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Topic: Santa Maria Style Tri-Tip  (Read 1252 times)
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« on: September 03, 2010 11:28:21 AM »

For steak enthusiasts that have never tried tri-tip, you are doing yourself a disservice.  This is an inexpensive cut that is tender and delicious if cooked properly and is a mainstay of Santa Maria BBQ.  What is Santa Maria BBQ?  It's a pretty simple blend of spices used in a dry rub applied to sirloin or tri-tip, and cooked over high heat, usually over red oak. 

The full write up, with pictures every step of the way are right here.

And of course the fill write up sans pictures (linking each one takes a while with so many pics) so you can get the gist without having to click on the link:

Boy, I was so excited to see these in St. Louis, MO. Tri tip is very hard to find around here. Its commonly found on the west coast because it was a cuisine to ranchers in the Santa Maria, CA region. Eventually, these west coast cowboys came up with Santa Maria style BBQ. This style has been expanding beyond Santa Maria over the years and I couldnt be happier to try this unique cuisine.

The great characteristics of tri tip are: its lean, flavorful, inexpensive and its ultra tender when cooked right. I picked up a two pack of the triangle shaped beef roasts at Costco. As you can see, the name is given after the shape of the cut of beef:

Tri tip comes from the bottom sirloin primal cut and usually weighs in between 1.5 and 2.5 pounds.

The recipe is simple.


Granulated garlic
Seasoned salt
Course black pepper
Olive oil

No measurements needed here, use enough to coat the meat

First, I rinsed the meat off with water and pat dry with paper towels.

Second, rub the oil all over the meat. This process helps the spices stick to the tri tip.

Third, sprinkle on the seasonings. Start with the garlic, get a lot on there. This is the base ingredient to a perfect product:

Next, add the seasoned salt:

Finally, add the pepper:

Now, in the next phase, the cooking process is just as important as the ingredients. Authentic tri tip is grilled directly over high heat with red oak coals. The grills themselves are very unique. They have a large cooking surface fixed to wheels and pulleys that raise or lower the grill grate meant for heat management.

Fortunately, I reproduced this on my kettle. A chimney full of lump charcoal was lit up and banked to one side for indirect grilling. I want to have a hot and cool side for this process.

But most importantly, I have chunks of red oak. I picked up a bunch from a BBQ store in Ankeny, IA earlier this year:

It is also a good idea to have a meat thermometer because we do not want to over cook the tri tip. Add the red oak to the hot coals.

Place the tri tip on the grill directly over the hot coals. However, do not put the lid on, that will only lower the heat. I seared the first side for 7 or 8 minutes:

I seared the other side for 5 minutes to get a great flavor crust:

Move the meat to the cool side of the grill. I inserted my digital thermometer into the tri tip. Then, I added a couple more chunks of red oak and put the lid on with the vents wide open.

After roughly 15-20 minutes, the interior temp of the tri tip reached 135 degrees:

I pull the beef off at medium rare:

I let the tri tip rest for 10 minutes:

When meat comes off the grill the juices are in an excited state from the heat.  Letting the meat rest allows all the juices to settle down back to its proper place, so the juices dont run all over the plate as soon as you cut into the meat.  Resting allows for the juices to remain in the meat for the entire meal. During this time the interior temp jumps up to 140 degrees. As a result, the tri tip is cooked to medium. I would not cook it more than this as it can be tough to eat.

To serve, slice against the grain. When this is done, the meat pulls apart easier, as opposed to with the grain:

Now, Im going to put down the camera and get my eat on:

Forget the strip steak, t-bone, or tenderloin, this is my favorite cut of beef hands down. Next time, Im going to shoot for rare or about 125 degrees interior temp. I used the leftovers for steak burritos the next night. The iron skillet was used to reheat and it was still tender and tasty. Im going back to Costco to stock up on some tri tip.

« Reply #1 on: September 04, 2010 07:18:50 AM »

I live near Santa Maria, and it's funny to think that other people even know what tri tip is.  Pretty much every barbeque around here involves tri tip.  You can get it whole or cut up into steaks.  It does come out better cooked whole, though. 
« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2010 10:19:35 PM »

I live near Santa Maria, and it's funny to think that other people even know what tri tip is.  Pretty much every barbeque around here involves tri tip.  You can get it whole or cut up into steaks.  It does come out better cooked whole, though. 

Same here! It's weird to think Santa Maria Tri Tip is like a "thing". Lol I don't think I've ever been to/hosted a BBQ where we didn't have tri tip. Most delicious meat ever!

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