The tri-tip was discovered around 1950 in Santa Maria, CA by Bob Schutz, a Safeway butcher who decided to experiment one day with a cut that was usually considered scrap. Bob grabbed the piece of meat, seasoned it simply and put it on a spit over hot coals for 45 minutes. The other employees started mocking him saying they would have to “chew it for days”. When he pulled it off the spit everyone was shocked at how tender and flavorful it was. They immediately started sampling it to customers and name it the tri-tip.
From there the tri-tip started gaining popularity by word of mouth as it became known for its full beef flavor, low cost and ease of preparation. The unique cut has slowly made its way to select butcher shops and supermarkets across the country, but is still a mysterious cut to many. Lucky for you, we are tri-tip experts and have it available in most of our stores.
The cut is a triangular shaped muscle located between the ball-tip and the bottom sirloin flap. It can be cooked whole as a roast, sliced into steaks or chopped into meat for kabobs.
Tri-tip is a lean cut of meat and should be prepared medium rare to medium. Cooking it too long will result in tough meat that is less flavorful. If you must cook it medium well to well then skip the searing and move on to indirect grilling as specified below in step 2.
YOU WILL NEED:
• Aluminum drip pan
• Wood chips (for smoking), presoak wood chips in hot water for about 30 minutes prior to grilling
• Smoker box or smoker pouch (pouch made of tin foil wrapped around the soaked wood chips)
PREPPING THE GRILL:
• If using a gas grill, fire-up all burners initially
• After about 10-15 minutes, clean the racks thoroughly with your wire brush
• Oil the grate with a long handled brush or use your tongs, and an olive oil, peanut oil, or lard (other vegetable oils will break down during the searing process) soaked piece of paper towel. Be careful! Oil will ignite if towel is over soaked
• Close the lid for a few more minutes to build and hold the heat at 550-600°F
1. Sear the meat. If you are new to searing, cook the meat for about 5 minutes, turning every minute or so, until you get the dark brown (not black!) telltale grill marks. If you want your meat cooked medium well to well, searing is not a good idea (move to step 2)
2. Shut off all but one of the burners; leave the remaining burner on high. You want to maintain a temperature of 350-375°F
3. Use your tongs to carefully lift the grate and place the aluminum drip pan opposite the direct heat of the “on” burner. Replace the grate
4. Place the pre-soaked wood chips in the smoker-box. If you don’t have a smoker-box, place a prepared smoker pouch directly on the “hot” burner. Close the grill and let the smoke get started
5. Once you see/smell the smoke start, place your tri-tip over the drip pan (remember to use your tongs)
6. Close the lid and let the meat cook for about 20-30 minutes. Turn it over and continue to cook until you reach the desired meat temperature
7. Place the meat on your carving surface. Immediately, loosely cover the meat with foil and let it rest for about 10 minutes. Resting is essential. This allows the juices to partially return to the center of the meat
8. Cut across the grain in thin (1/4″) slices and serve!
We recommend an internal temperature of 140°F/60°C be reached before removing the meat to kill potentially harmful bacteria
The tri-tip is also known as the Santa Maria Steak or the Newport Steak (when cut into individual steaks). Since its discovery it has primarily been used in California barbeque that usually consists of seasoned grilled beef served with a bowl of beans, salsa and buttery garlic bread. YUM-O!
So now that we’ve peaked your interest, pick up some tri-tip from your local Meat House and get grilling! Try our recipe for Vietnamese Tri-Tip Petite Sandwich. When your friends and family start asking, “what is this tender and unique cut of beef you used in this sandwich?” you will have all the answers…