On The Grill: Santa Maria Beef Tri-Tip

Serving suggestion: Tri-tip sliced into strips and served with chimmichurri sauce, grilled asparagus, and fondant potatoes

This blog post is a pretty special one, as this is the first dish I prepared with my brand new 22” Weber Performance Kettle Grill (which I named Sigrit). As I was used to using a propane-powered gas grill my whole life, entering the world of charcoal/wood grilling was definitely like entering a whole new dimension of flavor. While the gas grill is still extremely convenient and has it’s purposes, I am very much inclined to say charcoal grilling has an amazing layer of flavor and versatility that simply can’t be achieved with a gas burner.

I got massive inspiration and advice from my cousin (check out his blog, he has tons of amazing recipes and grilling techniques: No Limit Cooking), who gave me tons of tips on how to start. I decided the best way to try tips was to use a beef tri-tip!

The beef tri-tip cut is a triangle shaped cut (hence the name tri-tip) that is found in the bottom sirloin region near the butt of the cow. This is a very popular cut in California and is often dubbed as the “Santa Maria” cut. If you live outside of California, you may have to request to get this custom cut by your butcher.

Tri-tip after an overnight dry brine

The tri-tip is one of the leaner meats that still contains a nice amount of fat, and is a great candidate for grilling. For a leaner meat, this higher fat content allows the meat to have an amazing soft chew and tenderness, and has “out-of-this-world” juiciness if cooked properly. Many grill chefs and pit masters have differing opinions on this, but I believe a dry brine on your tri-tip the night before will definitely help carry the dish to the next level.

My favorite part? Tri-tips make for very good leftovers. You can easily reheat them and put them in tacos, sandwiches, or eat with rice. The possibilities are endless!

Ingredients (can feed approx 3-4 people)
-2-3 lb beef tri-tip roast (I recommend USDA Choice or above); trimmed without the fat cap
-Kosher salt
-Garlic powder
-Black pepper

Useful Tools
-Weber Kettle Grill or any other charcoal grill
-Kingsford Charcoal Briquettes
-Cherry Wood Chunks (adds a sweet, smokey scent and flavor, highly recommended)
-Meat Thermometer

Procedure
Dry Brine
1) At least an hour before (I like to do overnight, the night before cooking), dry brine by generously seasoning your trimmed tri-tip roast with kosher salt.
2) Put your roast in a plate and store in the fridge overnight uncovered or partially covered with plastic wrap (you want to expose some of the meat to the fridge air)

Day of Roast
1) Take your dry-brined tri-tip out of the fridge. Generously season with approximately 2:1 ratio of garlic powder:black pepper. Allow to warm up and equilibrate closer to room temperature (approx 30 minutes to an hour before placing on grill)
2) While the tri-tip is warming up, set up your grill with a two-zone fire set-up with the addition of one or two wood chunks, as seen below:

Two-zone set-up, also known as indirect heat method

3) Pre-heat grill and then control temperature to 300-325°F on the indirect-heat side
4) Add your tri-tip to the indirect heat side. Cover the grill with lid until the internal temperature of the meat reaches about half the point of desired done-ness
a) 120°F for rare
b) 130°F for medium rare
c) 140°F for medium
5) At about half the cook time, uncover lid and flip the steak around once on indirect heat. Cover grill again and let cook on indirect heat until it reaches about 15 degrees before desired done-ness level.
6) Once about 15 degrees before the desired done-ness level, transfer the tri-tip over to the direct heat side and sear for about 3-5 minutes each side, covered.

Searing the steaks on direct heat. It’s sear-ious business!

7) Take the steak off the grill and let rest for about 10-15 minutes before cutting and serving to allow the juices to mingle back into the meat.
8) When cutting, cut against the grain for tender texture. Don’t cut along the grain (lines) or you will have a tough time (literally, a tough steak texture will result)

Observations/(Tri)Tips
-Dry brining is much encouraged to bring your meat to next-level juiciness. In a dry brine, the salt draws moisture out from the meat, in which the moisture dissolves the salt. In turn, the salty-water reabsorbs back into the meat, and retains much better. You may also notice the color of the meat a bit more darker than before. Without a dry-brine, tri-tips can be more unforgiving and dry if you accidentally overcook it. With a dry-brine, it can still retain a lot of flavor and meat even if you overshoot your temperatures (in other words, it won’t start any beef with you!).
-If you have leftovers, re-heating cooked tri-tip is a breeze! You can stir fry it real quick for a few minutes at medium-high heat, or warm it up in an oven/toaster oven at 300°F for approximately 25-30 minutes.
-Be patient! It’s important to let your meat rest 10-15 minutes after it’s grill workout! This helps the juices reabsorb back into the meat and keeps the flavor in your meal as opposed to all over your plate/cutting board. I know you’re hungry, but don’t make this mis-steak and cut immediately after you take it off the grill.

References
No Limit Cooking’s Maggi Seasoning Tri-Tip
No Limit Cooking’s Beef Tri-Tip

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