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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 smoked tri-tip yet.
I can help you fix that second issue!
Let's jump right in!
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Dry Brine Time: 2 hours (up to 24 hours is fine)
- Cook Time: 2 hours
- Smoker Temp: 225°F (107°C)
- Meat Finish Temp: 130°F (54°C)
- Recommended Wood: Oak or Pecan
- 1 or more tri-tips (2 to 3 lbs each)
- Coarse kosher salt (Morton's blue box works great)
- Jeff's Texas style rub
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😀
It is perfectly fine to leave it dry brining for 12-24 hours if you want to. The salt will find it's way deeper into the meat the longer you wait but salt also has a tenderizing affect which is a good thing but this can change the texture of the meat if it's left too long.
When I returned from the gym, I pulled the meat out of the fridge.
I simply seasoned the top side of the tri-tip lightly with my Texas style rub and it was good to go.
I never did like a rub that was based on salt!
I always get the question: why not just use the Texas style 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 add the correct amount of salt to the meat first and then season with a low salt rub on top of the salt or you can wait until right before 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 (107°C) 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 a pan with a 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😀
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.
Note: If you're looking for a digital meat thermometer, my guide called “6 best digital meat thermometers” will help you decide which one is best for you.
Check the temperature once it's been on for about an hour and then every 10 minutes or so after that.
This time I was trying out the Meater which is a wireless probe that sticks in the meat and connects to your phone via bluetooth.
I have also been using the MeatStick 4X a lot lately which is very similar.
You are probably going to be looking at about 2 hours but 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 smoked tri-tip reaches about 110°F (43°C) it's 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.
- 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, smoked 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.
- Use the broiler on your electric oven – This is searing from the top down but it works quite well. Place the smoked 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.
- Use the griddle on the Camp Chef Woodwind sidekick.
When the temperature of that smoked tri-tip is reading 130°F (54°C), 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 the smoked tri-tip 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:
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 the smoked tri-tip 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.
- 1 + tri-tips (2 to 3 lbs each)
- 1 tsp Coarse kosher salt
- Jeff's Texas style rub
- 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.
- 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.
- Place meat in a lidded container and into the fridge for 2 hours.
- It is not necessary to rinse the salt from the meat.
- Apply a light coat of Jeff's Texas style rub to the top side of the tri-tip.
- Set the meat aside while you go get the smoker ready.
- Setup your smoker for cooking at 225°F (107°C) using indirect heat. If your smoker uses a water pan, fill it up.
- Let the smoker preheat for about 30 minutes before proceeding to the next step.
- Lay the tri-tip right on the smoker grate or you can use a pan with a 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.
- When the meat reaches about 110°F (43°C) it's 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.
- The idea here is to brown the outside of the meat not just to make sear marks. This browning improves the flavor greatly.
- If the meat has not reached 130°F (54°C) when you are done searing, place the meat back in the smoker to finish.
- When finished, remove the tri-tip 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.
- Slice it up into pieces about the thickness of a pencil.
- Serve and enjoy!