This tri-tip was around 2 lbs and was trimmed really nice on one side but the other side had a bit of a fat cap. If you were cooking this really hot, it might make sense to leave the fat cap but since we are smoking it and only cooking it to medium rare, it's best to remove the fat to get the seasoning closer to the meat.
Of course if you like to eat the fat, then feel free to leave it on.
Another thing to think about is that when dry brining, salt does not absorb into fat. It will sit there all day long, no melting, no absorption. By removing the fat, you are increasing the surface area for dry brining.
Dry brining is simply sprinkling a layer of salt onto the meat and letting it do it's thing. The salt immediately begins to draw moisture to the surface when then causes the salt to melt or dissolve. That salty solution is then absorbed down into the meat a little ways.
It's the same concept as wet brining, only better, in my opinion.
Professionals will tell you to use ½ teaspoon per lb of meat when dry brining. I'm not a professional so I just eyeball it. I've done this enough to know about what it needs to look like in order to get a good result.
For this tri-tip, I coated one side and then flipped it over to do the other side.
This will give you an idea of the salt coverage I used.
I then placed the meat in a covered container and put that into the fridge for 2 hours while I went to the gym to try and offset what I was about to do later😀
When I returned, I pulled the meat out of the fridge.
I simply seasoned the top side of the tri-tip lightly with my Texas style rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub) and it was good to go.
The ONLY reason, I can season the tri-tip with my own Texas style rub is because it is low in salt. My original rub is even lower in salt.
I never did like a rub that was based on salt!
I always get the question: why not just use the Texas style rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub) for dry brining since it contains salt. Well, like I said, it's fairly low in salt so it woudn't do as good of a job and it's not intended for that.
In my opinion it's usually best to dry brine tri-tip and steak with straight salt and then season with a low salt rub when you're ready to cook.
Once the Texas style rub is applied, it's a good idea to leave it sitting to let the meat and the rub get to know each other and of course, I like to let the meat warm up a little as well.
This is a great time to go get the smoker ready.
It does not matter whether you are using a stick burner, charcoal, electric, gas or a pellet smoker or even a grill. As long as you set it up with indirect heat and you are getting around 225°F at grate level, you can cook this tri-tip successfully.
If your smoker uses a water pan, fill that up as well.
Lay the tri-tip right on the smoker grate or you can use something like a Weber grill pan or Bradley rack to make it easy to move it to and from the kitchen.
Use oak and/or pecan for smoke if you have it and keep that smoke going the entire time if possible.
Keep a CLOSE eye on the temperature since that is the ONLY way to truly know when it's perfect.
For keeping a close eye on the temperature I normally use a Thermapen or ThermoPop by ThermoWorks once it's been on for about an hour and then every 10 minutes or so after that. This time I used the Meater which is a wireless probe that sticks in the meat and connects to your phone via bluetooth (inserted in the meat in the image below). I have one of the earlier models and the range is not as good as the newer models they have now but I love the fact that with a single probe you get meat temperature, ambient temperature and the app mathematically calculates the finish time.. and quite accurately most of the time.
If you have one of the newer models, let me know what kind of range you are getting. The company now boasts 165 feet which is really great.
You are probably going to be looking at about 1-2 hours as this will vary a little from smoker to smoker and, of course, depending on the thickness of the meat.
This is optional but I think it's well worth the trouble and adds a lot of flavor to the meat.
When the meat reaches about 110 to 115°F is a great time to remove it from the smoker and place it over some hot coals. There are several ways to do this if you don't have a charcoal grill with a grate over it.
- Use a gas grill – if you have a gas grill, turn it on high about 30 minutes before the tri-tip is ready to sear and get the grates as hot as you possibly can. If you have a set of GrillGrates, this is what they were made for. Let them get searing hot then place the tri-tip on the grate for a couple of minutes on each side. If the temperature is not quite to 135°F (medium rare) then throw it back on the smoker after searing to bring it on up to the desired temperature.
- Use a charcoal chimney – Seems crazy I know, but you can place a small grate over the top of a charcoal chimney and put an excellent sear on steaks, tri-tip, etc. . You may have to move the tri-tip around a little bit to get all of it since the opening at the top of the charcoal chimney will probably be a little smaller than the size of the meat. If the temperature is not quite to 135°F (medium rare) then throw it back on the smoker after searing to bring it on up to the desired temperature.
- Use the broiler on your electric oven – This is searing from the top down but it works quite well. Place the tri-tip in a pan to keep the mess to a minimum and place the tri-tip on a rack that is about 8-12 inches from the broiler on top of your oven. On gas ovens you normally place the meat in a special broiling drawer below the flame but same concept. If the temperature is not quite to 135°F (medium rare) then throw it back on the smoker after searing to bring it on up to the desired temperature.
- Use the griddle on the Camp Chef Woodwind sidekick.
When the temperature of that tri-tip is reading 135°F after searing, it's time to remove it from the heat
For best results, loosely wrap it in foil for a little rest time. I usually allow about 10-15 minutes before slicing but anything you give it is better than nothing at all.
Slice it up into pieces about the thickness of a pencil but for the best tenderness, be sure to cut it according to the proper grain direction. You will noticed that the long narrow end that faces right, the grain runs down the length. On the piece on the left, the grain direction runs front to back.
I like to cut it into (2) pieces first:
Then since I took note of the grain direction, I sliced it according to the pattern below to give me the best tenderness.
Use it as an entree with other sides, place small pieces of it on top of a great salad or use strips of it for fajitas (one of my favorites). You are only limited by your imagination so don't be afraid to try something new and if you come up with something that's crazy good.. let me know in the comments below.