BBQ FAQ: Tri-Tip

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[May 23, 2001: This section of the BBQ FAQ was separated from the previous section and reorganized.]

[Does anybody know how to grill Santa Maria style 'Tri-Tips'?]

Bill Wight--

Santa Maria Style Tri-Tip

The guy who owns the Red Oak BBQ-B-Q Company in Santa Fe Springs, California was grilling this meat as a demonstration at the 1997 California BBQ Championships, and he told me how to do it.

Take a 2-3 lb. tri-tip roast and trim off the fat. Cut the meat into chunks the size of a small woman's fist and rub with a mixture of salt, black pepper and garlic powder, in a 40:40:20 ratio. Let the meat sit in the refrigerator, in a plastic bag, for at least 4 hours.

He grilled the meat over medium-hot mesquite coals. He was turning the chunks of meat constantly, moving them all around the grill. He pulled them off when the inside was medium-rare and the outside was well-done. Grilling time was about 20 minutes. This is a pretty tender piece of meat, so it doesn't need long cooking. He chopped the chunks into bite-sized pieces and served it covered with salsa fresca. Fresh salsa is a must - don't use the bottled stuff. Make your own, or you can usually buy it in the deli section of most supermarkets, at least out West.

Bill's Salsa Fresca

  • 1 pound ripe red tomatoes
  • 1/2 pound tomatillos or green tomatoes
  • 3 large sweet banana peppers seeded
  • 2 medium Hungarian wax peppers seeded
  • 1/4 bunch cilantro
  • 1/2 medium white or yellow onion
  • Jalapeno or Serrano pepper seeded (adjust number for desired heat level)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
  • juice of 1 lime

By hand or in a food processor or salsa maker, chop everything into 1/4 to 1/8-inch pieces. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix in lime juice and salt to taste.

Paul Broeker (a Santa Maria resident and Tri-Tip eater) -

Well that sounds wonderful (the above post) but I wonder why he cuts the meat into chunks like that? I imagine it is to reduce the cooking time. Here in Santa Maria we use the whole tri-tip. Just remove the fat and put the rub on it like you say, then grill the whole thing. Sear each side, then bring it up a ways off the flame. Cook each side about 20 minutes and you are done. None of this turning and shifting the meat is really necessary.

See this site for how to do Santa Maria tri-tip in the traditional style:


Rancherus Grilled Tri-Tip

In Santa Maria along the Central Coast of California, a tradition was started of barbecuing a marinated beef tri-tip and serving it with pinto beans, sourdough bread and salsa. The two marinades featured here offer two distinctively different flavors. Either is easy to prepare and is an excellent complement to the robust flavor of the beef tri-tip.

2 whole beef tri-tips, about 2 lbs. each CuminUnLime Marinade or Jalapeno Marinade salt and pepper to taste Remove all fat and connective tissue from the tri-tips. Prepare marinade of choice. Place tri-tips in non-reactive baking dish, such as glass or enamel; pour in marinade and cover. Refrigerate at least 6 hours, but no longer than 24 hours. Remove tri-tips from marinade and grill over medium-hot coals, turning occasionally, about 35 minutes for rare. Brush with oil frequently while grilling. To serve, cut across the grain into thin slices and season to taste. Makes 12 servings.

CuminUnLime Marinade

  • 1 1/4 cup beef broth
  • 2/3 cup lime juice
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup cumin ground
  • 3 tablespoons coriander ground
  • 5 cloves garlic minced

Mix all ingredients together in a non-reactive bowl. Makes about 2 1/4 cups.

Jalapeno Marinade

  • 1 1/2 cups white wine
  • 8 ounces jalapeno chiles seeded
  • 3 tablespoons dried oregano leaves
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

Place 1/2 cup wine, chiles, oregano and 2 tbs. oil in blender or food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process until finely minced. Stir in remaining oil and wine. Makes about 2 1/4 cups.

Grilled Tri-Tip, Lompoc-Style

  • 4 pounds beef tri-tip roast
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 medium lemon juiced
  • 3 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

Combine oil, Worcestershire, soy, lemon juice, garlic and mustard. Marinate meat in sauce in refrigerator for 24 hours, turning several times. Remove from refrigerator 2 hours before grilling. Grill over medium heat about 15 to 20 minutes on each side, brushing frequently with marinade.

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