How To Smoke A Tri Tip Perfectly In Your Backyard?

Sabrina Dawson

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how to smoke a tri tip
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Tri-tip is a triangular cut of beef that comes from the bottom of the sirloin. It is also known as triangle steak, triangle roast, and Santa Maria steak. This cut has become very popular among barbecue aficionados due to its ability to retain moisture and flavor when cooked correctly.

In this article, I will discuss what tri tip is, why it’s called what it is and what the best way on how to smoke a tri tip is in your backyard using a Traeger or Pit Boss pellet grill. I will cover what type of wood should be used, what temperature works best and what sauces can be used for maximum flavor!

What is tri tip?

Tri-tip roast is a type of beef that is obtained from the meat in the back window of the cow. It has a triangular shape and is cut from the meat near the tail of the cow. Tri-tip roasts have a moderate amount of fat and are a delicious portion of meat, often used for grilling, smelting, or minced meat. It is popular in parts of the western United States and is often considered a signature California dish.

There are many ways to explain why this beef is called a “tri-tip“. One of the most common explanations is because a tri-tip roast is cut from a piece of meat that has a triangular or triple top shape. These peaks form three different “tips” on each piece of meat, hence the name “tri-tip”.

What is the best way to cook a tri tip?

The best way to cook a tri tip is to use the reverse sear method. This method starts by smoking the meat low and slow at a temperature of about 225°F. This allows the fat to slowly render and the flavor to penetrate the beef. Once the internal temperature has reached 130°F, you can then increase the temperature and finish off with a nice sear on each side to create that perfect crust.

How to choose the right tri-tip?

Choosing the right tri-tip is an important step in the smoking process. Here are some tips to help you select the best tri-tip for smoking:

  • Look for good marbling: Marbling refers to the small streaks of fat that run throughout the meat. A good tri-tip should have a decent amount of marbling, which helps to keep the meat moist and tender during the smoking process.
  • Choose the right size: Tri-tips can range in size from around 1.5 to 3 pounds. When choosing a tri-tip, consider how many people you will be serving and how much meat each person will eat. A general rule of thumb is to plan for about 1/2 pound of meat per person.
  • Check the color: A good tri-tip should be bright red in color. Avoid any tri-tips that look brown or gray, as this could indicate that the meat is old or has not been stored properly.
  • Consider the thickness: Tri-tips can vary in thickness, and the thickness of the meat can affect how long to smoke a tri tip roast. Look for a tri-tip that is evenly thick throughout to ensure that it cooks evenly.
  • Buy from a reputable source: If possible, buy your tri-tip from a reputable butcher or grocery store that specializes in high-quality meats. This will ensure that you are getting a fresh, high-quality cut of beef.
how long to smoke tri tip

Preparing before smoked tri tip

Before you begin smoking your tri-tip, there are a few important steps to take in order to ensure that it comes out perfectly.

How to trim the tri tip?

Trimming the tri-tip before smoking is an important step in getting the best results. The goal is to create a uniform thickness to ensure even cooking and render out any excess fat.

Read also:  Crispy Chicken Fritta Recipe That Will Leave You Speechless!

To do this, start by turning the piece of meat over so that the fat side is facing up. Using a sharp knife or kitchen shears, trim away any thick pieces of fat, leaving a thin layer behind to help keep the meat juicy and tender.

How to marinate tri tip for smoking?

When smoking a tri tip, it is important to choose the right sauce for maximum flavor. There are many different sauces that can be used for smoking tri tip, including classic BBQ sauces, marinades, and dry rubs.

  • A classic BBQ sauce is a great way to add flavor to your tri tip. These sauces typically contain tomato, vinegar, and spices. To use a BBQ sauce for your tri tip, simply coat the meat with a generous layer of the sauce before smoking.
  • Marinades are another option for adding flavor to your tri-tip. Marinades usually consist of an acid (such as lemon juice), oil, herbs, and spices. Before smoking, cover the meat with the marinade and let it sit for up to 4 hours.
  • If you prefer a more traditional flavor, try using a dry rub instead of sauce. Dry rubs are made from spices such as chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, paprika, and oregano. To prepare your tri tip, rub the spices onto the meat and let it sit for at least 30 minutes before smoking. Remember to coat the meat with a layer of oil, then sprinkle with dry rub, because this helps the rub to stick to the meat and adds a nice texture.

Tips: If you have time, consider brining your tri-tip before smoking. Brining involves soaking your tri-tip in a salty water solution, which helps to keep it moist and tender while cooking. Let the tri-tip rest on a cutting board or plate at room temperature for 15 minutes before smoking.

Preparing the smoker

Smoking tri-tip is an art, and using the right type of smoker can make or break the results. There are several types of smokers and grills on the market, each with its own advantages, but I like to use the pellet grill most. 

My pellet grilling empire is comprised of two renowned brands, Traeger and Pit Boss, so I will show you how to smoke a tri tip on a pellet grill with both of those brands.

How about wood? There is no one-size-fits-all answer for the best type of wood to use when smoking tri-tip. The type of wood you choose should depend on the flavor profile you are going for. 

For a more traditional, smoky flavor, use mesquite or hickory. For a sweeter, more mild taste, go for cherry or apple wood. To stay true to tradition, I will use hickory wood for the smoking of this tri tip.

Keeping a consistent temperature throughout the cooking process is key to making sure your tri-tip comes out perfectly cooked and flavorful. But what temp to smoke a tri tip best? Generally speaking, smoking a tri-tip is best done at 175°F – 225°F.

To maintain this temperature, you’ll need to adjust the heat level on your pellet grill and monitor it throughout the cooking process. Here are the steps:

  • Start with a clean grill: Before you begin smoking the tri-tip, make sure the grill is clean and free from any leftover ash or debris from previous grilling sessions. This will help the grill maintain an even temperature.
  • Use a high-quality pellet: Use a high-quality pellet that is designed for smoking. This will help maintain a consistent temperature and provide a good smoke flavor.
  • Preheat the grill: Preheat the grill to the desired temperature range before adding the tri-tip. This will help the grill maintain a consistent temperature throughout the cooking process.
  • Use a temperature controller: Consider using a temperature controller such as a digital thermostat or a probe thermometer to monitor the temperature of the grill and make adjustments as needed.
  • Adjust the air vents: Adjust the air vents on the grill to control the airflow and maintain the desired temperature range. For example, open the vents wider to increase the temperature and close them to lower the temperature.
  • Monitor the grill temperature: Monitor the temperature of the grill regularly throughout the cooking process, using a digital thermometer or the built-in thermometer on the grill. Adjust the temperature as needed to maintain the desired range.

How to smoke a tri tip?

This delicious smoked tri-tip recipe is sure to be a hit with family and friends. Perfectly cooked and loaded with flavor, it’s the perfect recipe for special occasions or any time you want to impress.

Cooking notes

  • Cuisine: American
  • Course: Main Course
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 3 hours
  • Rest Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours 15 minutes
  • Servings: 4 people

Ingredients

  • 4 – 6 lbs tri-tip roast
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder 
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
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Instructions

  1. Rinse the tri-tip with cold water and pat dry; then rub the olive oil all over it.
  2. In a small bowl, combine garlic powder, smoked paprika, black pepper, onion powder and chili powder.
  3. Rub the seasoning mixture over the tri-tip evenly.
  4. Place the roast in a large zip top bag or shallow dish and add Worcestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar. Allow to marinate for 1 hour at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator.
  5. Set up your grill according to the manufacturer’s instructions and preheat to 225°F and add the hickory wood chips for smoking.
  6. Place the tri-tip on the smoker grate, fat side facing up, and smoke for 2 – 2 1/2 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 130° – 135° for medium-rare.
  7. Remove the tri-tip from the pellet grill and wrap in foil. Allow to rest for 10 – 15 minutes before slicing.

General guideline for how long to smoke tri tip

  • How long to smoke a tri tip at 175? – 90 minutes
  • How long to smoke tri tip at 180? – 1 hour and 15 minutes
  • How long to smoke tri tip at 200 degrees? – 2 hours
  • How long to smoke tri tip at 225? – 3 hours
  • How long to smoke a tri tip at 250? – 4 hours
  • How long to smoke a tri tip at 300? – 5 to 6 hours
  • How long to cook tri tip on Traeger at 350? – 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Here’s a table summarizing the estimated cooking times for smoking a tri-tip at different temperatures:

Smoking TemperatureEstimated Cooking Time
175°F90 minutes
180°F1 hour and 15 minutes
200°F2 hours
225°F3 hours
250°F4 hours
300°F5 to 6 hours

And here’s the estimated cooking time for cooking a tri-tip on a Traeger at 350°F:

Cooking TemperatureEstimated Cooking Time
350°F45 minutes to 1 hour

Please note that these are estimated cooking times, and the actual cooking time may vary depending on the size and thickness of the tri-tip, as well as other factors such as the type of smoker or grill being used. 

It’s always best to use a meat thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of the meat and cook it to the desired level of doneness.

How to slice smoked tri tip?

Once the tri-tip is cooked, unwrap it from the foil and let it cool for 5-10 minutes. Using a sharp slicing knife, carefully slice against the grain of the meat. Start at one end of the roast and make thin slices, following the natural lines of fat in the meat.

Slice until you reach two thirds of the way through, then turn the roast and slice in the other direction. Serve slices with your favorite BBQ sauce or aioli for extra flavor.

How to serve smoked tri tip?

Smoked tri-tip is an incredibly versatile cut of meat; it can be served on its own with a side of vegetables, in sandwiches or tacos, chopped for salads, diced for soups and stews, or shredded for pulled pork.

Pair with your favorite sides such as mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, coleslaw, macaroni salad, or baked beans for a delicious meal.

How to store and reheat smoked tri tip?

If you have leftovers, store them in an airtight container and place in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Alternatively, wrap the tri-tip tightly in aluminum foil or plastic wrap and freeze for up to 6 months. 

To reheat, thaw overnight in the refrigerator if frozen and then heat in a 350°F oven until the meat is warmed through. Slice and serve as desired.

FAQs

How do I know when the tri-tip is done?

The internal temperature should be between 130° – 135°F for medium-rare. To check, insert a thermometer into the thickest part of the roast and wait until it reaches this temperature before you remove the meat from the grill.

Do you flip tri tip when smoking?

Yes, to achieve the most flavor, flipping the tri tip every hour during smoking is a must. This gives each side enough time for your spice or sauce to properly cling to it and create an appetizing crust on all sides of the meat.

Should you spray tri-tip while smoking?

Yes, the key to perfectly smoked tri tip is spritzing it with a liquid every 15-20 minutes. This could include juices, vinegars, or even just some water. The moisture will help keep the meat juicy and create an amazing smoky crust on the outside.

Why is my smoked tri tip tough?

If your smoked tri tip is tough, it could be because you cut across the grain instead of slicing with the grain. Make sure that when you slice the meat, you’re following the natural lines of fat and cutting against them. This will result in a juicy, tender piece of meat.

Read also:  Oven Braised Beef Shank Recipe: Easy, Tender and Delicious

Can I smoke tri tip for 8 hours?

Yes, you can smoke tri tip for up to 8-9 hours total. It’s important to check the internal temperature regularly and make sure it doesn’t go above 200°F. After smoking the tri tip at 225 – 250F for 3-4 hours, wrap it in foil and place back on the smoker until it reaches an internal temperature of 200°F.

Is it better to grill or smoke a tri-tip?

Whether to grill or smoke a tri-tip comes down to personal preference and the equipment available to you. If you prefer a crispy exterior and don’t have access to a smoker, grilling is a great option. If you want a more tender and smoky flavored meat and have the time and equipment to smoke it, smoking may be the way to go.

Should I wrap my tri-tip in foil before smoking it?

It is not necessary to wrap your tri-tip in foil when using the low and slow method. This cut of meat is naturally juicy, and cooking it at a temperature of 225°F for around two hours will not cause it to dry out. However, it is important to monitor the internal temperature of your tri-tip to ensure that you do not overcook it. Once the meat has reached your desired temperature, you can remove it from the smoker and let it rest before serving.

Can you smoke a tri-tip low and slow?

When smoked low and slow, this cut of meat becomes incredibly tender and packed with flavor. And it takes less than two hours to cook perfectly smoke a tri tip.

What is the best temperature to smoke a tri-tip?

To smoke your tri-tip, you should first set your smoker to a temperature between 175°F and 225°F. While the exact temperature is not crucial, the goal at this stage is to achieve optimal smoke. By smoking the tri-tip at a lower temperature for a longer time, you will be able to infuse it with smoky flavor and tenderness. The next step is to cook the tri-tip until it reaches an internal temperature of about 130°F to 135°F. This temperature range is ideal for a medium-rare tri-tip, which is juicy, flavorful, and tender.

Conclusion

As a result, how to smoke a tri tip is a simple process that can be done with almost any smoker or grill. The cooking time will vary based on the temperature of your smoker as well as the size and weight of your roast, but generally speaking you should plan for around 3 hours at 225°F. Be sure to marinate and season your tri-tip before smoking, and always let it rest for 10 – 15 minutes after cooking before slicing.

Smoking your own tri-tip will help you explore the rich flavors of this classic cut of beef, tailor it to your own taste preferences, and save money compared to buying pre-packaged smoked meats from store shelves.

You don’t need expensive equipment either; all you need is a smoker, some seasoning, and a little know how to create a delicious meal for your family and friends.

So what are you waiting for? Get smoking!

how to smoke a tri tip

Smoke A Tri Tip

Sabrina Dawson
Learn how to smoke a tri tip each time on your pellet grill. Discover how easy it is to create juicy, flavorful results every time with just a few simple steps!
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 3 hours
15 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 15 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4 People
Calories 261 kcal

Equipment

  • 1 Pellet grill

Ingredients
  

  • 4-6 lbs tri-tip roast
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder 
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Instructions
 

  • Rinse the tri-tip with cold water and pat dry; then rub the olive oil all over it.
  • In a small bowl, combine garlic powder, smoked paprika, black pepper, onion powder and chili powder.
  • Rub the seasoning mixture over the tri-tip evenly.
  • Place the roast in a large zip top bag or shallow dish and add Worcestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar. Allow to marinate for 1 hour at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Set up your grill according to the manufacturer’s instructions and preheat to 225°F and add the hickory wood chips for smoking.
  • Place the tri-tip on the smoker grate, fat side facing up, and smoke for 2 – 2 1/2 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 130° – 135° for medium-rare.
  • Remove the tri-tip from the pellet grill and wrap in foil. Allow to rest for 10 – 15 minutes before slicing.

Video

Notes

  • Let the tri-tip rest on a cutting board or plate at room temperature for 15 minutes before smoking.
  • If possible, cover the meat with foil to keep it warm while resting.
  • Do not leave the tri tip uncovered for more than 30 minutes before smoking, as this can cause it to dry out and become tough.
  • Try to pat the excess marinade or rub off of the surface of the tri tip before placing in grill.
  • Allow any rub or marinade that was used prior to cooking to absorb into meat during its rest period so that flavors are maximized when cooked.
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