Tri-tip steak is a versatile beef cut best cooked by grilling, broiling, and skillet-cooking. It is lean, tender, full of flavor, and a bargain compared to other steaks at the meat counter. We'll walk you through each of the best ways to cook tri-tip steak, sharing some of our best tri-tip steak recipes along the way.

By Sheena Chihak and Katlyn Moncada
Updated November 17, 2020
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Craving a juicy steak but don't want to spend a long time waiting for it to cook? Cook a tri-tip cut of beef! The tri-tip steak is best cooked using fast-cooking methods, meaning less time in the kitchen and more time for eating. This particular cut comes from the bottom sirloin, which also makes a delicious roast. So if you're looking for a low and slow way to cook tri-tip, you'll want to use a tri-tip roast instead. To learn how to cook tri-tip steak, we've got three simple methods to get your dinner ready stat.

How to Grill Tri-Tip Steaks

The high heat from the grill is perfect for cooking tri-tip steaks. Because tri-tip steaks are leaner than most cuts, consider marinating them for 2 to 3 hours to keep them moist during grilling. Use the following steps for grilling tri-tip steaks.

  • If marinating, remove the steaks from the marinade and discard the marinade. Or season plain steaks as desired with a spice rub, herb blend, or salt and ground black pepper. Use the tri-tip rub from this roast recipe as inspiration. Measure the thickness of the steaks with a ruler.

Related: Try the tri-tip steak marinade in our Tri-Tips Steaks with Texas Toast recipe.

  • For a charcoal grill or gas grill, grill steaks, covered, over medium heat to desired doneness (guidelines below), turning once halfway through grilling.
  • Use an instant-read thermometer ($15, Target) to test for doneness. Transfer the steaks to a plate, tent with foil, and let stand 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

How Long to Grill Tri-Tip Steak

Here's why you measured your steak earlier, your grilling time depends on the thickness of your steak.

  • ¾-inch thick steaks: 9 to 11 minutes for medium rare (145°F) or 11 to 13 minutes for medium (160°F).
  • 1-inch thick steaks: 13 to 15 minutes for medium rare (145°F) or 15 to 17 minutes for medium (160°F).

How to Broil Tri-Tip Steaks

When it comes to cooking tri-tip in the oven, opt for broiling the meat instead of baking to keep with the fast-cooking methods that make tri-tip recipes their most delicious. As with grilling, marinating 2 to 3 hours will help to keep the steaks tender and moist, but is not essential. Follow these steps for broiling tri-tip steak.

  • If marinating, remove the steaks from the marinade and discard the marinade. Or, season plain steaks as desired with a spice rub, herb blend, or salt and pepper. Measure the thickness of the steaks with a ruler.
  • Preheat the broiler. Place the steaks on the unheated rack of a broiler pan ($15, Bed Bath & Beyond). Broil 3 to 4 inches from the heat to your desired doneness, using the guidelines below as a guide for how long to cook tri-tip steaks in the oven.
  • Use an instant-read thermometer to test for doneness. Transfer the steaks to a plate, tent with foil, and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

How Long to Broil Tri-Tip Steaks

Broiling steaks takes 10 minutes or less, depending on their thickness.

  • ¾-inch thick steaks: 6 to 7 minutes for medium rare (145°F) or 8 to 9 minutes for medium (160°F).
  • 1-inch thick steaks: 9 to 10 minutes for medium rare (145°F) or 11 to 12 minutes for medium (160°F).
Credit: Andy Lyons
Try Our 30-Minute Pasta and Steak Recipe

How to Cook Tri-Tip Steaks in a Skillet

Perhaps the most convenient way to cook tri-tip steaks (or any steak, for that matter) is in a skillet. Here's how to cook tri-tip steak on the stove:

  • Select a heavy skillet such as a cast-iron skillet ($25, Target) that is a good fit for the number of steaks you are cooking. Too large skillets will cause pan juices to burn. Lightly coat the skillet with nonstick cooking spray, cooking oil, or olive oil.
  • Season the steaks as desired and measure the thickness with a ruler.
  • Preheat the skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Add the steaks. They should sizzle if the skillet is hot enough. Do not add any liquid and do not cover the skillet.
  • Reduce heat to medium and cook to desired doneness (using the guidelines below), turning steaks occasionally. If the steaks are cooking too fast, reduce heat to medium low.
  • Use an instant-read thermometer to test for doneness. Transfer the steaks to a plate, tent with foil, and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Test Kitchen Tip: For best results, don't use a skillet with a nonstick surface. It won't caramelize your tri-tip steak as well.

How Long to Cook Tri-Tip Steaks in a Skillet

Skillet-cooking tri-tip steaks takes a tiny bit longer than broiling, but will still be done in 13 minutes or less.

  • ¾-inch thick steaks: 6 to 9 minutes for medium rare (145°F) to medium (160°F).
  • 1-inch thick steaks: 9 to 12 minutes for medium rare (145°F) to medium (160°F).

What Is a Tri-Tip Steak?

Tri-tip steak is cut from a tri-tip roast, which is a small, triangular cut from the sirloin. It is also known as a triangle steak, bottom sirloin steak, or Santa Maria steak. Each steak is boneless, about ¾- to 1-inch thick, and should be nicely marbled. Tri-tip is a good cut of meat because of its rich beef flavor, tender texture, as well as cheaper price tag than similar steak cuts. It's also a lean cut of meat, making it a healthier red meat option. The tri-tip was popularized in California but is now more widely marketed, although you may need to request it from your butcher.

Now that you can cook a delicious tri-tip steak, try making a tri-tip roast! Here's a juicy chili-garlic tri-tip recipe and a tri-tip roast with grilled avocados to get you started. You can also opt for a different cut of beef and make one of our many favorite steak recipes.

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