Smoked Tri Tip is a flavorful and juicy steak that will soon become one of your favorites. When cooked correctly, it’s incredibly tender and completely delicious. In today’s post I’ll teach you how to smoke tri tip like a pro!
What is 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 around 2-3 pounds. Untrimmed, a tri tip will have a large fat cap and layer of silver skin and can weigh nearly 5 pounds.
Tri tip is most popular in Western America, with possible origin ties to California, but it is becoming much more available (and popular!) across the rest of the United States.
Smoked Tri Tip
Smoked tri tip is an incredible way to prepare the steak, with good smoke flavor infused in a well-seasoned, perfectly cooked cut of meat. Feel free to use this recipe as a guide, and add your own favorite seasonings or sauces as you see fit. BBQ is all about making food that tastes good, so by all means, play around with this smoked tri tip a bit.
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. Do not skip any of these, as they are all key to making the most flavorful and juicy tri tip you’ll ever have.
How to Season Tri Tip
Whenever I am cooking a cut of meat for the first time, I like to keep my seasonings simple and pure. Kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, and garlic powder sprinkled liberally on all sides is a great starting point for this tri tip.
If you like your tri tip with a bit more oomph, you can’t go wrong with a more complex seasoning. My Signature Beef Seasoning was made to compliment all cuts of beef without overpowering the flavor. Best of all? It’s delivered straight to your door!
If you don’t have any Beef Seasoning on hand and you just can’t wait to make your tri tip, feel free to make something from scratch! My Steak Seasoning or Montreal Seasoning recipes would both be delicious!
How to Smoke Tri Tip
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. I made this steak on my Camp Chef SmokePro pellet smoker, and had great results.
During this stage, the tri tip will slowly raise in temperature creating an even cook from edge to edge and help retain moisture inside of your meat. You want to pull your meat off the smoker when the meat is within 5-10 degrees of your final target temperature (see the table below).
How to Sear Tri Tip
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 skillet 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’re up for trying something new, and you want to cook your tri tip from start to finish in a cast iron skillet, check out this recipe for Cast Iron Tri Tip Roast.
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: 115-120 degrees F
- Medium Rare: 125-130 degrees F
- *Medium: 135-140 degrees F
- Medium Well: 145-150 degrees F
- Well Done: 150-155 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.
*I do not recommend cooking steak past medium, as it is the most flavorful and juicy from medium rare to medium.
Best Tri Tip Recipes
Tri tip your jam? You’ve gotta try these other popular tri tip recipes from Hey Grill Hey. They’re all super juicy and bursting with good, beefy flavor.
- Smoked Coffee Rub Tri Tip. Coffee and beef come together for a rich and buttery tri tip experience.
- Tri Tip Cooked Like a Brisket. Don’t knock this one till you’ve tried it!
- Grilled Tri Tip. A quick and easy dinner option your whole family will enjoy.
Smoked Tri Tip Recipe
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Need some rubs and sauces to go with this recipe? Patio Provisions sells Hey Grill Hey Signature products for a great price. Best of all? They’re delivered straight to your door!
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 the smoker. Preheat your smoker to 225 degrees F. I like to use a strong wood like oak or hickory.
- Season the meat. Season the tri tip on all sides with the Beef Seasoning or equal parts salt, pepper, or garlic powder. Lightly press the seasoning into the meat.
- Place in the tri tip directly on the grill grates of your smoker. Close the lid and smoke until the internal temperature is within 5-10 degrees of your target final temperature (115 degrees F for a rare roast, 125 for a medium rare roast, 135 for a medium roast, 145 for a medium well roast, or 150 for a well done roast).
- Preheat a cast iron skillet for searing. 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.
- Sear the tri tip. 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.
- Rest, slice, and serve. 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.