Me, I’m a Wisconsin kid — born and raised in Sheboygan. So you may see a thing or three about brats as the blog rolls along. But it wasn’t until I moved to California that I ever even heard of a tri tip. But I love me some beef and it’s quickly become one of my favorite cuts to make. So imagine my joy when earlier this week I found them almost 50% off in response to a strike at a rival grocery chain down the street. I got two. How could I not?
Saturday seemed like a fine night to make some meat. So here we are seasoned up and ready to go with just a light brushing of olive oil and a dusting of Urban Accents Chicago Steak and Chop seasoning which has a nice combination of flavors for beef: salt, pepper, garlic, and onion. I’d like to make my own beef rub and based on how much I like this one I’ll probably start with similar ingredients.
The tri-tip wasn’t actually fully defrosted so gave it an hour in a cold water bath and about 45 minutes of time on the counter to fridge rest while the grill was getting ready.
Now there are two things I’ve learned about cooking tri tips that greatly benefit this cut.
Thing the first: the reverse-sear.
Most of us have been taught that searing meat at the beginning of cooking seals in the juices and makes the cut more tender. Well America’s Test Kitchen and many others (like Chris Finney, for whom the technique is sometimes called, “The Finney Method”) have proven that searing up-front actually pushes out more liquids than it retains, and it’s actually more beneficial to use low-and-slow temperatures to bring a cut of meat to a little below your final desired internal temp and then toss it over roaring flame to finish it off. The reverse-sear lets the cut roast up to doneness slowly and evenly, and with a cut like a tri tip that has lots of variation of thickness, you wind up with a very tender, evenly cooked product that still gets that flavorful crust like a steak.
My goal was to slow-cook the tri tip over indirect heat up until it reached about 115° internal temp, pull it from the grill and rest it while I stoked up the fire, then gave it a nice sear and pull it at 135° for a nice medium-rare. I expected the round trip to take anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes, the lump factor and recent defrosting being the X factors. I decided to use the big 26.75″ Weber kettle because I’ve found it’s generally easier to keep the temps down on that cooker instead of the smaller 22.5″. I piled up some lump along one wall of the grill, lit about 4 chunks of lump in the charcoal chimney, crowded the lit chunks on one end of the unlit lump, added a small hunk of pecan wood for some smoke, and once the grill reached about 275° it was off to the races.
Everybody into the pool!
When the roast hit about 90° internal temp, I flipped it and fired up about a half-chimney of lump to add some heat for searing.
Rested the tri-tip in foil for about 10 or 15 minutes while I added the new lit lump, opened all the vents, and got a nice hot searing fire. I left the temp probe in and it rose to about 121° internal while resting.
It only took about a 2 minute sear on each side of the center of the tri-tip to hit 135° exactly, confirmed by my instant-read therm.
And then the final product. I had considered using my GrillGrates to get more defined grill marks, but tri tip is best sliced thin, no more than a quarter-inch, so it didn’t seem to matter for aesthetics. Besides, it was late and we were hungry!
Now remember I said there were two things that really help out a tri tip? Thing the second: carve properly. We’ve all heard you’re supposed to carve against the grain to promote tenderness. And a tri tip really benefits from this given it has such a strong grain. But the tricky bit is that due to the placement of this cut on the animal, the grain almost always changes direction, thus so should your cuts. The good folks from Virtual Weber Bullet do a much better job explaining it than I could, so check out their video, it’s well worth your time.
I’ll post soon with what I did with the leftovers. Until then, thanks for looking!
To learn more about the history of the tri tip cut, cooking tips, or the santa maria-style grill they’re traditionally cooked on, check out this great article on AmazingRibs.com.