Santa Maria Tri-Tip

It’s a California original.

Now if you’re like me and you get a well marbled 3-5 pound slab of meat, you would automatically fire up the smoker, but that would be the wrong move with this marvelous cut of beef. The Tri-Tip roast aka Bottom Sirloin Roast or Triangle Roast, is a cut that comes from the sirloin primal of beef. You may have heard of a Santa Maria Tri-Tip. This comes from the style of BBQ that originated in the Santa Maria Valley in California. The Tri-Tip is cooked over an oak fire traditionally. For me, this is not all that different from the way I grew up watching my dad cook a brisket. Dad would build a fire on the ground outside of a 55 gallon drum BBQ pit my Grandpa made. He would shovel coals in and cook a brisket over direct heat with just salt and pepper for seasoning. He always produces a brisket to this day that is tender and never over run with smoke. This is however – a balancing act. Add too many coals…it burns. Not enough…it undercooks. Pretty simple.

Now if you are lucky enough, you have a Santa Maria style grill that specifically addresses this issue as it has the ability to raise and lower the cooking surface to adjust the heat. This simple contraption makes life a lot easier. And to note, you can buy this particular style of grill any number of places. Me personally, I made mine out of an old feed bunk, square tubing, sucker rod, and some expanded metal.

Cooking a Tri-Tip is not as hard as it seems. At first you may be intimidated cooking a 3-5 pound hunk of meat similar to a steak, but its nothing to be intimidated by. You can actually cook it to a medium/medium rare in 45 minutes to an hour.

Santa Maria Grill (feed bunk, square tubing, expanded metal and some sucker rod)

There are a few simple things you will need to have a successful run at it.

  • First, the grade of meat and marbling, as with all cooking, are important. Get prime when you can. You will be rewarded.
  • Second, get some good quality lump charcoal or wood of your choice.
  • Third, have a grill that you can raise and lower the cooking surface.

Tri-Tip is quickly becoming one of my favorite cuts of meat. I hope you enjoy cooking it as much as I did.

Santa Maria Tri-Tip


  • 1 tri-tip roast 3-5 lb PRIME GRADE..You won't regret it.
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup black pepper "Butcher Ground" or very coarse ground.
  • 2 tbsp granulated garlic
  • 2 tbsp dried minced onion
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper


  • Start your fire (wood or lump charcoal).
  • Add all spices in ingredient list to a ziplock – seal and shake to mix into a rub.
  • Place the Tri-Tip on a sheet pan. Take approximately 1/3 of the rub mixture and cover the beef generously on all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and let it come to room temperature. I usually let it sit covered on the counter for 15-20 minutes.
  • When the coals are ready, adjust the height of the cooking surface on the grill so you can hold your hand above it about 3-4 seconds before you have to pull away.
  • Place Tri-Tip on the grill. Flip it about every 5 minutes. Use common sense. If it is starting to burn, flip it or raise the grate. Think of it as grilling a giant steak. After 25 minutes take an internal temp. Pull it off the grill at 125 degree internal temperature. Cover it with foil. Let the meat rest for 15 minutes. The carry over cooking will hit that 130-135 degree mark.
  • When ready to serve, slice across the grain.


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