It took me a long time to get around to making tri-tip, but when I did, I opted to do it in a traditional Santa Maria fashion. I was struck with how tender and juicy this cut from the bottom sirloin was when cooked right, but at the same time, it lacked the substantial beefiness that is the hallmark of my favorites cuts like skirt steak and short ribs. So in an attempt to get more flavor into this great roast for grilling, I devised this excellent marinated tri-tip
It's the immense amount of intramuscular fat that gives my choice cuts their intense beefiness—which is what I want to taste if I'm making the decision to indulge in some fine red meat. The problem with trip-tip is that while it can have some good intermuscular fat around the outside, like the roast above had, there's little fat marbled in the meat itself.
So to enhance this tri-tip's flavor, I turned to a marinade made up of ingredient that tend to accentuate and complement beef. This started with a base of olive oil, salt, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. It's the glutamates in those last two that add noticeable savory depth. To that I mixed in lemon juice for brightness, dark brown sugar to balance some of the saltiness, and additional seasonings by way of black pepper, chili powder, and scallions.
Once I had the marinade done to my liking, I placed the tri-tip in a large resealable bag and poured in the sauce. Because of the high acid content from the lemon juice and due to the fact that a marinade won't penetrate much beyond the surface of the meat anyway, I only marinated this one for a relatively short time—4 hours, but you can push that up to 8 if you'd like.
The cooking method I used for the Santa Maria tri-tip produced stellar results, so I didn't see any reason to change things up in this department at all. I started the roast over indirect heat with a chunk of oak wood placed directly on the coals. I then covered the grill, with the top vent placed over the tri-tip to force smoked over it, and let the meat cook until it reached 125°F in the center—which was 10°F shy of my final target of 135°F for medium-rare.
When it was done, it looked like this—a bit browned, but not yet well seared.
To get that more intensely concentrated flavor of a sear, I moved the tri-tip to be positioned directly over the coals and cooked it until it was deeply browned all over. In the time it took to accomplish this, the beef also came up to my desired 135°F target.
I let the roast rest for 10 minutes on a cutting board and then sliced it into thin strips against the grain. Just as with my previous tri-tip, this one oozed juice. Even with a lot of escaping liquid, the beef was still incredibly moist. What this tri-tip had the other didn't was an intensely flavored crust that brought a much needed richness to the beef overall. That outside was salty and complex—it didn't taste like any one ingredient in particular, but like an enhancement to the natural beefiness, which is exactly what I wanted. While I thought the Santa Maria-style tri-tip brought a refreshing lightness to beef, for my moneys worth, I want to be eating tri-tips more like this one.
- Yield 6 servings
- Prep 10 Minutes
- Inactive 4 Hours
- Cook 35 Minutes
- Total 4 Hours 45 Minutes
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 scallions, finely chopped
- 1 whole tri-tip roast (about 2 1/2 pounds)
- 1 medium chunk of oak wood
- Whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, brown sugar, soy sauce, salt, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, garlic, chili powder, and scallions in a small bowl.
- Place trip-tip in a large resealable bag and pour in marinade. Seal bag, removing as much air as possible. Place in refrigerator and marinate 4-8 hours.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Place wood chunk directly on coals and set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Remove beef from marinade and place on cool side of grill, cover, and cook, turning and flipping occasionally until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the tri-tip registers between 115 to 120°F on an instant read thermometer, 20 to 30 minutes.
- Move beef to hot side of grill. Cook, flipping regularly until well seared and center of tri-tip registers between 120 to 125°F on an instant read thermometer, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice thinly and serve immediately.
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Chris Looks great, Josh. I haven't been able to do much tri-tip ever since Costco realized Knoxville was East of the Mississippi and quit carrying here. Can you tell I carry a grudge? lol
Kevin Awesome post and recipe Josh! Hard to find tri tip here in Central Florida, but the marinade here is something to try on other large cuts of meat for sure!
David Somerville Great grill session, Josh!
I included a link to this recipe from my article on tri tip marinades. (http://www.qualitygrillparts.com/tri-tip-marinade-three-awesome-steak-marinade-recipes/)
Jo Kennedy Hey. .. I'm from Knoxville also and after spending some time traveling in the West I really missed tritip BUT there's a market in Oak Ridge that carries it. AND, we're in SW FLORIDA now and Publix has tritip. Using this recipe right now! !!
Romey Aksland Delicious! I have used this recipe a couple of times and it is perfect!
JasonSmith Wow great recipe,I tried it on my spirit sp 320 grill result was amazingly delicious.
Roye This recipe looks fantastic. I will definitely try it!
Mark AMAZING! Used this on some tri tip strip steak cooked over oak charcoal...everyone loved it! Only deviated with salt did not add any at all (felt that soy sauce covered that). Thanks for this recipe was a crowd pleaser.
Mike I mixed up this marinade, and let to try tips marinade in bags overnight ( about 24 hours ). I put them on to smoke on a Traeger grill for about 4 1/2 hours. They came out great!
Steve Best tri-tip I have ever fixed. I cooked 7 tri-tips this way all at once. The were great !
Olivia Too dark and cold to use my grill outside....how can I use a grill pan on my stove and maybe finish it in the oven....any ideas?
Josh @Olivia For indoors, I'd roast the tri-tip in the oven at 325 degrees (or even lower for even better, but longer, result) until it reaches between 115 to 120 degrees, then turn on the broiler and broil until it's seared nicely all over.
Sandy I only have a gas grill so how long and what temp for cooking medium to well done? I'll have 2 trip-tips.
Damon On a sugar free diet so no brown sugar in mine! Best tri tip I ever had! Its a keeper!
Evan Sandy, this turned out perfect on my 3 gas burner. I did 15min each side at mid heat, then turned off middle burner, placed it there and did high heat 5min each side. It was the best tri tip I have had outside of Santa Maria.
Vince I've used this marinade twice so far. Once on a whole tri-tip & once on tri-tip steaks. It is great! I highly recommend this marinade for tri-tip, but I think any beef cut would benefit from it's sweet and salty (and umami) flavors. Definitely a go to marinade in my house! Thanks for sharing it! Vince
PS: I tossed in a little cumin (1/2 tsp) for a slightly earthy/smokey kick.
Kathy and Pete Awesome marinade tried first with tri tip on the gas grill, loved it! Second pass marinated boneless short ribs for 6 hours then cut up in cubes skewered with veggies for the gas grill as brochettes...even better! Best marinade, thanks for sharing!
Nicole This looks delicious! I do something similar, except I use maple syrup instead of brown sugar. I also like to add a little bit of bourbon as well!
Bryan I've made variations of this recipe for friends and family five times, and every single time it's come out delicious. I've made it on the grill as well as in a broiler, and while the grill is best the broiler works well too. For short ribs, you can substitute vinegary (old) red wine for the lemon juice if you want a richer marinade flavor, but I like it with the lemon juice for tri-tip.
Patti We absolutely love this marinade. Because I'm lazy, I just mix everything in a big seal-a-meal bag and vacuum seal it.
Bryan Visnoski This recipe produces some A1 grade Santa Maria style tri-tip. Been my go to recipe for years!