Fire up the Traeger and let's get cooking. We are taking this versatile and delicious cut of beef to our pellet smoker for the best smoked tri tip recipe you have ever tasted. I have the temps and cook time you need for a great smoked tri-tip recipe this weekend.
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What is a Tri Tip?
A tri tip roast comes from the bottom sirloin of cattle. This unique cut has a triangle shape with muscle fibers running in two different directions. This roast has some marbling and may have some of the fat cap left on when you find it in your local grocery store.
Tri tip is also known as Santa Maria Steak or California Cut. The triangle steak became popular on the West Coast and has slowly spread across the country. For more on the Santa Maria method, read below.
Best Rubs and Spices for Tri Tip
This is a versatile cut of meat and go several directions when it comes to flavor. When I want a nice slow cooked medium-rare tri tip steak, I grab a simple spice blend or mix my own.
Favorite Basic Spices:
- Black Pepper
- Garlic Powder or Granulated Garlic
- Onion Powder
- Smoked Paprika
- Kosher Salt
Tasty Variations to Try:
- Cayenne Pepper- add a pinch when you're feeling spicy
- Brown Sugar- add 2 tablespoons when you're feeling sweet
- Ground Mustard- just for fun. Try it out. See how you like it.
Great Beef Rubs:
- Traeger Beef Rub- this is my son't favorite and he puts this on everything
- Traeger Rub- a great all around seasoning for any protein that hits the pellet smoker
Recommended Supplies and Tools
How to Prepare Meat For The Smoker
Start by trimming off any silver skin or excess fat that may have been left on by the butcher. When it comes to preparing beef, I am a big believer in dry brining. A dry brine is the best way to get flavor deep below the surface of the roast.
Season the beef very well on both sides. Lay the Tri Tip on a sheet pan lined with a rack and leave in the refrigerator, uncovered, for 4-24 hours. This method really allows the salt from your rub penetrate deep into the meat.
When Will My Tri Tip Be Ready
Your delicious and beautiful tri-tip roast will be ready to pull off the smoker when the internal temperature of the meat reaches 130-145F depending on how you like it.
- 120F-125F Rare
- 125F-130F Medium Rare
- 135F Medium
- 140F Medium+
When your smoked tri tip reaches the desired internal temp, pulpit off to a plate or cutting board. Cover it with foil and let it rest for 20 minutes before slicing. The roast will be evenly cooked all of the way through and it needs a good rest to keep the juices inside.
How to Cut a Tri Tip Roast
How you cut the tri tip is an important detail for a tender slice of beef. The grain of the meat runs in two different direction and meats together at the point.
Check out the photo above as a guide for how to slice your tri-tip steak.
Start at the triangle tip, making ½" slices all of the way down until the last 2 ½"-3" of the roast. Then turn the beef, and slice in the other direction. Pay attention to which way the grain of the beef is running as you move towards the wider end.
How To Finish The Smoked Tri Tip
We have more shot at infusing some great flavor into our smoked tri tip. First, you can add a couple tablespoons of butter or seasoned cowboy butter to the top of the tri tip when you cover it with foil. This lean cut of beef can use the fat from the butter to carry flavor and moisture through the roast.
My second go-to is Jack Daniels sauce. This is the number one requested recipe friends and family expect me to make when they come over for dinner. The deep flavor of Jack Daniels, brown sugar, and soy sauce make this a flavorful power house!
More Traeger Smoker Recipes
Smoked Tri Tip Recipe Card
Easy Smoked Tri Tip Recipe
- 1 Traeger Grill or any pellet smoker
- 2-3 pound Tri Tip Roast
- 2 tablespoon Beef Rub
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil any neutral flavored oil
- Preheat Traeger Grill to 225F. After you set the temperature, close the lid and let it heat for 15 minutes.
- Prepare the tri tip by trimming any fat or silver skin left. Drizzle the roast on both sides with vegetable oil. Season the beef on both sides with the rub.
- After the pellet grill has preheated for 15 minutes, set it directly on the grill grates and close the lid.
- Smoke the tri tip for approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 135F for a Medium beef.
- Remove the tri-tip from the pellet grill and cover with foil. Allow it to rest for 15 minutes before slicing. This is important.
- Slice and serve. Be sure to follow slicing guidelines.
Other Popular Cooking Methods for Tri Tip
Santa Maria- This method is most popular for a charcoal grill. Start off HOT at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for about 5 minutes to develop a nice crust. The roast is moved to the "cooler" side of the grill and finishes there. My other Traeger Tri tip Recipe follows this method.
Reverse Sear- basically the opposite of the Santa Maria method. Cook tri-tip at a lower temperature around 225 for 60 minutes. Then finish it by hitting it with a quick sear at 450F to build a crust.
Brisket Style- just like it sounds, this method takes about 5 hours. The roast is spiced, smoked, wrapped, and rested just like a brisket- cooked to an internal temperature of 200F. Not my personal favorite, but if you love brisket, this smaller cut is a great option.
Grilled- When cooking tri tip on a gas grill, this is the most simple and straight forward cooking process.