You know what it is like cooking for a family—you cannot please everybody all the time. Wherever two or more opinions are gathered there is rarely 100% agreement over what to have for dinner, except when Tri-Tip is on the menu. We discovered tri-tip when we lived in California years ago and it remains our favorite cut of beef. A local specialty in Santa Maria in the 1950s, it has grown in popularity routinely sliced for fajitas, grilled as steaks or whole roasts, even replaces ground beef in chili.
Its flavor and texture is more like steak than a traditional roast, best when cooked medium to medium rare. The uneven thickness (thicker in the middle, thinner at the tapered ends), makes it ideal when trying to please a variety of preferences—the ends will be more well done while the middle will be more medium to medium rare, depending on cooking time. Use any marinade you like, we prefer Lawry’s Mesquite when we need something easy, otherwise a simple marinade of garlic, liquid smoke, lime, salt and pepper is great too.
Here are some of the ways we use tri-tip and why it is a mainstay, go-to meal at our house:
1. Grilled or oven roasted whole tri-tip roast; cooked until thickest part is medium rare and sliced into steak-style servings.
2. Sliced into 1 1/2″ steaks; each steak grilled to preference
3. Sliced for fajitas, beef stroganoff, chili con carne, or stir-fry
4. Use leftover roast for steak and egg breakfast or steak sandwiches
2-3 pounds tri-tip roast
4-5 cloves garlic — minced
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon liquid smoke flavoring
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon pepper
Some tri-tip roasts are sold untrimmed which means there can be a fairly thick layer of fat on one side. Trim this layer until it is a little less than 1/4″ thick, but leaving enough to flavor the meat when grilled. Mix all ingredients except roast to form a paste. Spread paste over the meat and allow to marinate at least 1 hour.
Light wood briquettes or use a gas grill on low heat. Start tri-tip fat side up and sear the meat directly over the hot coals on each side for 5-7 minutes. Move the meat to a spot on the grill so that it is not over direct heat and cook on each side until the middle is medium rare (130-140ºF), about 30 more minutes—the thickness of the roast and desired doneness will dictate the remaining cooking time.
Once the roast is done, remove from the grill, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 12-15 minutes. Carve by slicing across the grain and serve.
NOTE: Any favorite marinade can be used for this recipe; the most flavorful grilling method is using real wood briquettes. For more information check out my earlier post about grilling.
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