In this article we'll talk about how to slice a tri-tip, how to separate the two sections, and how to slice each section in the right direction so that it ends up more tender.
What is Grain Direction
If you look closely at a piece of tri-tip, you'll be able to see the fibers of the meat running in the same direction.. this is the grain. When you slice, the knife should be cutting across those to give a better, more tender bite. If you slice with the grain, the bite will tend to be more chewy.
Here's a top down image of our example tri-tip:
How to Mark the Grain
If you use a salt and pepper rub or even my Texas style rub on the meat, you'll still be able to see the grain when it's finished cooking and you can just cut accordingly however, if you use a darker rub or something that makes it hard to see the grain, then it'll be more difficult.
For this reason, it's sometimes a good idea to mark the grain or do something that will help you remember.
Insert a toothpick(s) indicating the grain direction just don't forget they are there and be sure to pull them out before you serve the meat.
Take a photo
Use the camera on your mobile phone to take a top-down picture of the tri-tip. After the meat is cooked, you can take a look at the photo to remind you of how the meat should be sliced.
Separate the Sections
I recommend separating the (2) sections of the tri-tip before slicing. Here's a diagram showing where the cut line is on our example tri-tip:
This cutline is similar on most tri-tips but not exactly.. this is why it's important to look at the tri-tip you are getting ready to cook and have an idea ahead of time on where it will need to be cut.
I had someone ask me if it was ok to separate these two pieces before cooking them and while I've never heard of anyone doing this, I don't think it would hurt anything or affect the quality of the cook.
Slicing the Sections
Here's a diagram I made of our example tri-tip that shows the cut lines for each section:
You will notice that there is approximately a 45 degree difference in the slices between the section on the left and the section on the right.
Please note that it is not the end of the world if you just slice it all one way from one end to the other but separating the two sections and taking a little extra time with it will make it just a little bit better and is worth the trouble in my opinion.
Practice Makes Perfect
Now that you know how to slice a tri-tip, go grab a couple and get some practice time in.
Smoke, Wood, Fire: The Advanced Guide to Smoking Meat – Unlike the first book, this book does not focus on recipes but rather uses every square inch of every page teaching you how to smoke meat. What my first book touched on, this second book takes it into much greater detail with lots of pictures.
It also includes a complete, step-by-step tutorial for making your own smoked “streaky” bacon using a 100 year old brine recipe.