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

Smoked Tri Tip

Smoked tri tip is a delicious and tender cut of beef. 
5 from 23 votes
Prep Time : 5 mins
Cook Time : 2 hrs
Resting Time : 15 mins
Total Time : 1 hr 35 mins
Servings : 4 people
Calories : 81kcal

Video

Ingredients
 

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.

Nutrition

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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99 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.

      1. I also have a Masterbuilt electric. I always use water in the pan, but I’m in a dry climate. I feel like it helps the smoke adhere to the meat.

    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

    thanks!!!!

  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

    1. Pretty straight-forward recipe with excellent flavor! Be sure to put the butter in the cast iron just seconds before starting your sear and you should avoid burning the butter before the tri-tip is to temp. Also, that sear goes quick when your pan is super hot, so don’t walk away for the sear. It’s easy to forget and even a minute or two too long could burn that delicious meat you’ve been dying to taste.

    1. it may sound weird but when done before searing coat with mayo you will not taste that but makes a great finish crust. Butter always burns for me.

  18. Made this tonight and what a treat. We started with larger slices and then sliced the leftovers super thin for sliders. I wish I could share a picture. It was a perfect medium-rare and delicious.

  19. Great recipe. I have a Broil King Keg smoker and both times I tried this recipe my 2 lb. Tri Tip hit 150 degrees in only about 1 hour and 10 minutes. I kept temp of smoker a little under 225. It was great! Every smoker is different so watch your meat thermometer. Thanks for the great recipe. My first time eating Tri Tip. Also freezes well and makes great sandwiches later.

  20. I used your Coffee Rub on my tri tip and it worked so well together. I followed the recipe (and I also dry salt brined the meat over night beforehand), and it turned out fantastic!

  21. I made this yesterday following your recipe using salt, pepper and garlic powder. I was really skeptical when I took the meat. It was so raw looking on the outside. Wow, just wow! It was so flavorful and and we immediately decided that this was THE way to cook a tri tip from now one. I also made the mac and cheese from your site. Your rubs are outstanding also. You have become my go-to for learning to smoke. Thank you!

  22. My Brother in-law gave me this big old Smoke Hollow Smoker, Tomorrow night I give her a shot, 4 Tri-tips about 2.5 to 3.5 pounds apiece. and then smoking a Corn Beef for Saint Patties Day. I am going to follow your directions for the Tri-Tips, but do you have a recommendations for smoking the corn Beef.

  23. I followed the directions to the letter. At 135 internal temp I pulled it from the smoker. Searing it on the skillet smoked up the kitchen but well worth it. The taste was incredible. I will be repeating this again and again.

    1. Daniel, do you have a outdoor gas grill? I do high-heat sears out on that, in the skillet, and then splatters and smoke just don’t matter.

  24. That was the best tri-tip my wife and I have ever had. I did it on my Weber so maintaining the temp was a little harder. Definitely doable though. Highly recommend this guide!

  25. First time tri – tip. Followed your recipe
    It was delicious smoked on my gmg seared On the grill it let it rest
    Easy quick delicious will make it again

  26. Do you marinate this first? I’m planning on doing my first trip-tip tomorrow and using this recipe as recommended in one of my groups. A lot of people have mentioned a marinade before cooking.

      1. I did my own thing with the seasoning, but followed your instructions to a T. Smoked that bad boy on the Traeger and DAAAAAANG it was SO GOOD! Thank you!!

  27. I did this recipe as the first one of from Susie and it turned out excellent and every since when either cooking or smoking I look up Hey Grill Hey first for a recipe and it always turns out perfect . Thank you so much for all your delicious recipes!!!!

  28. The only thing I could ask or wonder about is why it says 2 hours cook time but it says 1 hour and 35 minutes??

  29. I’ve used your Tri tip recipe 6 or 7 times & they all came out great. I usually buy the 2 pack Tri tip at Costco. I’ll usually smoke both. 1 for French dip, Fajitas, steak & potatoes & the other one for smoked chili, shredded for tacos. The smoked chili is also great for nachos.
    All of your recipes are great. Thanks!

  30. Great Recipe turns out perfect every time. I always use the left over tri-tip to make beef tacos. Just a little bit of McCormick taco seasoning, slice the tip super thin then slice it one or twice lengthwise. I don’t need the extra calories from eating just two or three tacos but damn it is hard to stop, they are so delicious

  31. I smoked 6 3 lbs tri tips on a traeger ended up pulling them at 130 degrees IT. Problem is I have 2 hrs until guests arrive. Should I wrap them in foil place in a cooler and seat them before the feast? Any suggestions?

  32. I put my tri tip on the grill to early for a dinner party tonight. it will be ready 2 hours early. Anyone have any thoughts on what to do?

  33. Great recipe especially doing the pan sear at the end. I’ve been doing real barbecue/smoking for over twenty years and this is a good follow up method if you smoke it right. The silver skin comments refer to ribs and have nothing to di with tri tip.

  34. So juicy and delicious! I did not pan sear, I just cranked up the temp in my smoker to 375, and it did the job for me. Your seasoning was perfect as well!

  35. OMG, as a newbie with a WSM 14.5 inch, this was so fast, easy, and FANTASTIC! I used my own rub (a few more herbs), and I have to say the sear at the end really made it shine. I can’t wait to try more of your recipes!!!!

  36. I made this tonight and OMG it was so amazing! The entire family loved it! I used your steak rub and the butter rosemary sear at the end. PERFECT!

  37. This is my go-to tri tip smoker recipe. I used it about a month ago and accidentally overcooked it to medium well (I had planned to take it off sooner) and it was still incredible. Tender and juicy. I’m making it again tonight. I really enjoy all of your smoker recipes – including your awesome brisket one. Thank you so much for sharing them!

  38. Question: I would like to smoke a 2 lb Tri Tip with red oak using my Brinkman Smoke N Grill. Do I use the water pan? Also, I have seen recipes that suggest cooking times ranging from 45 minutes to 2 hours to cook a 2 lb Tri Tip roast. Approximately how much cooking time will I need? Thanks for your reply.

    1. I don’t use water pans in my cookers, but that is totally up to you. Cook time depends on the temperature you’re cooking at and I’d recommend using the timing in this recipe.

  39. Sorry, I am kind of a noob to smoking/searing. I have seen other people talk about letting it rest before the searing step. It should go straight from smoker to searing, right? The reason I ask is because the recipe says to sear 2-3 minutes, but then to sear until internal temp reaches whatever stage you like. Should I care about the IT after it already reached IT on the smoker, or just focus more on the 2-3 minutes per side? Thanks!! Can’t wait to try it!

      1. Omg I love this!!! I pulled them off smoke at 140 and seared to 145. Not how I have would have preferred the cook. I have to cater to my mother’s taste, who has Alzheimer’s & dementia. She wanted it more done! Ths came out amazing, though. First time ever smoking tri-tip, I consider it a success! Love your page big time!

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