Smoked Tri-Tip

Smoked beef tri-tip will soon be your new favorite barbecue steak. Usually cooked on the grill, preparing it on the backyard smoker produces an unparalleled cut of flavorful and tender smoked beef. Learn how to prepare, dry brine, and smoke tri-tip with our barbecue guide and recipe.

smoked tri tip recipe

Tri-tip is one of the most tender and flavorful cuts of beef for smoking. From the beef’s bottom sirloin, it has an unrivaled mouthfeel and hearty flavor.

While beef tri-tip is usually grilled over high heat or reverse seared, it is incredible when smoked. Because it’s a lean cut of beef and low in fat content, It can be difficult to get right on the smoker. But if you nail it, you’ll have a beautifully tender plate of tri-tip that’s great by itself or as part of a beef sandwich.

For our smoked tri-tip recipe, we trim and prepared with a simple dry brine followed by a simple BBQ spice rub. We then smoke it over indirect heat for about 2 hoiurs until tender and juicy.

smoked tri-tip sliced on chopping board

What is tri-tip?

Beef tri-tip is a flavorful and tender cut of meat from the bottom sirloin of the cow. It’s usually about eight inches in length and weighs between two and three pounds. It has a unique triangular shape to it and tapers at one end. It’s lean and low in connective tissue and fat.

Its flavor is unlike any other cut of beef. It boasts a strong, rich, beefy flavor. Thanks to its low fat content, tri-tip steak can be very chewy and will need to be sliced carefully to ensure it’s not too tough. Get it right though, and you’ll have a cut of beef that’s as delicious and tender as any other.

Traditional Santa Maria tri-tip originates from a town with the same name, in California’s Central Coast region. Tri-tip steak is a specialty in the area and was originally cooked on the unique Santa Maria grill. It has a grate that’s controlled by its wheel-pulley system, where you can raise or lower it to bring the meat closer to the fire.

Purpose-made Santa Maria grills are difficult and expensive to buy, but you can build your own Santa Maria grill at a fraction of the cost. If you’re a DIY grill fan, you’ll love the project. The clever grill cooks tri-tip as it was intended, and helps to make it more tender.

smoked tri tip served on chopping board with chimichurri

Where to buy

Tri-tip can be difficult to buy, depending on where you are. Due to its Californian origins, people in the southern region of the state might find it easier, but otherwise you may need to visit a specialist butcher or reserve ahead.

The good news is that there are some fantastic online vendors who sell fresh tri-tip, and can deliver across North America.

Buy Tri-Tip Online

Tender and packed with flavor, this beef tri-tip is like no other. The shape of the meat means you can achieve a lot with just one cut.

porter road tri tip steak

Times & temperatures

Smoked tri-tip needs about 2 hours to cook at 225°F (107°C) to a medium-rare internal temperature of 130-135°F. This time will vary depending on meat size, smoker heat retention, and preferred doneness.

Always use a meat thermometer to test the internal temperature of your meat. I know some people swear by judging on texture or even appearance, but a thermometer is the best way to guarantee the best results.

smoked tri tip recipe
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Smoked Tri-Tip

Beef tri-tip cooked low and slow over wood and charcoal for the iultimate cut of barbecue steak. Prepared with a dry brine and simple seasoning, this smoked tri-tip is dripping with flavor!
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American, BBQ
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Dry Brining 2 hours
Total Time 3 hours 10 minutes
Servings 4

Equipment

  • fillet knife

Ingredients

  • 2 lb tri-tip steak
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

Dry Rub

  • 2 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp ground black pepper

Instructions

  • Place the beef tri-tip on a cutting board. Use a fillet knife to remove the silverskin on the meat’s underside, and any remaining surface fat.
  • Apply kosher salt to meat for the dry brine. Transfer beef to refrigerator and leave to dry brine for two hours.
  • Fire up your smoker to 225°F (107°C). If you are using a charcoal grill, set it up for 2-zone cooking or indirect grilling.
  • Remove tri-tip from refrigerator. Combine dry rub ingredients in a small bowl. Apply dry rub to tri-tip, covering and working into as much surface area as possible.
  • Place the tri-tip on your smoker’s grates, with the thick end closest to the heat. Close lid or door and smoke for 90-120 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 125°F for medium-rare or 135°F for medium.
  • Optional: Finish tri-tip over high heat, a couple of minutes on either side to get a seared finish. Note: If you do this, take the meat off the smoker when the internal temperature hits about 115-120°F so it’s not overdone when seared.

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