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!
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
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
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:
- 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
- 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
- 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.