An award-winning recipe for Tri Tip Marinade from our very first BBQ competition. Made with tender Tri Tip and smoked slowly to perfection. Serve alone or with a delicious chimichurri sauce.
We have learned a lot about smoking Tri Tip over the years. It has evolved from a rather obscure cut of meat for us, to one of the most common meats we cook for crowds. It’s lean, incredibly flavorful, and, when cooked properly, tender and delicious.
This cut is something we hope everyone can ask his or her butcher for countrywide so they can taste for themselves how awesome it is!
The Cut – What is Tri Tip?
Tri Tip is beef, and comes from the backside of the cow or the bottom sirloin. It is where separate areas of muscle meat come together and thus you have three points to the cut. When you buy it, it should typically be trimmed and almost ready for grilling or smoking.
They are typically small, less than 2 or 3 pounds, so for a crowd you need to consider buying a bunch. Finally, buy high quality tri-tip. Marbling is key so you get the most flavor, so look for a good marble. We rarely use anything less than choice or its local farming equivalent. If you want to really see marbling then try Snake River Farms Tri Tip, it’s amazing.
How to Prepare Tri Tip
When trimming Tri Tip, remove the excess silver skin and small pockets of fat on the outside.
You want to expose that meat and have little to no fat or silver skin that gets in the way. Unlike its cousin, brisket, it cooks fast and since it is relatively lean, it won’t render out a ton of fat, so it is key to pull off and trim any excess layers.
Tri Tip Marinade
While I love the simplicity and flavor of salt and pepper — and you can see our signature salt and pepper tri tip here — the best tri tip marinade uses wine and then we smoke it for added flavor. In fact, in our very first ever BBQ competition we medaled using this recipe.
Tri Tip Marinade Ingredients
After trimming, our tri tip marinade recipe uses the following ingredients:
- Fruity red wine, like Syrah or Zinfandel
- Worcestershire sauce
Place in a gallon size bag and add the meat and refrigerate anywhere from 2 to 6 hours. After six hours the wine tends to over power the flavor of the beef which we don’t want. We feel 2 is plenty.
How to Smoke Tri Tip
We like to use cherry wood and prep the smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the smoker is at temp, remove from marinade, pat dry, season with salt and pepper.
Then place on the smoker until it is done (roughly one hour or until the internal temperature reaches between 125-130 degrees for rare).
We always recommend using a good digital thermometer to check your temp, like this one in the pic.
Resting the Meat
Next, and one of the most important parts, is the wait!!!
Let those juices slowly redistribute for 15 minutes, then cut in. This part is hard when you’re hungry and all you want to do is reward yourself with those sweet morsels of beefy goodness. But you must wait. It’s worth it! 15 minutes is all you need before you can cut into this delicious cut of beef.
How to Slice Tri Tip
Make sure to cut AGAINST those grains. Check out the video below if you’re unsure what that means! We show you exactly how to cut a Tri Tip Steak. What is important to know is that typically you will see two directions the grain runs on a tri tip. So we will cut against the grain then rotate the roast and then continue cutting.
Serve alone or with your favorite side. We love to serve this with Chimichurri sauce (find our recipe here). It’s so darn good!
One of my favorite things about Tri Tip is its versatility with wine! One of the reasons I think it’s so popular at our events is that it’s fan-friggin-tastic with a full-bodied style Pinot Noir (and we do most of our events in Oregon wine country, aka Pinot country). Most folks just associate Pinot with pork or salmon, but it can totally work with beef, especially this cut.
Again, this is because it’s lean, and therefore doesn’t need some big tannic wine that will work better with a fatty cut. It also takes on some great savory characteristics from the marinade and smoke, which are to die for with the savoriness of Pinot. Juicy, lean, tender, and delicious. You can totally pair this with something bigger, like Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, Tempranillo, but don’t be afraid to try it with Pinot Noir (especially a bigger style Pinot).
This post was originally published in July of 2017, and updated in June of 2020. Updates included the steps in the trimming. The recipe remains the same.
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Chicago Knitter says
Excellent recipe. Forgot to take a photo. Will definitely make again.
LuAnn Gatti says
I’ve made this several times and am in the process of making sin this evening for dinner! It’s amazing and we like ours between a rare and medium rare. The chimmichuri sauce is super easy to make and adds a great flavor. We drink the rest of the Shiraz with dinner:)
Trent W. says
Can you clarify when you put the rub of salt and pepper on? I was assuming you would put it on after removing from the marinade and prior to putting in the smoker. Then again, my assumptions are often wrong.
Thank you and love the site.
Sean Martin says
Trent, great question, we put the rub on after the marinate and prior to cooking as you suggested! We will make sure to clarify and thanks for the feedback!
Melissa Anema says
Well I’m thinking that the internal temperature on this recipe of 127°. Is 100% incorrect. Pretty disappointing… I also think that “smoking” at high altitudes takes double the time. Just saying.
* Please adjust so no one gets sick!
Sean Martin says
Melissa, I’m sorry you feel the temperature of 127 didn’t meet your needs. We cook to a rare steak which is completely safe. If you are not a fan of rare, you can certainly increase the temperature to your desired temperature. Perhaps 135 to 140 for medium. So I can assure you that no one will get sick from a steak cut and cooking to 127. As for high altitude and smoking, typically altitude and lower oxygen levels impacts more water boiling. Having lived at 7,000 feet I never saw any increase or decrease in cooking temperature for smoking or grilling, although we did for boiling water. To be honest we never really tracked.
Oh no. That comment was embarrassing for her.
Often people just have a misconception or were told things incorrectly than try to pass that on only to have something like this happen. Hopefully she invests some time into learning about smoking.
Sean Martin says
I agree, our hope is to help others understand that what we may have learned growing up has changed and to also validate that you can cook to your desired temperature. Hopefully she has had a chance to try it out!!
Jens L. says
The internal temperature of beef (or any meat) is a matter of personal preference. I eat meat from well done (like brisket), to done (fowl), to medium rare (pork), to rare (steak), to raw (beef tartare). It is a matter of personal preference only, not a safety issue if you get good quality meat from a reputable butcher. I tried the smoked tri-tip, and at rare, it was a delight with the chimichurri sauce. Admittedly, the red wine marinated version was, in my opinion, not as good as the plain version. To the plain version, I added onion granules (1 Tbsp) to the rub, and I rubbed the tri-tip with pressed garlic 24 hours before cooking. I smoked it with a milder wood (apple), and it turned out magnificent.
Keep in mind that tastes differ and just because you do not agree with a particular facet of a recipe, it does not make it wrong. I am a garlic-aholic and as such, I add garlic to my version. If you do not like garlic, don’t!
yummy will try it today
Marlynn | UrbanBlissLife says
This looks AMAZING but what I especially love about this post are your tips for buying the right cut. I have such a hard time figuring out how to get the best cuts of beef at the store/butcher because we rarely ever buy or eat beef, and your tips were SO helpful! Thank you!
Catherine @ Ten Thousand Hour Mama says
That waiting picture is cracking me up! Don’t you know that a watched tri-tip doesn’t, um, boil?
Tritip with chimmichurri always seems like a perfect summer combo to me – i like how this one is marinated in red wine and since the red wine is already open might as well keep working on using it while you wait for the tri tip….
Brittany Sierra says
I really need to start cooking more! This recipe looks delicious! I’m so hungry now! Haha