The tri tip roast cut of beef is the triangular shaped muscle that sits just below the sirloin. Tri tip is a fairly lean piece of meat. Many butchers will grind the tri tip and add it into a lean hamburger blend. This roast is a more affordable cut than say a rib roast or tenderloin.
Many home cooks do not know what to do with a tri tip roast, as it has not been a commonly prepared protein until recently. There should be no fear of this very tasty roast. It is especially good when cooked over smoke or fire. Slow smoking in a Traeger grill is an excellent way to cook this particular cut of beef.
When shopping for tri tip you may not see it in the butcher’s display case or packaged in the meat aisle. You may have to ask your butcher if he or she has this in the back. Ask for either a tri tip roast or a triangular roast. Do this before it ends up in a ground beef mix.
Pro tip: There is often a fat cap on the tri tip. Ask your butcher not to trim that off, as it adds flavor and moisture to the roast while it is cooking. You can either eat this charred treat or slice the fat off after the meat has rested if you don’t care for it.
The Tri Tip Traeger Grill Experience
The Traeger grill lineup is impressive and includes models appropriate for the casual weekend BBQ chef or the professional grill master. The grills are fueled by wood pellets that are dispensed over time to ensure a constant source of heat and smoke. It could not be any easier.
While you can grill a tri tip over an open flame, the meat can easily become dry, chewy, and overcooked. The Traeger grill takes the uncertainty out of cooking a roast perfectly. You simply plug in the grill, fill the pellet hopper, turn on the grill to the right temperature to preheat with the top closed, place the meat on the rack, then go open a beer and relax while the Traeger goes to work.
Pro tip: I recommend using only Traeger brand pellets. They have a moisture content of 10%. This eliminates the need for a water pan that you might use in other types of smokers.
There are many recipes for preparing beef on a Traeger grill. These include marinated, brined, or dry rubbed preparations. The tri tip roast bbq recipe outlined in this tutorial is for a dry rubbed preparation. This is ideal for anyone who is just getting started with grilling and smoking. That said, many a pit master are quite content with the theory that less is more when it comes to allowing the protein itself to be the star of the dish. Tri tip is one such cut that does not beg to be overpowered by too many ingredients or a heavy bbq sauce.
Smoked Tri Tip Roast Recipe: A Step-by-Step Guide
This recipe is straight forward and uncomplicated. A 2 to 3 pound roast will feed approximately 6 to 8 people. You will need 10 minutes to prepare the meat and approximately 2 hours to smoke it to medium rare. The roast then needs to rest for 20 minutes before slicing so that the juices are reabsorbed into the muscle fibers.
Pro tip: Remove the meat from the refrigerator 30 to 60 minutes prior to cooking. You want the roast at room temperature for optimal results.
Tools and Equipment Needed:
- Large, non-reactive platter or baking dish (glass or china)
- Small bowl
- Traeger grill
- Fruit wood pellets, such as cherry
- Probe meat thermometer (if not included with the grill)
- Clean cutting board
- Aluminum foil
- Sharp carving knife
- 2 to 3 pound tri tip roast
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 1 tablespoon mild chili powder
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder (optional)
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- Take the roast out of the refrigerator 45 minutes prior to cooking. Place it on a platter or in a glass baking dish with the fat side up. Score the fat about an inch apart with a sharp knife. Turn the plate 90 degrees and score again to form a hatch pattern. Do not cut into the flesh.
- In a small bowl, mix together all of dry rub ingredients. Season the meat all over with the rub, pressing it into the roast with your hands.
- Fill the hopper of the Traeger grill with wood pellets, enough to last for at least 2 hours according to the package directions. Line the drip tray with aluminum foil for easier cleanup. Turn the smoker on with the top open until a flame is established, approximately 5 minutes. Close the top and adjust the temperature to 225˚F. Allow the grill to heat up for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Place the tri-tip, fat side up, on the lower smoker rack. Insert the attached probe thermometer in the fatter end of the roast. Close the top. Smoke for approximately 2 hours for medium rare. You can check the meat at 60 minutes. You are looking for an internal temperature of between 130˚F to 135˚F. A well done roast might not be as tender.
- Remove the roast to a clean cutting board and tent loosely with foil for 20 minutes to allow the juices to be reabsorbed. Slice the roast thinly against the grain and serve with your favorite side dishes.
Pro tip: Tri tip actually has grain going in 2 directions. Approximately one half of the steak contains fibers running vertically and the other half contains long muscle fibers coming in at an angle. Slicing it correctly is the key to its tenderness. Inspect the grain of both ends of the meat and slice perpendicular to the grain in each half.
Suggested Parings with your Tri Tip
Smoked Whole Potatoes are a perfect pairing with beef. You can coat cleaned, unpeeled potatoes with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and smoke them next to or on the rack above your tri tip roast. They will take approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes.
A Salad of Bitter Greens and Herbs is always a nice compliment to smoky beef. Dress the greens lightly with extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and a bit of salt and pepper to taste.
Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot Wine is a good choice of beverage. Not a wine drinker? Don’t hesitate to serve this meal with a creamy ale or even a dark stout. A non-alcoholic choice would be a well-spiced iced tea.
Whether you are new to smoking meat or a seasoned pro, this simple recipe for a tri tip roast will be worth the small effort you put into it. Keep in mind that the Traeger grill does most of the work for you. There is no need to be intimidated by the process.
The secrets to a great tri tip are allowing the roast to rest before and after cooking and to slice against the grain. Be mindful of the temperature of the meat and you will reap the rewards of this tasty and often overlooked cut of beef.