What used to be just a popular West Coast unique chunk of juicy beef is now an American favorite. The tri tip roast makes for a lean juicy piece of smoked meat. The keys to a tasty smoked tri tip are the marinade, rub, and the smoking procedure. The beauty of the tri tip is that it is lean meat and it has considerably less fat content than other meats.
Smoked tri tip can be flavored in various ways such as Sante Fe style, sweet and spicy, teriyaki, cajun and so many more spice combinations to choose from. Tri tip is an excellent choice for smoking. Let us discuss how to smoke a tri tip roast to create fabulous smoked beef.
Tri-Tip versus Brisket
How does the tri tip compare to a brisket? A tri-tip roast comes from the lower portion of the sirloin from the front of the cow. The roast usually weighs in at less than three pounds. It is a leaner hunk of meat with enough fat to make for a juicy hunk of smoked meat. The tri tip is part of the sirloin so the meat is not grainy or tough in any way.
A brisket is found in the back of the cow and weighs in between 12-20 pounds. Brisket has a considerable amount of fat so the meat is looser and produces a lot more juice than a tri tip. So the brisket tends to be on the juicer side, but the meat itself has a much tougher grain pattern than the tri tip.
Tri tip is revered for its lower fat content and full flavor. It is the juiciest at a medium-rare to medium. However, with the right marinade and smoking temperature even cooking the tri tip to well-done can produce a beautiful hunk of meat full of juice and flavor. So let us move on to the marinade and the smoke.
Seasoning a Tri Tip
Tri tips are best put in a marinade overnight or for at least 8 hours. The ingredients of the marinade will help the beef retain moisture and make it extra juicy. Here is an example of a marinade recipe you can drench your tri tip in.
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons fresh ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons roasted garlic
- 1 tablespoon minced onion
- ½ cup lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- ½ cup vegetable oil
Mix all of these ingredients. Make sure you blend them really well. Then dump the marinade and your tri tip in a zip bag or a tightly sealed container and put it in the refrigerator overnight.
The next day take your cut of beef out and put a dry rub on it. You want to smoother the dry rub onto your meat right before you put it in the smoker. Here are the ingredients for a delicious dry rub.
- ¼ cup kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 ½ tablespoons freshly grated black pepper
- 1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons onion powder
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1 teaspoon rosemary
- 1 ½ teaspoons cumin
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon mustard
Mix all the ingredients. Make sure that all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed. For a spicier flavor you could add just a pinch of cayenne for a little heat at the back of your throat. Now that the meat has soaked up the marinade and has a rub let us talk about the smoke.
Smoking Tri Tip
Now it is time to move on to the techniques for smoking. To achieve the best-smoked tri tip there are a few added steps to ensure juicy flavor. Here is the best method.
- Make sure the water pan in the smoker is full.
- Bring your smoker up to a temperature of 225 degrees Fahrenheit
- Add your soaked wood chips such as oak, hickory, applewood, mesquite or other hardwoods.
- Add your beef preferably in a pan with the fat side up. This is due to the fact tri tip has less fat so you want to keep all of the juices close to the meat.
- Keep the smoker closed and at a constant temperature of 225 degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour.
- After an hour check the internal temperature of your meat.
- Tri tip needs a final sear after the smoke for a juicier result.
- Let the beef rest 15 minutes before slicing
Most tri tips are around two to three pounds. So the average smoking time is going to be about 1 ½ to 2 hours. An internal meat thermometer is a much more accurate gauge of when the beef is cooked to perfection. The general rule is to add 7 degrees for the next level of cook on the meat. Let me explain.
- Internal Temperature Cook Chart
- Rare 120 degrees Fahrenheit
- Medium Rare +7 degrees = 127 degrees Fahrenheit
- Medium +7 degrees = 134 degrees Fahrenheit
- Medium Well +7 degrees = 141 degrees Fahrenheit
- Well Done +9 degrees = 150 degrees Fahrenheit. (Every rule has an exception)
The beauty of this formula is if you like your meat cooked in between medium rare and medium, you can estimate the internal temperature that suits your fancy. After you finish the smoke it is now time to sear in added juices and flavor by searing the meat.
Time for the Sear and Time to Rest
You can either use your stovetop or your barbeque grill to add the sear. A cast-iron skillet makes an excellent searing pan. Stainless steel and other frying pans work too. Get your pan hot and add about three or four tablespoons of butter. You do not want your butter to burn so adjust the heat a bit and add the meat right away. Sear the beef until it reaches the following internal temperatures.
- Rare 125 degrees Fahrenheit
- Medium Rare 135 degrees Fahrenheit
- Medium 145 degrees Fahrenheit
- Medium Well 150 degrees Fahrenheit
- Well Done 160 degrees Fahrenheit
It will not take long for your meat to reach those temperatures. Once your beef has reached the desired cook take it off the heat and out of the pan. Let it rest 15 minutes.
Once your meat has rested it is time to slice it up. Tri tip should be cut against the grain. Make sure that you cut your tri tip on a board that can catch the juices. Serve and savor the flavor of your delicious smoked tri tip — one of America’s favorite choices for smoked beef.
Now that you have learned the techniques, it is time to make it yourself. Grab you a beautiful tri tip and get out your tools and start making the marinade. You could have tri tip tacos or tri tip with roasted potatoes and kale salad for dinner. Invite some friends over and relish in your new accomplishment of perfectly smoked tri tip.