Smoked Tri Tip

January 14, 2019

Smoked Tri Tip is so flavorful, juicy, and when cooked correctly, incredibly tender and delicious. I’ll teach you how to smoke tri tip like a pro!

smoked tri tip recipe

What is a tri tip?

Tri tip is a triangle shaped beef roast that comes from the lower part of the sirloin. Most tri-tips are purchased trimmed from the butcher and weigh 2-3 pounds. Untrimmed, a tri tip will have a large fat cap and layer of silver skin and can weigh nearly 5 pounds. It is most popular in Western America, but it is becoming much more available across the US.

how to smoke tri tip

How to Smoke Tri Tip

There are three steps to mastering the perfect smoked tri tip. First is seasoning, second is the smoking step and third is the searing step.

Step one: seasoning. Whenever I am cooking a cut for the first time, I like to keep it simple with salt, black pepper, and garlic powder sprinkled liberally on all sides. Once I’ve tried it that way, I get experimental with my seasoning. If you like trying pre-made rubs, I recommend using my Signature Beef Seasoning. If you’d rather make something from scratch, my Steak Seasoning or Montreal Seasoning recipes would both be delicious!

Step two: smoking. You can smoke a tri tip on any kind of smoker you have available, however, you need to be able to maintain a pretty solid 225 degrees F for the second step of the process. During this stage, the tri tip will slowly raise in temperature creating an even cook from edge to edge and help with retaining moisture inside of your meat.

Step three: Searing. The final step is a high heat sear to lock in all of those juices and get a gorgeous crust on the exterior of the meat. I like to do this step in a really hot cast iron pan with some sizzling butter, but you can also sear your smoked tri tip on a gas grill to get some lovely grill marks on the exterior. If you want to do your tri tip from start to finish in a cast iron skillet, check out THIS RECIPE.

how long to smoke tri tip

How Long to Smoke Tri Tip

Plan up to 2 hours for smoking a trip tip, plus an additional 5-6 minutes for searing and 15 minutes of rest time for a medium rare steak. The times will vary slightly based on the doneness you’re trying to achieve in the center of your meat. I recommend using an internal thermometer to check the temperature of your meat throughout the cooking process. It is the only fail-proof way to perfectly cooked steaks. I recommend investing in a thermometer that will last, like the Thermapen MK4. I’ve had mine for years and take it with me everywhere.

I follow the guide below for smoking and then searing meat to ensure I end up with it perfectly cooked in the middle:

  1. For the first smoking step, pull off your tri tip at the following temperature:Rare: 120 degrees F
    Medium Rare: 127 degrees F
    Medium: 133 degrees F
    Medium Well: 140 degrees F
    Well Done: 150 degrees F
  2. For the second searing step, pull off your tri tip at the following temperature:Rare: 125 degrees F
    Medium Rare: 135 degrees F
    Medium: 145 degrees F
    Medium Well: 155 degrees F
    Well Done: 160 degrees F

Once your steak reaches your desired temperature during the searing phase, remove it to a cutting board and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Smoked Tri Tip Recipe

smoked tri tip
Print Recipe
5 from 11 votes

Smoked Tri Tip

Smoked tri tip is a delicious and tender cut of beef. 
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time2 hrs
Resting Time15 mins
Total Time1 hr 35 mins
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Smoked Tri Tip
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 81kcal
Author: Susie Bulloch (


  • 1 2-3 pound tri tip roast fat cap and silverskin removed (may be done already by your butcher)
  • 2 Tablespoons Beef Seasoning or equal parts salt, pepper, and garlic powder
  • 3 Tablespoons salted butter
  • 1 sprig rosemary


  • Preheat your smoker to 225 degrees F. I like to use a strong wood like oak or hickory.
  • Season the tri tip on all sides and place in the smoker. Close the lid and smoke until the internal temperature reads 120 degrees F for a rare roast, 127 for a medium rare roast, 133 for a medium roast, 140 for a medium well roast, or 150 for a well done roast.
  • When your tri tip is near the correct internal temperature, preheat a cast iron skillet over high heat. Remove your tri tip from the smoker.
  • Put 2-3 tablespoons of butter into the cast iron skillet and let it melt. Drop in the sprig of rosemary and then place the tri tip into the sizzling butter. Sear the tri tip for 2-3 minutes per side, spooning the butter and rosemary over the steak as it cooks.
  • Pull your roast out of the pan and move onto a cutting board. Allow the roast to rest for 15 minutes before slicing against the grain and serving. The grain changes in a tri tip, so I always start at the smallest point end and angle my knife as needed to keep my slices going against the grain.



Calories: 81kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 22mg | Sodium: 75mg | Potassium: 13mg | Vitamin A: 315IU | Vitamin C: 0.2mg | Calcium: 22mg | Iron: 0.7mg
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48 thoughts on “Smoked Tri Tip

        1. Technically, 1 kcal = 1,000 calories = 1 Calorie. The unit with a capital C is the one most people associate with food. Lower case calorie is the same measurement, but used more in chemistry.

  1. I am new at searing and I am curious about using butter for searing. Doesn’t it have a low burn temperature as opposed to other oils?

    1. Butter sears pretty well. The trick is to heat the pan first and add the butter right before you’re ready to sear!

    1. It’ll be better if you remove it. Just take a knife and cut a little flap of the silver skin. Pull it tight and run the knife underneath until you get it all off!

    2. Gator, the silver skin may be tough to work with, if wet. Personally, I start cutting at the tip of the roast, once the skin is peeled back to the curve (30%) grab a dry rag or personally. a hand full of paper towels. Grip the loose skin with towel in one hand, and pull it back while holding the exposed meat down with other. ✋
      Sort of like pull starting a weed eater (or rape) it’s amazing how easy you can pull tue majority of the skin off with a good grip.
      You’re welcome.

  2. I have not smoked before do I just put the wood in the smoker and let the grill heat up and make sure it stays at right temperature?

  3. Oh my GOODNESS!!!!!! Just did this as my first cook on a new Traeger……juicy,tender and oh so DELICIOUS!!! Definitely a great recipe!

  4. Hi! I just got a Masterbuilt electric smoker. Do you recommend adding water to the water pan for this recipe? For future reference – how can I tell which recipes I should add water to? Thank you!

    1. I could go either way on that one. Adding water will help stabilize the temps a little bit and the extra humidity will help the smoky flavor adhere to the meat. To be honest, with or without water I’ve never noticed a big difference in flavor. Since the smoker is new to you you’ll have to do some experimenting to figure out exactly how you like it! Add water to the water pan for the first couple cooks, then do one without and see if you find a difference.

    2. I also have a Masterbuilt electric smoker. The advantage to using the water pan is that it keeps the humidity high in the smoker. Preventing the meat from drying out when you smoke it for a long period of time. With the water pan the meat will get more tender the longer you cook it. Without the pan the meat will dry out and get tougher.

  5. I made the mistake of getting my tri-tip at the grocery store. It was a “choice” cut and didn’t have the necessary marbling so it was tough. Get your meat from your butcher and specify “prime”.

    1. I find quality cuts at the grocery store all the time! You’re pretty much guaranteed one if you go to a butcher though.

  6. Followed this recipe exactly & made what my Wife & I agreed was ” Best Tri Tip we had ever had !!! ) Thank you

  7. Used McCormick Cowboy Rub with hickory wood for smoking. 2hrs was the perfect time for medium well, and seared on the grill after. Amazing!

  8. Can’t wait to try this!!!
    What did you mix in with your salted butter for searing? your video shows some sort of mixed butter in a small bowl.

  9. Thanks for the advice. I followed the recipe to medium with butter sear on my cast iron oven grill. I am positive this is the best meat i have ever cooked! No BS!

  10. The hardest part of this recipe is explaining what a tri-tip is to my fellow Texans. Most have never heard of this lol.

    Came out perfect! However proper cutting is essential.

  11. help please.. i’m smoking TWO Tri-Tips.. each 2.5 pounds each in the same smoker pit.

    do i smoke for 30 minutes per pound of ONE of them ? or do i budget 30 minutes per pound for 5 pounds.. ??? help please


  12. Great plan that works. My campfire chef is amazing !!!
    This is so easy that I don’t think you could mess it up.

  13. Did it just like the recipe & everyone I cook this for swears it’s the best Tri Tip ever !!! Thank you for the recipe .

  14. We are doing this today on my Pit Boss. Can’t wait!
    Btw, you are doing awesome on that new BBQ show Flay vs Syman! At this point in the show, you are in the finals. We are pulling for you!!

  15. I’ve made tri tip several ways over the years, mostly on the rotisserie, but I wanted to try it on my Smoke Hollow Smoker.

    I used my own rub and left what little fat cap was on (the rest was trimmed by our butcher). I used a combo of oak and alder, since I didn’t have much oak left. I pulled it early, as directed, and then seared it with butter in my trust stainless steel pan (my cast iron ones were too small). It ended up resting for more like 45 minutes before slicing. I browned leftover baby potatoes in the butter sauce after the tri tip was done.

    Wow. Delicious.

    It was PERFECT medium rare and had a fantastic flavor. It wasn’t too smoky and was super juicy and tender. I can’t wait to have tri tip sammies tomorrow 😉

    Thank you!
    (PS I didn’t realize you were “Susie on Michael Symon’s Team” until after I started working on the recipe. Thank you for showing such determination and pure skill on the BBQ challenge show. They all underestimated you, but I had a feeling you were going to knock it out of the park! Congrats on being a finalist and good luck with whatever your next challenge is :))

  16. stupid question. I was wondering…..usually when smoking tri tip you see the fat portion down, but I have always cooked meats fat side up when roasting; should tri tip be up or down?

  17. Really yummy tri tip! I used the big green egg with hickory chips. Didn’t have an easy time controlling my temps because my thermometer broke but even with a quick smoke it still worked! My meat was prime and I used Montreal steak spice as my rub. I didn’t have rosemary so I chopped some garlic to throw in the cast iron with the butter and it was the bomb! I served it with au jus on a fresh roll and sautéed red onion ! Best

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