You'll have to work really hard to mess up this tri tip recipe
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Is Tri Tip an elite steak?

In the world of steaks, Tri Tip doesn’t get the love it deserves, something like being an offensive or defensive coordinator at the University of Alabama. It’s right there next to the top sirloin and the tenderloin, getting overshadowed by them — which is fair. But it’s still an incredible, versatile cut on its own. (I mean, nobody is going to say Nick Saban doesn’t deserve the love, right?)

So, what is a tri tip anyway? Well, if you want to do some cow-mapping with me here, it’s a little triangular muscle that sits below the tenderloin, on the bottom sirloin. It’s on the back half of the cow, and it’s not a particularly hard-working muscle. As a general rule, the harder the muscle works, the more dense the fibers will be, which makes it less desirable as a steak. (This is why the chuck around the shoulders is usually ground and user for hamburgers.)

It’s also incredibly easy to make tri tip without screwing it up. You can do almost anything with it, which also means it’s like the choose-your-own-adventure novel of steaks.

The Meat

It’s going to be roughly six to eight ounces, per person, depending on the size of the person. One pound should be good for two or three people. It’s going to depend on what else you’re serving with the tri tip. More on that in a moment.

Just ask Brad or whoever is at the butcher counter, and they’ll hold your hand. (Figuratively, not literally.)

The Marinade

Marinade snobs are the worst. Here are the key elements you’ll want for a tri tip marinade. From there, you can do whatever you like.

  • A few glugs of light olive oil. None of that cold-press nonsense. You want something with a high smoke point. Cold press is for salads, you silly goose.
  • A few glugs of some red wine or balsamic vinegar.
  • Salt. There are many kinds out there. Pick salt you like.
  • Pepper. Fresh ground black pepper is always clutch.
  • Pick some spices. You have fun with that. It’s your tri tip.
  • Rosemary. It’s underrated, and it will give your tri tip some pop. You want this.
  • Garlic. Finely chop fresh garlic. A tablespoon will do.

Stick your tri tip in a bowl full of marinade for like an hour. The bowl used in the photo is a fantastic value — currently three stainless steel mixing bowls with these cool rubberized bottoms and an easy-grip rubberized handle for only $31.

The Heat

You don’t need a $2,000 ceramic grill. I mean, it’s nice if you have one, because smoking some things for like 10 hours is amazing. But not for tri tip.

For this operation, I used a good old Weber UFO kettle. You can also use any old charcoal you like. Any brand, any variety. I only insist upon lump charcoal if I’m going to cook seared Ahi Tuna. (That’s another day.)

If you’re an Amazon Prime customer, you can have one sitting on your doorstep tomorrow. If you have another grill, that’ll work. You just want to make sure you get it really REALLY hot for the sear.

While the coals are glowing super hot (or you know… your gas is hot), take your tri tip out of the marinade and set it on the grill. Since there should be plenty of oil in there, it’ll likely flame up. That’s 100% fine for just a few moments. It will die down.

Sear for 60-90 seconds on each side, and then pull the tri tip away from direct heat, and put the lid on your grill. Depending on thickness and heat, you’ll likely have to cook it 8-11 minutes per side. For Medium-Rare, on my Weber UFO, at about 475F, things took roughly 20 minutes total to hit an internal temperature of 135F. (The Amazon link includes a thermometer as well. Those are good for avoiding getting sick. Use it on all your meat, okay?)

The Results

Wait for your tri tip to rest for about five minutes before cutting it. Use the sharpest knife you have. Tri tip is messy, so put it on a large cutting board. If you cook it medium-rare, then it’s going to be juicy.

If you have a large, professional cutting board, use it. I have this beef (see what I did there) with small cutting boards: They’re awful. They make a mess when you are cutting a steak. You need as much room as you can get. Also, you need something that’s easy to clean.

The cutting board you see here is two feet wide. It’s large, okay? Also, when you’re done, you can mix a little bleach/water solution on it, and disinfect it. If you want to get really next-level with things, do what I do: Have one for meat, one for poultry, and one for fish. I disinfect after every use because I’m a weirdo hypochondriac.

The Plan?

This is where you take over. The coolest part about tri tip is that you can do anything you want with it, and it’s amazing.

Personally, I toast some bread, put some mayonnaise on it, and then thinly slice the tri tip on top. Then, I top it with a few pieces of grilled onion. Tri tip sandwiches are amazing. (I learned that trick from a place called Kinders up in Oakland, CA. h/t well deserved.)

Maybe you just want to serve it how it is? That’s fine too. It’s a perfectly good steak.

Maybe you want to slice it, throw it under a broiler on high for 2-3 minutes, and then serve it with some nice cheeses and crackers? That’s fine too.

There’s no wrong answer with Tri Tip.

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