If you are tired of the same old grilling steaks, it might be about time to try something new. Tri-tip is one of my personal favorites. Learn more about this unique steak and a little recipe, which is also a great way to cook any of our 100% grass-fed steaks!
The tri-tip steak is a hidden around the outside of the bottom of the sirloin (the hip area) and sirloin tip (the muscle above the knee). As you can see from the picture, it is a triangular muscle (hence the name), thicker at one end then tapering off towards the other end. The thicker end is found on the bottom of the sirloin adjacent to the tenderloin, and then as it becomes thinner it starts covering a part of the sirloin tip towards the knee. Both the sirloin and sirloin tip are used to help the steer move it’s hind legs, and the tri-tip muscle is used to assist those muscles with that movement. Generally, the more the muscle is used on an animal, the more flavorful it is. The tri-tip is that happy medium of tenderness and flavor. Most of it is hidden under fat, lending it a ton of flavor if kept on. The cut itself can be well marbled, but it helps to keep some of that fat still on to help keep it moist when cooking.
The most unique characteristic of the tri-tip is its triangular shape. Normally when cooking something, its important that the item is the same thickness throughout to ensure even cooking, but that's not the case with tri-tip. This makes it perfect for serving to a group who like their steak cooked to different temperatures. I always suggest using a meat thermometer, frequently checking the center of the thick end. For rare, you want the temperature to reach 120°F before letting it rest (125°F med-rare, 130°F medium, 140°F med-well, 155°F well-done). Feel free to grill or roast this steak. If you want to be a traditionalist, grill using oak chunks in the Santa Maria BBQ fashion. You will also find outstanding results mixing oak or hickory wood chips with charcoal if oak chunks are not an option. Start your grill or oven hot (around 425°F), then, while you’re waiting for it to preheat or for the wood/charcoal to burn, let the tri-tip get to room temperature and season with this simple rub:
2 ½-3 pound Tri-Tip
2 tablespoons Sweet Paprika
1 tablespoon Black Pepper
1 tablespoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne or Red Pepper Flakes (optional, for heat!!)
¼ stick of Butter
1 clove Garlic, roughly chopped
Thyme, Rosemary, and/or Sage
**You can prepare the basting liquid ahead of time by melting the butter and lightly simmer the garlic and herb of your choice until the flavors are infused, about 5 to 10 minutes.
1) Reduce the temperature of the grill to 375°F. Throw the steak on the hottest part of the grill (fat side down) and cook until a deep, dark crust forms (about 8 minutes).
2) Flip and cook an additional 10 minutes.
3) Apply the basting liquid generously every 5 minutes until done cooking to your preferred doneness. To cook the thickest end rare, the total cook time will be about 18-20 minutes.
4) After you are done cooking the steak, baste it one more time, cover, and let it rest for 10 minutes.
5) Cut against the grain in ¼ inch slices and enjoy!
If you are sticking to the traditionalist route, pair with a Santa-Maria-Style Pinto Bean Salad and fresh salsa (a saucy variety). You can also enjoy it in a sandwich using toasted garlic bread and mild cheddar cheese.