How to Cook Tri-Tip

Tri-tip is a tender, lean beef cut that gets its name from its triangular shape. It is sold as a small roast from the bottom sirloin or cut into tri-tip steaks. What makes it special is the full flavor it promises for an affordable price. Season tri-tip and roast in the oven for an easy-fix dinner. You can also experiment with grilling tri-tip and broiling it.

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What is Beef Tri-Tip Roast?

Get the Tri-Tip Roast with Grilled Avocados recipe

If you haven't heard of tri-tip, that's because for a long time, it was primarily a cut marketed in California and is still sometimes called a Santa Maria steak. Other names for the tri-tip are bottom sirloin roast and triangle roast. If you don't see it in the meat case, you may need to request it from your butcher. A boneless tri-tip roast weighs around 1-1/2 to 2 pounds and is around 2 inches thick. It can also be cut into steaks or cubed for kabobs. Tri-tip meat should be nicely marbled even though it is considered a lean, tender cut. It is especially prized for its rich, beefy flavor.

Tip: One tri-tip roast, weighing 1-1/2 to 2 pounds, makes 6 to 8 servings.

Get the recipe for Tri-Tip Roast with Grilled Avocados.

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Step One: Seasoning Tri-Tip

Get the Caprese Pasta and Steak recipe

For added flavor, consider a tri-tip rub. If you have the time, cover the seasoned roast and chill for 6 to 24 hours. This will allow the flavors to penetrate the meat more deeply. Or marinate the roast in your favorite marinade for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. You can also just sprinkle the meat with salt and ground black pepper before baking, then serve with a sauce or a topper of sauteed mushrooms and onions.

Get the recipe for Caprese Pasta and Steak.

Step Two: Prepping Tri-Tip Roast

Tri-tip oven roasting (high-heat baking) works well for this compact meat. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place the roast on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Insert an oven-going meat thermometer into the center of the roast. Because a tri-tip roast is only a couple of inches thick, it will brown nicely on high heat while keeping the center moist and pink. 

Step Three: Cooking Tri-Tip in the Oven

Get the Southwestern Tri-Tip Roast recipe.
Cooking tri-tip is even easier than you think! Just follow these steps for roasting and serving:
  • Place roast in the oven and roast, uncovered, for 30 to 35 minutes or until the thermometer registers 135 degrees F. Remove from the oven and cover with foil. Let the meat stand for 15 minutes, which will bring the temperature up to 145 degrees F (medium rare) after standing.
  • For medium doneness, roast for 40 to 45 minutes or until the tri-tip temp on the thermometer registers 150 degrees F. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes, which will bring the temperature to 160 degrees F (medium). Because this cut contains so little fat, be sure not to cook it past medium.
  • Transfer the roast to a cutting board. With a carving knife, thinly slice the meat across the grain.

Tip: The stand time not only brings up the temperature, it also allows the juices to be absorbed back into the meat so they don't spill out onto the cutting board.

Get the recipe for Southwestern Tri-Tip Roast.

How to Cook Tri-Tip Steak

Get the Dill Steak and Potato Kabobs recipe.

You can ask the butcher to cut a tri-tip roast into 3/4- to 1-inch-thick steaks. These are best suited for broiling in the oven.

1. Seasoning Tri-Tip Steaks

  • Marinating for 2 to 3 hours in your favorite marinade is not essential but will help keep the steaks tender and moist while cooking. If marinating, remove the steaks from the marinade before cooking and discard the marinade.
  • Another option is to season plain steaks as desired with a spice rub, herb blend, or salt and ground black pepper.
  • Measure the thickness of the steaks with a ruler.

2. Broiling Tri-Tip Steaks

  • Preheat the broiler. Place the steaks on the unheated rack of a broiler pan. Broil 3 to 4 inches from the heat to desired doneness, using the chart below as a guide.
  • Use an instant-read thermometer to test for doneness. Transfer the steaks to a plate, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Get the recipe for Tri-Tip Steaks with Texas Toast.

Grilling Tri-Tip Steaks

Get the Tri-Tip Steaks with Texas Toast recipe
Tri-tip grill cooking puts a delicious new twist on your backyard barbecues. Once you learn how to grill tri-tip, this method will be an easy and mouthwatering way to share tri-tip with your family and friends.
  • Because tri-tip steaks are leaner than most cuts, consider marinating them for 2 to 3 hours to keep them moist during grilling. 
  • 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. Measure the thickness of the steaks with a ruler.
  • For a charcoal grill, place the steaks on a grill rack directly over medium coals. Grill, uncovered, to desired doneness, using the chart below as a guide.
  • For a gas grill, preheat the grill. Reduce heat to medium and place steaks on the grill rack over heat. Cover the grill.
  • Use an instant-read thermometer to test for doneness. Transfer the steaks to a plate, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Grilling Tri-Tip Roasts

Grilled Chili-Garlic Tri-Tip Recipe
Treat a tri-tip roast differently on the grill than you would a tri-tip steak. To grill a tri-tip roast:
  • Place roast on grill rack over pan. Cover and grill to desired doneness, turning once halfway through grilling. Allow 35 to 40 minutes for medium rare (135 degrees F) and 40 to 45 minutes for medium (150 degrees F). (For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Adjust for indirect cooking. Place roast in roasting pan; place pan on grill rack over the burner that is turned off. Grill as directed.)
  • Remove meat from grill. Cover meat with foil; let stand for 15 minutes. Temperature of meat will rise 10 degrees F during standing.

Tip: for the most succulent tri-tip roast, we recommend not cooking past medium doneness (150 degrees F) because the cut contains so little fat.

Tri-Tip Broiling Chart

Always use a meat thermometer to ensure a safe-to-eat tri-tip temperature. Here are our guidelines for how to cook tri-tip steak to the correct doneness.

Broiling Chart Thickness Approximate Direct-Grilling Time Doneness
Tri-Tip Steaks

3/4 inch

3/4 inch

1 inch

1 inch

6 to 7 minutes

8 to 9 minutes

9 to 10 minutes

11 to 12 minutes

145 degrees F medium rare

160 degrees F medium

145 degrees F medium rare

160 degrees F medium

Our Favorite Steak and Tri-Tip Recipes

Now that you know how to cook tri-tip, it's time to make use of your skills! Put your new-found knowledge to the test with these favorite steak and tri-tip recipes.

Southwest Tri-Tip Roast

Our Best Grilled Steak Recipes

Tri-Tip Roast with Grilled Avocados

Grilled Chili-Garlic Tri-Tip

Grilled Flank Steak Salad

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