If you’re like me, you have a relatively new grill and have gotten to the point where you’re tired of cooking burgers for the family. It’s time to step up your game. For a great grilling endeavor that you won’t mess up with the help of this tri-tip marinade recipe, I implore you to try the tri-tip.
So what is the tri-tip? A tri-tip is a small, triangular and muscular cut of beef from the bottom sirloin, originally controlling the steer’s back legs by applying force to its kneecaps. It is also called a Santa Maria steak and ranges from 1.5 pounds to 2.5 pounds per side of beef.
Simply put, this is the best steak for the grill that won’t break the bank. Because it lacks robust connective tissue, the tri-tip is a versatile cut that is often used in stew. In fact, it resembles a flat-cut brisket without the fat. It’s because the tri-tip lacks the fat marbling seen in more expensive steaks that people are afraid of cooking it.
Well I’m here to tell you today that you’ve got nothing to fear. Another great reason for you to try out this proven recipe is that the tapered shape of the tri-tip makes it an ideal cut of meat to serve at different degrees of doneness.
- 2 lb boneless tri-tip beef steaks (might be labeled “bottom sirloin roast” and “triangle roast”)
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp dark brown sugar
- 2 cloves of minced garlic
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp kosher salt
These proportions are the key to making sure your tri-tip will be flavorful and moist. The vegetable oil will make up for the lack of fat content within the meat and the mixture of Worcestershire and soy sauce compliments its rich, beefy flavor by adding a layer of complexity. The brown sugar adds a subtle sweetness that balances off the vinegar and salt.
As for seasonings, you can add whichever spices you want to try out different flavors. The traditional Santa Maria rub associated with the tri-tip is simply black pepper, salt, and garlic rubbed in. Feel free to add a dash of paprika, cumin, and cayenne for extra flair. Here we have another awesome dry rub recipe for you to try out!
For different types of grills and cooking products, make sure you have what you need in order to keep your cooker hot. It might go without saying, but it’s always helpful to note that you’ll need an instant-read thermometer, tongs, and cleaning equipment for your grill.
If you are using a charcoal grill, gather your tools for lighting: a crumpled up newspaper, a chimney starter, some charcoal, and a foil-lined water pan. I like to add a few small chunks of flavored wood for added flavor as well, but this is entirely optional. Make sure to check out our tutorial on How To Charcoal Grill The Best Way!
Prep time: 10 minutes plus 3 hours for marinating the tri-tip
Grilling time: 25 minutes (approximately 10 minutes cooking time per pound of beef)
Total prep and cook time: 3 hours and 35 minutes
Step 1 – Trim and Prep
A tri-tip cut will usually come with a fat lining the outside of it, so this step will first consist of trimming it. This lining is sometimes referred to as “silver skin.” You want to slice this thick, tough layer of fat since it will not melt off during grilling.
You don’t have to be too careful or trim it too neatly. As a general rule, it is best to trim more fat off of the thinner sections than the thicker ones. Keep in mind that the more fat you leave on, the more moist your steak will be.
However, by leaving fat on the steak, it will increase the chance of flare-up during cooking, so if you don’t plan on eyeballing it every few minutes, simply trim the fat down until you see the grain.
To prep the tri-tip, pat it down dry after you’ve trimmed it and make sure all the excess moisture is absorbed. This ensures that your meat will soak up your delicious marinade while you wait.
Step 2 – The Marinade
Simply combine all of the marinade ingredients (white vinegar, vegetable oil, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, dark brown sugar, and minced garlic) into a small bowl, whisking it as well as you can.
Once that is done, pour the marinade into a resealable bag and add the meat so that it gets fully coated. Keep in mind that the thicker parts will need to be massaged a bit to absorb more of the marinade. A tip to get more flavor in faster is to do all of this in a bowl and let your children pierce the meat with a fork (which tenderizes it and allows the marinade to seep in!)
Seal the meat and marinade mixture and place it in the fridge for 2 to 6 hours or let it sit overnight.
Here’s a video on another very easy marinade recipe to go with any steak if you want some variety:
Step 3 – The Grill: Searing
Remove the tri-tip from the refrigerator an hour before cooking so that it can warm up to room-temperature before cooking. This allows your tri-tip to be cooked more evenly.
If you’re using a charcoal grill (and if you do, you should read our article on the most delicious smoke flavors!), light one chimney full of charcoal and wait for it to heat. When all of it is covered with white ash, arrange the coals on one side of the cooker to set up a zone for direct and indirect heat. On the other side of the cooker without any coals, place a foil-lined water pan to collect fat drippings and cooking your meat at a lower temperature.
If you have them at this point, you can place your wood chunks directly over the coals. Set the cooking grate in place, shut the lid and preheat for about 5 minutes. While waiting, remove the meat from its marinade and rub some salt and pepper to the outside.
Sear your steak fat-side down on the direct heat with the lid of the grill wide open. One side will take about 7 minutes. Make sure to check for flare-ups if you’ve left a decent amount of fat on. In case of flare-ups, temporarily move the steak to the indirect heat zone.
Do the same for the other side while keeping an eye on your soon-to-be delicious tri-tip!
Step 4 – The Grill: Roasting
Once you’ve seared both sides, move the steak to the indirect heat zone above the foil-lined pan. Close the lid and let it cook for 10 minutes.
Your tri-tip should continue cooking but it will cool to within 5-10 degrees F of its target pull temperature. For a medium-rare steak, it will register 120 F in the thickest portion of the meat.
The total cook time should be about 25 minutes since the meat will rise in temperature even after you’ve taken it out of the grill.
The reason why we’re combining high-heat, direct searing and lower-heat, indirect cooking in this recipe is to achieve a balance between a well-done outside and more rare inside with an evenly-heated roast throughout the steak.
You can easily adjust these methods: if you prefer a rare steak, then decrease the time spent for indirect grilling and vice versa. Keep in mind that the narrow tip will usually be well-done and the butt-end will range from medium to rare.
Step 5 – Cool and Serve
Cover your tri-tip with aluminum foil and let it cool down for about 10 minutes before slicing it against the grain with a sharp knife. Slicing against the grain will keep the tri-tip intact and tender.
To serve, I like to add a side of salsa and something simple like garlic bread. If you have leftovers, you can make delicious bbq sandwiches for an easy lunch.
In conclusion, I hope you enjoy this easy-fix dinner for the whole family. Having grown up in California, this recipe is tried and true and reminds me of fond picnics with friends and family. If you’ve enjoyed this tutorial, please share this article! I’d love to hear your tips, tricks, and serving suggestions in the comments below.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long do You Cook Tri-Tip Steak?
Tri-tip steak doesn’t take very long to cook because it has less connective tissue than other cuts of beef. It is best to begin by searing each side over high heat for about 7 minutes a side. Once it is seared, you can move it to the indirect side of the grill (or roast it in the oven). Continue to cook for about 10 minutes a pound, until the roast has reached the desired temperature on a meat thermometer.
What Is Tri-Tip Steak?
Tri-tip steak is a tender, triangular steak that is cut from the bottom sirloin of a steer. It lacks connective tissue that most steaks have and it is not a very fatty cut, so it is a great steak for the grill.
Should You Marinate Tri Tip Steak?
Marinating tri-tip steak is recommended, since the steak itself has very little fat. The vinegar or citrus juice in the marinade will denature the proteins in the steak, making it very tender as you cook it quickly over a hot grill.
What Is Silver Skin?
Silver skin is a thin layer of connective tissue that forms a membrane over meat. Unlike other types of connective tissue, this silvery white membrane does not break down during cooking. If left on the meat, it will cook up to be very tough and chewy. It is best to remove the silver skin before cooking.
How Do You Serve a Tri-Tip Steak?
Once the steak has rested, cut the steak against the grain, cutting 1/2 inch slices for serving as the center-of-the-plate item. If you are serving the tri-tip as a sandwich, you can cut the slices smaller, as small as 1/4 inch slices, to pile them high on the sandwich bread. To serve as tacos, you can cut the slices into smaller strips.