Cooking Tri-Tip – What Is The Best Internal Temperature?

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If you are cooking tri-tip, then you’ll want the meat to taste as flavorsome and succulent as possible.

One of the great things about tri-tip beef is the fact that it can be prepared in so many different ways.

Cooking Tri-Tip - What Is The Best Internal Temperature?

You can smoke, grill, fry or stick this meat on the rotisserie. You can even roast this in the oven if you want the skin to have that crispy texture.

This kind of meat is often cut into smaller steaks. But how does this affect the cooking speed?

What is the ideal internal temperature for tri-tip? How do you know when this is ready to cook?

How do different internal temperatures affect the meat in different ways?

Well, if you want the answer to these questions and a lot more, then we would recommend you keep reading this article.

What Is Tri-Tip?

This is a triangular cut of meat that is often found at the bottom of the sirloin. This is often cut from the tensor fasciae latae muscle.

Tri-tip meat is also known as Newport steak, Santa Maria steak, triangle tip and triangle steak.

This is mainly because of the shape of the cut as well as where the meat originates from.

The cut originates in the US Army in 1915 when a butcher created this triangular cut of meat during World War 2 to give his troops an extra portion of meat.

This started a trend where army colleagues began serving this kind of meat in restaurants.

This kind of meat can be eaten on its own or it can be cooked into a chili con carne.

You can grill this type of meat by heating the pan until very hot. We’ll go into detail about how to cook tri-tip later in the article.

What Is The Ideal Temperature For Tri-Tip?

This kind of steak reaches its peak at around 130 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

This is when the meat becomes very juicy and can be infused with various different flavors.

We would recommend that you use an internal thermometer to check how well-done this meat is before you add it to any other dishes.

Cooking the tri-tip at this heat counts as medium-rare and will be the perfect temperature for serving a tri-tip cut of meat.

However, there’s no rule against serving this meat at a lower temperature.

A lot of people prefer this kind of meat rare, which means it will be very pink on the inside.

If you are looking to infuse this with flavor, the best method is probably using a dry rub.

However, this meat will respond very well to marinade, especially if you have heated it to high heat.

Cooking Tri-Tip – Basic Tips

This meat is a medium thick cut, so the best way to cook it would be to sear it on the outside, doing one side of the meat, then the other.

Once this has been done and the meat outside is browning, then you should cook it with indirect heat.

On average, a 1.5-pound cut of tri-tip beef will take anywhere between 20 and 25 minutes to cook completely.

However, this will all depend on how you are choosing to cook it.

Later in the article, we’ll go more in-depth as to the different searing and cooking methods that are involved in tri-tip preparation.

How Does Tri-Tip Compare To Other Cuts Of Meat?

How Does Tri-Tip Compare To Other Cuts Of Meat?

When it comes to meat, one of the most common questions that get asked is how does the tri-tip stand up against the brisket or flank steak.

Both brisket and flank steak are usually found on the underside of the steer. This is also known as the breast.

Brisket is found near the front legs, which means that there is a lot of interconnective tissue and collagen that is only broken down through intense heating.

However, the flank is found towards the steer’s stomach.

There are lots of long muscle fibers but very little connective tissue. This means that it can be cooked a lot faster than other types of steak.

When cooking flank, most chefs would suggest that you should slice across the muscle grain before you are cooking.

Much like flank, tri-tip beef has less interconnective tissue, which makes it a lot quicker to cook. This is why it is popular in barbecues.

This is also lean meat, especially once the fat has been stripped off it.

Again, the tenderness of the tri-tip will all depend on what method you use to cook it.

Cooking experts have claimed that the best method of cooking this kind of steak is by cutting it along the grain and slow roasting it over a rotisserie.

What Is Santa Maria Tri-Tip?

This type of tri-tip meat is very popular in California. This type of tri-tip prep first started in a Safeway store in Santa Maria in 1952.

This is when the triangular tip of the sirloin is trimmed away. This tip is then used either in ground beef or stew meat.

The original store decided to adopt this method of cooking because they were tired of serving the same old ground beef and stew meat so they decided to use a different portion of the meat itself.

By cutting across the grain of the muscle, they discovered that this would make the meat way more tender.

They also put it on the rotisseries and cooked it over a few hours to allow the rich flavors to come through.

Once this method was adopted, it spread like wildfire all across the region, until it became one of the most popular methods of cooking tri-tip in the California region.

If you are going to cook Santa Maria Tri-Tip the proper way, then you should put it on a Santa Maria grill with a little bit of dry rub.

A Santa Maria grill is one that is used outdoors, with gates that are a heavy gauge that can be raised and lowered by a pulley that will determine the distance between the meat and the flames.

The traditional method of serving Santa Maria tri-tip is with pinquito beans, salsa and a slice of crusty bread.

What Is The Best Method Of Trimming Tri-Tip?

The first thing that you’ll need to do when trimming your tri-tip is to get rid of the excess fat.

This isn’t really that good for you and will take much longer to cook than the actual meat itself.

Because the actual meat is lean, it will cook faster than the fat.

So if you leave this one the meat itself, then you can expect something that is very unevenly cooked and actually won’t taste that nice.

Also, because the fat will absorb a lot of the heat from the meat, the whole cut will cook unevenly.

This is why it is important to get rid of as much of the fat as possible before you grill your tri-tip.

If you are buying your tri-tip from a good butcher, then they should have trimmed a lot of the fat off for you.

If you have faith in your carving skills, then you can buy a tri-tip as it comes and get rid of all the fat.

The fat is usually found on the underside of the tri-tip and will often be a few inches thick and very white.

You could end up trimming off as much as 9 pounds of fat from your tri-tip.

If you are paying by weight, then you might end up paying more money for a useless bit of fat.

This is why it is important to go to a reliable butcher.

Once you have trimmed all the fat then you can start rubbing in your spices or infusing the meat with your marinade.

How Best To Check The Temperature Of Your Tri-Tip

Now comes one of the easiest but often the most overlooked part of cooking your tri-tip: checking the temperature.

The traditional method of getting the temperature of your meat is to stick in a knife, hold it for a few seconds and then test the heat against your own skin.

However, if you want accuracy, then you’re going to want to use an internal temperature probe.

Getting the internal temperature of your meat is not only important for it to taste good, but it will also reduce the risk of bacteria that could give you food poisoning.

If you are going by a recipe, then it might give you an ‘estimated cooking time’.

However, this doesn’t really account for the different temperatures that each grill can generate.

The best method of tracking the inner temperature of your meat is with an internal meat temperature probe that is resistant to all of the heat that is generated by your griller.

You should have a temperature probe that you can leave outside the grilling chamber that you can use to monitor the griller as you are cooking your meat.

Keeping track of this heat will also prevent your meat from overcooking. You’ll need to be very aware of the time.

A 1.5-pound tri-tip will only need around 15 minutes to cook at 130 degrees Fahrenheit in the center after it has been seared.

Cutting Your Tri-Trip Correctly

Cutting Your Tri-Trip Correctly

The thing that you have to remember about the tri-tip is that it has a very distinctive muscle fiber pattern that actually runs in different directions.

Cutting it right will determine how your tri-tip will turn out. The muscle fibers run in two directions, horizontally and vertically.

When you are cutting this meat, you’ll need to slice it across the muscle fibers at a 45-degree angle to make sure that you separate them properly.

Once you have cut this properly, then you will be able to cook your food more thoroughly, which will result in a more tender cut of meat.

You’ll need to place your knife at a 45-degree angle and cut straight across the muscle fibers.

You’ll need to make sure that it is flush with the grain of the meat. You can even cut the fibers in the directions that they are going.

Remember for the vertical muscle fibers, you’ll need to cut across and for the horizontal muscle fibers you’ll need to cut down.

This will make your tri-tip a lot easier to cut overall.

Once you have done this, then you’ll be able to cook your tri-tip with a lot more thoroughness, which will lead to a juicer result.

Now that we’ve looked at how to cut your tri-tip properly, we’ll need to be looking at the different methods of preparing it.

Tri-Tip Recipes – Which Are The Best?

When you are cooking your tri-tip roast, you’ll need to be aware of the size of it.

A 1.5 or 2.5-pound cut will take around 15 minutes to cook on the inside, so you’ll have to be mindful about not overcooking.

You’ll need to make sure that the outside has not been seared too much, as this will result in it being overcooked when you warm it in the middle.

You should cook the inner portion at around 130 – 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

The reason why you’ll want to sear it beforehand is to avoid overcooking the meat.

Searing it first before cooking will result in your meat not turning out too dry.

You should sear the meat on each side for around 3 minutes, as this will give it a light brown coating but will not cause it to burn.

You should then cook it over an indirect heat for around 15 – 20 minutes. This time will vary depending on the size.

By searing the tri-tip first, you will also have grill marks, which is great if you care about the final look of your meat.

Now we’ll have a look at some of the best recipes that you can get for your tri-tip.

This first one follows the basic template of the Santa Maria style tri-tip.

For example, if you take a tri-tip that is completely trimmed and weighs around 1-pound and 6-ounces, then you will need to grill it on all three sides on a gas grill for around 3 minutes per side.

Once this has been done on all sides, then you’ll need to put it into an oven or over a rotisserie to slow cook the inside.

If you allow 6 minutes for searing and 15 minutes for cooking time, then you can expect the whole tri-tip to be cooked in around 21 minutes.

Now that you’ve done this, it is time to attempt the Santa Maria style of tri-tip cooking:

Santa Maria Grilled Tri-Tip

Here are a few things that you’ll need when you are cooking your Santa Maria tri-tip:

  • A tri-tip roast – this needs to be anywhere between 1.5 and 2.5-pounds
  • Kosher salt – you’ll need around 1 tablespoon of this
  • Black pepper – again, only a tablespoon
  • Garlic powder – another tablespoon

When you are making this style of tri-tip, there really is no limit on what spices that you can use. Create your own spice combo or barbeque rub.

If you are cooking it the traditional Santa Maria style, then you’ll want to do it over red oak.

Pick up some of these wood chips and then add some charcoal or a foil packet if you want that extra high level of infusion.

Now here are is the recipe for making Santa Maria style tri-tip:

  1. Preheating – take your propane gas grill and put all of the burners on a medium high temperature for around 10 minutes. If you are opting for a charcoal grill, then you should frill your chimney with briquettes. Once these briquettes turn grey at the tips, then shift them to one side of the grill, leaving the other side coal-free.
  2. Get your grill hot – once you feel that the grill is properly warm, you’ll need to make sure that they are well-oiled and clean of dry food matter.
  3. Grilling the tri-tip – place the meat directly onto the coal side of the grill. Sear all of the sides for around 3 to 5 minutes. Make sure that it does not overcook on the one side.
  4. Keep flipping – make sure that you are searing evenly over each side for anything between 3 and 5 minutes. You’ll notice that the lines will all be roughly the same color.
  5. Transfer to the cooler part of the grill – once you have cooked it thoroughly, then transfer the meat over to the side where there are no coals. If you are using a gas griller, then turn off the heaters and place your tri-tip over the cold side.
  6. Temperature probe – once you have done this, it will now be time to insert your temperature probe into the thickest part of the meat. Make sure that the readout gauge is outside the grill, so you can monitor the progress of your tri-tip.
  7. Cook for around 15 – 20 minutes – this will all depend on the cut of tri-tip that you have. If you have a larger cut, then you’ll need to cook the meat for a bit longer. If your tri-tip is around 1.5-pounds, then you should check the probe at around 12 minutes.
  8. Take off the grill – this will be a matter of personal preference, but most people like to remove their tri-tip from the grill at around the 125 – 130 degree mark.
  9. Let it cool – take it off the grill and leave it on the side for a few minutes to cool.
  10. Slicing across the grain – cut across the muscle fibers as we have indicated above.
  11. Serve – you can serve this with the traditional ingredients of crusty bread, Santa-Maria style salsa and pinquito beans.

Now that we’ve given you a comprehensive guide to making the Santa Maria-style tri-tips, we’ll look at some of the other methods of cooking your slice of beef.

Oven Roasted Tri-Tip Recipes

If you prefer your tri-tip to have a thick, caramelized gloss at the end of cooking, then you should roast them in a skillet before putting them in the oven to cook thoroughly.

Cooking tri-tip in the oven is relatively simple. One of the main differences in cooking it in the oven is the cutting.

You’ll need to use the butterfly method to cut through this piece of meat. The butterfly cutting method is when you slice into it along the sides.

Then once you place your tri-tip on the cutting board, you’ll slide it through, cutting the steak in half.

You’ll need to stop short just before you cut through to the other side.

Once you have done this, then you should be able to open the tri-tip in much the same way as you would a book.

This is where it gets the butterfly shape from.

Once you have done this, then it will make it much easier not only to sear, but to cook your steak on the inside.

Oven Cooking Using The Butterfly Method

Oven Cooking Using The Butterfly Method

We would recommend that you cook your tri-tip in an oven that is around 400 degrees in temperature.

This is great if you have butterflied your meat beforehand. You’ll need the following ingredients for this recipe:

  • 1.5 – 2.5-pound tri-tip steak – this should be butterflied beforehand
  • Salt and pepper – this is for the flavoring
  • Olive oil – this is for brushing the meat with to ensure that it does not dry out

Now let’s move onto the recipe itself:

  1. Preheating the oven – get your oven to around 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Heat a heavy skillet – once you have a skillet, then you’ll need to heat it on your stovetop with a tablespoon of the olive oil.
  3. Saute the tri-tip – place it open on your skillet and fry it on either side for around 4 minutes.
  4. Put in the oven – once your tri-tips have been lightly seared, then you should transfer them to the warm oven.
  5. Cook it – you should place a temperature probe inside your meat once again. When it reaches around 120 – 125 degrees Fahrenheit, then you should remove the meat.
  6. Prepare sides – while you are waiting for your meat to cook in the oven, then you can go off and prepare a few sides, either for yourself or for your guests.
  7. Remove from the oven – once you have taken it out of the oven, then you’ll need it to rest for around 5 minutes. This leaves the meat the chance to cool down.
  8. If you think your tri-tip needs a little longer, then you should put it in the oven until the temperature has reached the level that you desire.

When you have placed your tri-tip to cool, you should notice that the carry-over temperature will raise the overall temperature to around 130 degrees Farenheit.

Once the tri-tip is cooked, then you should slice the emat against the grain in the manner we have indicated earlier.

You can them serve this with the side of your choosing.

How To Cook A Whole Tri-Tip In The Oven

You can cook a whole tri-tip without having to butterfly or cut it in anyway.

This will help you if you want to cook multiple steaks at once. Here are the ingredients that you’ll need for this recipe:

  • Tri-tip steak – this can be as many as you want
  • Olive oil – this will need to be around 1 tablespoon for cooking
  • Kosher salt – you should go for a tablespoon of this, although this will obviously depend on how many tri-tips that you’re cooking
  • Black pepper – one tablespoon for flavoring
  • Garlic powder – this should be around half a teaspoon

Now let’s get into the recipe:

  1. Preheating – you’ll need to preheat your oven, obviously the temperature will depend slightly on how many steaks you’ll be cooking.
  2. Heat a skillet – while your oven is warming up, then heat up your skillet with a dash of the olive oil. Do it on a medium heat until you can see the oil is sizzling.
  3. Rubbing your steaks – take the salt, pepper and garlic and rub it into the steaks. You can also add other spices as to your taste.
  4. Cook on the skillet – take all of your tri-tip steaks and cook them on the skillet, making sure to flip them until they are brown on both sides.
  5. Transfer to the oven – once the steaks are seared in the skillet, then transfer them to the oven.
  6. Probe – place your prone through the temperature of your steaks. If you have multiple steaks then we would recommend taking them out of the oven at around 10 minutes and checking the temperatures of all of them.
  7. Remove the steaks – if you are looking for steaks that are medium-rare, then you’ll need to pull them out of the oven when they have reached 120 – 125 degrees. However, if you like a little more well-done, then you should leave them in the oven for a little longer.

Once you have removed the tri-tips from the oven, the carry-over heat should raise the temperature to around 130-degrees.

Once you have left them to cool for around 10 minutes, then cut against the grain of each steak before putting them on a plate to serve.

We would recommend serving these steaks with mashed potatoes.

What Is the Best Internal Temperature for Cooking Mahi Mahi Compared to Tri-Tip?

When cooking Mahi Mahi, the best temperature to cook Mahi Mahi is around 137°F. For Tri-Tip, the internal temperature should reach 130-135°F for a medium-rare result. It’s important to use a meat thermometer to ensure the perfect doneness for both dishes.

How To Cook Chili-Rubbed Tri-tip

Next up, we have some dry rub tips that you can use for cooking your tri-tip to within an inch of perfection. These are great for making tri-tip tacos. The ingredients are as follows:

  • Tri-tip steak – this should be around 1.5 – 2.5-pounds
  • Chili powder – this should be around 2 tablespoons, depending on how many tri-tips that you are cooking.
  • Cumin – this should be around 2.5 tablespoons
  • Garlic salt – this should be around one quarter of a teaspoon
  • Onion powder – again, this should be around one quarter of a teaspoon

Bear in mind that during this recipe you’ll need to slice up these tri-tips so they are thin and will grill quicker.

You should serve these with warm tortillas.

The Best Sides For Tri-Tips

Now that we’ve shown you how to cook tri-tips, you might still be left scratching your head trying to think of which sides you’ll want to serve with them.

Well, if you have the right equipment and ingredients, then there are some great sides that you can serve with this beef.

Sous Vide Tri-Tip

This will require a sous vide machine, but it is an effective method of preparing your tri-tips. You can then complete the cooking with a skillet or on a propane or charcoal grill.

  1. Preheat water – you’ll need to heat up a dish of water to around 120-degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Zip up your tri-tip – take your tri-tip and place it in a sealable freezer bag. You can rub or marinade it with any dry rub or oil that you want.
  3. Submerge your tri-tip – once the water is heated adequately, then you submerge it in the freezer bag. Keep it in the water for around 2 hours.
  4. Prepare a skillet – 10 minutes before the tri-tip is ready to remove from the water, you’ll need to heat up an iron skillet with some olive oil over a medium heat.
  5. Remove your tri-tip – once the tri-tip is ready to be removed, take it out of your bath. You’ll need to pat it dry.
  6. Place on the skillet – then you’ll need to start searing the tri-tip on both sides. This will only take about 3 minutes.
  7. Serve – when you feel that the tri-tip has been cooked all the way through, slice it up and serve it on a plate with your favorite sides.

There are plenty of sides that you can serve these tri-tips with. You can buy pinquito beans in a can.

They’re found in Southern California and have a pink and round look much like a pinto bean.


We hope that our tips for cooking tri-tips to the perfect temperature has helped you when tackling this dish next.

Make sure that you have decent cooking utensils before trying to cook this meat.

You should also bear in mind the correct slicing technique, as this will effect the time it takes to cook a tri-tip.

Tommy Hall

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