip before? How was your experience? We would love to hear you out so sound off in our comment section. We are always open to new ways of making old time favorites. Happy grilling!