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5 from 3 votes

Smoking Tri-Tip

Over the years, we've gotten a lot of questions about how to cook perfect barbecue, with one of the most asked about meats being the beef tri-tip. This pleasingly shaped piece of meat is packed with flavor, but many aren't sure how to tackle it given its propensity to turn out tough when cooked poorly.

Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time2 hrs
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Tri-Tip
Servings: 4
Calories: 158kcal


  • Charcoal smoker
  • Chunk charcoal
  • Oak wood chunks or chips.
  • Large bucket or container.
  • Paper towels
  • Large baking tray
  • Aluminum foil
  • meat thermometer
  • Wire rack


  • 5

    lbs Beef tri-tip, trimmed

  • 6



  • Several ice cubes.

  • 1/2


    plus 1 tablespoon kosher salt.

  • 1/2 Cup  Dark brown sugar

  • 3


    |Garlic powder.

  • 3

    Tablespoons Ground coriander

  • 2

    Tablespoons Onion powder

  • 2

    Tablespoons Dried rosemary

  • 2

    Tablespoons Cayenne pepper

  • 2 Tablespoons Mustard powder

  • 2 Tablespoons Freshly ground black pepper


  • The first step to a delicious tri-tip is a good brine.

  • Brining helps to retain moisture during a long smoke and can add a delicious flavor all its own.

  • To make a simple but effective brine, mix together about six cups of cold water with half a cup each of kosher salt and dark brown sugar (firmly packed), plus a tablespoon of all the spices listed above.

  • Stir well until everything is incorporated and dissolved into the liquid.

  • Place in your meat, adding more water to cover as necessary. 

  • Toss in several ice cubes to help lower the temperature, then cover the container and store it in a cool place overnight or up to a full day.

  • If you need to, add more ice cubes to keep the temperature of your brine consistent.

  • When your beef has brined for the desired amount of time, remove it from the water and discard the brining liquid.

  • Thoroughly pat dry with paper towels.

  • Once dried, mix up your dry rub using the salt and spices.

  • Thoroughly coat your meat with the rub on all sides, making sure to massage it into every crevice of the tri-tip to maximize the flavor.

  • When you've achieved maximum coverage and used up all your spices, place a wire rack inside a baking tray and lay your meat on top of it.

  • Store it in the fridge overnight to allow the surface of the skin to dry out.

  • After the meat has had a chance to "dry age" in the fridge, take it out half an hour prior to when you expect to cook (if you're using wood chips instead of chunks, now would be a good time to start soaking them in hot water).

  • Pat the surface of the meat dry if necessary, then allow it to warm up to room temperature for a more even cook.

  • If spots of the dry rub have fallen off or were blotted away, mix up a small batch of the spice rub and reapply as necessary.

  • While your meat is warming up, take the opportunity to light your smoker. Pile up the charcoal and get things hot, then close the lid to get things hot.

  • The target temperature to shoot for is around 250 degrees to 275 degrees Fahrenheit, so adjust the airflow until you're around that are.

  • About ten minutes before you're ready to cook, fill your water tank and add your wood, letting the smoke and steam build up right before you toss on your tri-tip.

  • When your smoker is at optimal temperature and smokiness, ​place tri-tip on the grates. 

  • Close the lid to trap as much heat in the smoker as possible.

  • As you cook, monitor your coals, wood, and water levels, adding more as needed and adjusting the air vents to keep the temperature as consistent as possible.

  • Every hour or so, flip your tri-tip to help it cook more evenly.

  • If the outside appears to be getting too done or threatens to burn at any point, wrap or tent the meat loosely in aluminum foil to help protect it from the direct heat. and continue smoking meat in indirect heat.

  • You can also take the opportunity to start checking the temperature around the three hour mark

  • You're aiming for something around 130 degrees Fahrenheit at the thickest point.

  • Once you've hit the right internal temperature, take your tri-tip off the heat and move it to a plate to rest.

  • Wrap tri-tip in foil and allow it to rest for at least ten minutes if not half an hour (the longer the better when it comes to resting).

  • This ensures the meat has a chance to finish cooking and reabsorb some of its juices.

  • During this time, you'll likely see it climb to around 145 degrees internally for a perfect medium rare.

  • After your meat has rested, there's nothing stopping you from digging in. To ensure maximum tenderness, always cut your tri-tip across the grain in thin slices.


Serving: 100g | Calories: 158kcal