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The Best Smoked Tri-Tip You’ve Ever Had

tri tip porter road scaled

There’s nothing quite as good as smoked tri-tip if you have a hankering for tender, delicious, melt-in-your-mouth, beef! If you don’t agree with that statement then maybe beef is not your thing or you haven’t had good tri-tip yet.

I can help you fix that second issue!

Let’s jump right in!

Helpful Information
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Dry Brine Time: 1-2 hours
  • Cook Time: 2 hours
  • Smoker Temp: 225°F
  • Meat Finish Temp: 130°F
  • Recommended Wood: Oak or Pecan

What You’ll Need

Step 1: Trim the Fat

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.

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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.

Step 2: Dry Brine

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.

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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😀

Step 3: Season with Texas Rub

When I returned, I pulled the meat out of the fridge.

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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.

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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.

Step 4: Setup the Smoker

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.

Step 5: Cook with Smoke

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.

Here’s a pan/rack setup that I’ve been using for a few months and I love that it works so well AND keeps my smoker a little cleaner. Less cleanup= a good thing😀

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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.

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Step 6: Sear It!

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Use the griddle on the Camp Chef Woodwind sidekick.
Step 7: Rest and Serve

When the temperature of that tri-tip is reading 130°F, it’s time to remove it from the heat

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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 notice that on 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:

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Then since I took note of the grain direction, I sliced it according to the pattern below to give me the best tenderness.

Here’s a recent article that I wrote about slicing tri-tip with a cut diagram

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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.


Printable Recipe

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Smoked and Seared Tri-tip

There's nothing quite as good as tri-tip if you have a hankering for tender, delicious, melt-in-your-mouth, beef! If you don't agree with that statement then maybe beef is not your thing or you haven't had good tri-tip yet. I can help you fix that second issue!

  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 hours
  • Total Time: 4 hours 20 minutes

Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 + tri-tips (((2 to 3 lbs each)))
  • 1 tsp Coarse kosher salt ((per 2 lb tri-tip (Morton's blue box works great)))
  • Jeff’s Texas style rub (((Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub)))

Instructions

Step 1: Trim the Fat

  1. If you are cooking the tri-tip low and slow, then there is no reason to leave the fat cap intact. Remove it with a sharp knife.

Step 2: Dry Brine

  1. Apply coarse kosher salt to both sides of the meat at a rate of about 1/2 teaspoon per lb. 1 teaspoon of coarse kosher salt covers a 2 lb tri-tip.
  2. Place meat in a lidded container and into the fridge for 2 hours.
  3. It is not necessary to rinse the salt from the meat.

Step 3: Season with Texas Rub

  1. Apply a light coat of Jeff's Texas style rub to the top side of the tri-tip.
  2. Set the meat aside while you go get the smoker ready.

Step 4: Setup the Smoker

  1. Setup your smoker for cooking at about 225°F with indirect heat if possible. If your smoker uses a water pan fill it up.
  2. Let the smoker preheat for about 30 minutes before proceeding to the next step.

Step 5: Cook with Smoke

  1. 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.
  2. Use oak and/or pecan for smoke if you have it and keep that smoke going the entire time if possible.
  3. Keep a CLOSE eye on the temperature since that is the ONLY way to truly know when it’s perfect.

Step 6: Sear It!

  1. When the meat reaches about 110 to 115°F is a great time to remove it from the smoker and place it over a fire, some hot coals or under the broiler of your oven to sear the meat.
  2. The idea here is to brown the outside of the meat not just to make sear marks. This browning improves the flavor greatly.
  3. If the meat has not reached 130°F when you are done searing, place the meat back in the smoker to finish.

Step 7: Rest and Serve

  1. When finished, remove the tri-tip from the heat.
  2. For best results, loosely wrap it in foil for a little rest time. I usually allow about 10-15 minutes before slicing.
  3. Slice it up into pieces about the thickness of a pencil.
  4. Serve and enjoy!

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26 Comments

  1. I made this in my BGE to be used in Tri Tip tacos. It was undoubtedly the most perfect piece of meat I’ve ever grilled. Thanks for introducing me to my new a favorite meat.

  2. I just did my first Tri- tip on my Recteq. I used your Smoked and Seared recipe. I made a batch of your Texas rub, but I used coarse ground smoked black pepper—-Excellent! When it came to the sear part I seared it in a cast iron skillet with butter and garlic and herbs. It was a big Father’s Day hit.

  3. Biggest problem I had is that in my Masterbuilt, it came up to 115 (from about 50) in a little over an hour. Threw off my scheduling. So I turned off the smoker and it is sitting at about 127 in a 150ish smoker waiting for time to sear under the broiler. I hope it doesn’t dry out.

    1. John, sounds like your smoker might be cooking a little hotter than what it reads.. might be worth checking that with an oven thermometer.

      In the future, if this happens again, you can wrap it in foil and a few towels and into a small ice chest until time to sear it. This will keep it nice and juicy while you wait.

      Hope it turned out amazing!

      1. I’m using a VAUNO thermometer, which never showed over 220 ambient with the ambient probe right next to the meat. Anyway, in spite of sitting in the smoker for about an hour at ambient 170 or so, and meat at 125 or so, once browned under the oven broiler it was pretty good. Maybe a little past medium rare.

        1. John, I am glad to hear it turned out pretty good in the end. Meat can do some interesting things and, of course, every smoker cooks a little different.

          1. I did it again today. Same deal. The ambient probe was showing it cycling between 210 and 230, and it took a little over an hour to go from internal 50 to 120. I pulled it, put it under foil and wrapped the whole thing in towels. An hour and a half later, under the broiler. Really good. This really did come out rare to medium rare.

  4. If you generate your emails with an any lighter font, they will be totally unreadable. Find your web designer and slap them upside the head with a frozen mackerel.

    1. GC, I receive copies of the emails as well and the font is stark black on my end. Feel free to send a screenshot of what you are seeing to [email protected] and be sure to let me know what device you are using (mobile, PC, etc.), operating system, etc and anything else you think might be helpful.

      If anyone else is experiencing this phenomenon, please give me some feedback as well so we can see what’s going on and get it fixed. Thanks!

  5. Tri-Tip might be my favorite big cut of beef. Sounds like how I do mine:

    I like to grill Tri-Tips. Think of it as a big steak. I like to splash on some Worcestershire Sauce, and then rub it down with SPOG (Salt, Pepper, Onion, and Garlic). I do a reverse sear. Grill indirect to about 120*, then direct sear to about 130*. Rest for 15 minutes and then slice thinly against the grain. They usually have three different grains as depicted by the white lines in the image below. I usually separate it in the middle (black line) and then make 1/4 inch slices perpendicular to the white lines.

    My wife likes her beef a little more well done than I do, so she gets the smaller slices that end up about Medium. I prefer Medium Rare, so I get the next pieces. The rest gets sliced super thin and bagged with the board juices. This make *really* good sandwiches for me the next day.

    I like to serve this with a Habanero Lime Crema (Stolen from an old friend, you can Google her “chezshinae”):

    Habanero Lime Garlic Crema
    Time: 10 minutes

    – 1/4 cup sour cream or Mexican crema agria (“agria” meaning sour)
    – 2 Tablespoons to 1/4 cup chopped cilantro (stems included) depending on how much cilantro flavor you like (optional if you hate cilantro of course)
    – 2 Tablespoons mayo
    – 1 habanero, rough chopped (habis, as they’re affectionately called in our house, are VERY hot. If VERY hot is not your thing, you might try using just an eighth or quarter of the pepper to start.)
    – 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic (about 1 very small clove)
    – 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice
    – 1/8 teaspoon salt
    – 1 teaspoon lime zest (optional) Zap everything in a blender for 20 to 30 seconds. Donezo!

  6. How does this turn out if cooked to a heavy medium? Does it get real tough or dry? My wife will not eat beef unless it is medium well at least. No, I’m not getting rid of her. Been with her for 28 years now, I’m too old to start shopping for another wife.

    1. You might consider cooking it to medium rare and then cutting off a portion for her to continue cooking. Your medium rare portion can come right off and be wrapped in foil to wait until hers gets done.

      Cook her portion to around 145-150. Once it’s sliced, brush on a little melted butter mixed with Worcestershire to brown it up a little more.. it will be just fine.

  7. I have Ben doing this for a while now. Use your rub, and let it sit for two hours then smoke with pecan at 220 for 2 1/2 hours and it is a perfect medium to medium/rare. Love the recipes Jeff!

  8. I live on the left coast and there is plenty of TriTip available here. Costco often has prime grade TriTip, too…. and it is worth every extra penny.

    My favorite method of cooking this gorgeous sirloin is simple:
    1) Get the steak up close to room temperature.
    2) Make some criss-cross cuts on both sides and put some Texas brisket rub in there.
    3) Turn the heat up on your gas or charcoal grill. When it is about as hot as you can get it….
    4) Put the TriTip on for 8-10 minutes. Yes, it is going to smoke and possibly even char the surface.
    5) Flip it over and repeat the process.
    6) Take it off and wrap it in foil, then in a beach blanket or a cheap cooler and wait 30-45 minutes.
    7) It will finish cooking to a medium rare doneness. Slice thin and pour the juices from the foil over it.

  9. We leave the fat cap in place, and place the tri tip fat cap down on hot coals for 10 minutes plus or minus, then smoke to 130-135 in large part, gives a medium rate-medium well that suits my wife and I tastes. Your rubs are excellent, we have had for many years, often lazy and just do the original. Thanks Jeff good stuff.

  10. This is the best tri tip I’ve ever smoked. Even my picky 11 year old went back for 3rds! Thanks for this recipe.

  11. I did this recipe yesterday for steak tacos on homemade sourdough tortillas with blue cheese crumbles, cabbage, and a chili lime sauce. Turned out great!

    You inquired about the new MEATER. I tested the range on my MEATER+ and I get right at 200 ft line-of-sight before it loses connection (Bluetooth). Of course if you’re going through walls and other obstructions that lessens the range. However with the new cloud capability you can monitor anywhere you have a cell or internet connection. Regardless, I can monitor via Bluetooth from anywhere in my house/yard no problem.

  12. Just did this just as Jeff said. Best tri tip I ever cooked. Perfect. Didn’t feel like firing up the smoker so I fired up the Weber kettle and controlled the heat indirectly perfectly. 2.5 lbs 90 mins. 120 then seared to 130. Perfect rare medium rare.

  13. First time trying a tri tip tonight. Followed your recipe
    Smoked it on my LG Champion until temp was 138 then put it on the Webber with pecan chips in the fire for About two minutes on each side. It was amazing!!! One of the best of your recipes I’ve tried

  14. I made the best Tri Tip sandwich ever two nights ago. I cooked the meat the same way. Rested after coming off the Traeger, then seared it on cast iron. Took some cuban bread, layered with a homemade chimichurri mayo, the Tri Tip slices, sauteed onions and peppers, topped with colby jack cheese and put under the broiler to melt. After the cheese was melted I added avocado to finish. Amazing!!

  15. I Cook my Try tip to about 120 degrees and let it rest and finish the cook while sitting. 125-130 after sitting is good.

  16. I have been looking everywhere fro Tri Tip, non of my local groceries seem to carry it. Is there a trick to finding this cut?

  17. I did a Tri Tip as one of my 1st attempts at smoking. I remember I overcooked it to 145 degrees before I removed it from the smoker. It wasn’t bad, just a tad overdone. I have been getting my beef roasts when they go on sale. I do a lot of Top Round roasts when they go on sale for $3 to $3.50 per lb. I also do Angus Beef Tenderloins when they go for $10 to $11 per lb. The best is the Christian holidays when they have Ribeye Roasts for $6 per lb. I now cook them to 130 to 140 depending if I want to grill the leftovers.