Smoked Tri-Tip Recipe (Step-By-Step Recipe)

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Originally from California, tri-tip is becoming a more and more popular cut of meat due to its superior flavor.

If you’re unsure on how to cook smoked tri-tip, you’ve come to the right place.

Smoked Tri-Tip Recipe (Step-By-Step Recipe)

In this article, I will cover some key information on smoking tri-tip, including a clear guide on how to make smoked tri-tip as well as some tips to consider when you’re smoking this cut of meat.

So, let’s get started.

What Is Tri-Tip?

What Is Tri-Tip?

The tri-tip is a cut of beef that is found in the lower section of sirloin and is incredibly flavorful. Originally from California and owing its name to its triangular shape, tri-tip can be cooked in many different ways, but it is usually used as a steak or roast.

It is also referred to as a California cut, a Newport steak, a bottom sirloin butt, and the poor man’s brisket. As a result, it makes an excellent substitute if you can’t afford or find brisket.

It is often served with barbecue sauce or other sauces.

How Much Does Tri-Tip Weigh?

Tri-tips can be purchased trimmed and untrimmed from the butcher.

When you buy trimmed tri-tip from the butcher, it can weigh anywhere between 2 and 4 pounds.

If it’s untrimmed, you will be purchasing tri-tip that has a large fat cap alongside a layer of silver skin. As a result of the extra fat, untrimmed tri-tip can weigh as much as 5 pounds.  

What Does Tri-Tip Steak Taste Like?

Tri-tip is a hugely flavorful cut of meat, offering a nice beefy flavor and tender texture when cooked right.

Although tri-tip is relatively lean, it does have some marbling, meaning that the fat offers a somewhat buttery taste.

The taste of tri-tip can also be impacted by the method that you cook it. There are various ways of cooking tri-tip.

For instance, smoking tri-tip can help to impart the meat with a deliciously smoky flavor that won’t be present in other cooking methods, such as broiling tri-tip.

In addition to this, the seasonings that you use to cook it can significantly impact the flavor. If you prefer your cuts of meat to predominantly taste like the meat itself, then I suggest that you keep the seasonings simple.

This way, you will celebrate the tri-tip, without overpowering its natural flavor too much. Garlic is a great ingredient to use with tri-tip, as are herbs such as rosemary and oregano.

You also can’t beat searing the steak in a tablespoon of salted butter, as this imparts a wonderfully rich flavor that makes the tri-tip taste nothing short of heavenly.

How Long Should You Smoke Tri-Tip?

How Long Should You Smoke Tri-Tip?

Generally speaking, you will want to allow your tri-tip to smoke for at least 3 hours.

In addition to this, you will want to allow a minimum of 10 to 15 minutes to prepare your tri-tip before you place it on the smoker.

You will also need to allow for 5 to 8 minutes of cooking time to allow you to sear your tri-tip, followed by 15 minutes to allow your tri-tip to rest before serving.

Below is a rough guide to help you to determine how long you should smoke your tri-tip.

Blue – 80 to 100°F (10 minutes rest)

Rare – 1 to 125°F (10  minutes rest)

Medium Rare – 130 to 135°F (10 minutes rest)

Medium – 140 to 145°F (10 minutes rest)

Medium Well – 150 to 155°F (10 minutes rest)

Well Done – 160 to 175°F (10 minutes rest)

That being said, there are a few variables that can change how long you cook your tri-tip, so these timings should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Bearing this in mind, the easiest way to gauge whether your tri-tip is ready to remove from the smoker is to check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer.

Make sure you have a meat thermometer to check your internal temperatures. 

Smoked Tri-Tip Recipe

Smoked Tri-Tip Recipe

Equipment You Will Need

– Smoker (of your choice)

– Wire cooling rack

– Baking dish


– 1 beef tri-tip around 2-1/2 pounds

– 3 tablespoons of olive oil

– 2 teaspoons Kosher salt or sea salt

– 2 teaspoons black pepper

– 2 teaspoons garlic powder

– 2 teaspoons dried rosemary

– 1 teaspoon dried oregano


Step One – Preheat The Smoker

To get started, you will need to preheat the smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step Two – Take The Tri-Tip Out Of The Refrigerator

Next, you will need to take your tri-tip out of the refrigerator to ensure it comes up to room temperature.

This is important, as you want the cut of meat to cook at the same rate all the way through.

Step Three – Prep The Meat

Following this, you will need to trim your tri-tip of any membrane or silverskin.

While this step is optional, you will be left with a more tender result if you do this step.

This comes down to the fact that membrane and silverskin won’t render during the cooking process, so this will be sure to impact the overall texture of your tri-tip.

Step Four – Combine The Dry Ingredients Together

Once you have prepared your tri-tip, it’s time to make the rub.

Combine your dry ingredients together in a bowl and mix until they are all well combined.

Step Five – Add Meat To A Baking Sheet And Coat With Oil

Next, you will need to place your tri-tip on a baking sheet and coat it on all sides with good quality olive oil.

This will help the seasoning to stick to your tri-tip in the next step.

Step Six – Cover Your Tri-Tip In Seasoning

Step Six - Cover Your Tri-Tip In Seasoning

Place tri-tip inside a baking dish and coat well with olive oil. Then cover with the rub.

To ensure you achieve maximum flavor with this dish, you will want to ensure that you evenly coat all sides of the tri-tip.

Step Seven – Place Your Tri-Tip Into The Oven

Once you have evenly coated your tri-tip, it is now time to place the baking sheet in your smoker and close the door.

To cook your tri-tip medium-rare, you will need to smoke it until your meat thermometer reads an internal temperature of 135 degrees Fahrenheit..

This can take anywhere between 2 to 3 hours, so make sure that you have your meat thermometer on hand to check when it is done.

Step Eight – Preheat A Cast-Iron Skillet

Step Eight - Preheat A Cast-Iron Skillet

Once your tri-tip is near to the desired internal temperature, you will want to preheat a cast-iron skillet to sear the tri-tip over a high heat.

Take your tri-tip out of the smoker.

Step Nine – Sear The Tri-Tip

Once your cast-iron skillet is nice and hot, add a tablespoon of butter and sear your tri-tip for 2 to 3 minutes on each side.

Step Ten – Remove The Seared Tri-Tip And Rest

Once each side of the tri-tip has been nicely seared, you will need to place the meat onto a cooling rack.

Wrap the tri-tip with foil and allow the meat to rest for a minimum of 20 minutes.

Step Eleven – Serve And Enjoy

Once you have allowed the meat to rest, it’s time to cut the tri-tip into 1/4 inch slices against the grain.

Now, all there is left to do is to serve and enjoy!

Tips To Bear In Mind When Smoking Tri-Tip

There are a variety of tips that are useful for you to bear in mind when smoking tri-tip, especially if you’re new to this!

Keep The Seasoning Simple

As a cut, tri-tip marinades nicely, and will absorb the flavors of the ingredients with ease.

However, to ensure that you’re celebrating the meat and aren’t overpowering the naturally delicious beefy flavor, you will want to keep the seasoning simple.

Get A Reliable Meat Thermometer

Due to the fact it’s a fairly thin piece of meat compared to other cuts, tri-tip can be very easy to overcook.

To decrease the chances of you overcooking and ruining your tri-tip, I recommend that you get yourself a reliable meat thermometer and keep it nearby at all times.

This way, you’re ready to check your tri-tip and can remove it from the smoker as soon as it reaches the desired internal temperature.

Be Wary To Not Overcook It

Everyone has their personal preferences on how they like their meat cooked. However, tri-tip isn’t a meat that you want to overcook, as it can soon become rubbery.

Tri-tip is the juiciest and flavorful when it is cooked medium rare. It is not recommended that you cook your tri-tip past medium, as this can quickly dry the meat out and make it incredibly tough and chewy to eat.

If you tend to like your meat cooked past medium, then you might want to look at getting yourself a different cut of meat.

Don’t Skip The Sear

By the time you’ve waited for your tri-tip to be done in the smoker, the temptation might be to allow the meat to rest straight away. Don’t do this!

As soon as your tri-tip has been removed from the smoker, you’ll want to sear it on both sides. Searing your tri-tip is essential to give it a nice crust on the exterior of the meat and to lock in the flavorful juices.

After all, who doesn’t enjoy eating meat that has just been seared in sizzling butter?

Don’t Skip The Resting Period

Resting your tri-tip is essential to keeping your steak juicy and flavorful.

If you fail to give your tri-tip the resting period that it needs, as soon as you go to cut the meat, all of the delicious flavor will be lost in the juices that run out onto the cutting board.

In addition to this, you will lose all of the juice, rendering your cut of meat dry as well as flavorless.

You’ve made it this far, so be patient and allow your meat to rest to achieve the most flavorful and juicy tri-tip possible. Delicious!

Remove The Meat From The Smoker Before It Reaches The Desired Temperature

The tri-tip’s internal temperature will continue to rise once you remove it from the smoker, wrap it in foil, and allow it to rest.

To avoid your tri-tip from becoming overcooked, you will want to ensure that you remove it from the smoker before it reaches the desired internal temperature.

Can the Smoking Method for Salmon be Adapted for Smoked Tri-Tip?

Yes, the smoking method for salmon can be adapted for smoked tri-tip. Simply follow the smoke salmon recipe tutorial, but adjust the cooking time and temperature for the larger cut of meat. The same flavorful and smoky results can be achieved with a little modification for the different protein.

Where Can You Buy Tri-Tip?

In America, there are many places where you can’t get hold of tri-tip, as many regional butchers typically cut this part of the cow differently.

If you can’t find tri-tip in the meat section, then you will need to talk with your butcher to see if they know where you could find it. It’s worth noting that some butchers may offer tri-tip, but sell it by another name.

Bearing this in mind, you should also ask for a bottom sirloin tip, Newport steak, or a California or Santa Maria cut of beef.

This might help you in your search to find tri-tip!

How Should You Store Tri-Tip?

If you buy a cut of tri-tip but don’t intend on cooking it straight away, you can put it in the refrigerator for three to five days.

Alternatively, to make your tri-tip last even longer, you can also freeze it.

Before you place the tri-tip into the freezer, rewrap the meat in plastic. You will need to ensure that there isn’t any air between the steak and plastic.

Once wrapped, you can place it in the freezer and the tri-tip will keep for six to twelve months. So, you’ll have plenty of time to come up with a recipe for it.

In Summary

So, that’s how you smoke tri-tip! If you’re new to this cut of meat, there are many ways in which you can use it.

I hope this article has given you a better understanding of tri-tip as a whole, as well as how to smoke it. I’m sure you’ll love how easy this tri-tip recipe is to prepare, and I hope you now have inspiration on how to smoke tri-tip!

Good luck smoking your tri-tip!

Julian Wells

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