Easy Smoked Tri Tip Recipe

4.36 from 78 votes
Jump to Recipe

Sharing is caring!

Our Smoked Tri Tip recipe is a West Coast Southern California-inspired version that is tender, full of flavor, and incredible when smoked, grilled, or reverse seared. Learn the secrets for the perfect Smoked Tri Tip from a professional BBQ caterer.

Smoked tri tip on a plate with collards and coleslaw.
Tri tip roast is a great option for a smoked dinner.

Smoked Tri Tip Highlights

  • Smoking a Tri Tip roast adds rich smoky flavor while leaving the roast tender.
  • Simple seasonings go a long way in flavor but you can use any beef seasoning.
  • Smoke for an hour and it’s ready, although be sure to monitor the temperature.
  • Understanding how to slice the roast is important to maintain a tender bite.

We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again. We absolutely love Smoked Tri Tip around these parts!

Tri Tip is the #1 requested meat we cook at catering events. And that is because it’s a much more affordable option to smoked brisket or other smoked meats, both in price and the time it takes to cook. Smoked Tri Tip averages around 60-90 minutes to cook, whereas brisket can take you 10+ hours. That’s a serious commitment! So this is a great option that is tender and delicious and done in a fraction of the time.


  • Tri Tip Roast – Typical roasts are around 2 pounds, which is good for four people.
  • Olive Oil – The olive oil acts as a binder for the seasoning.
  • Seasoning – This smoked tri tip recipe uses kosher salt and coarse black pepper for an easy seasoning. We also have other seasonings and rubs you can substitute.
a raw Wagyu Tri Tip on a slate board
Note the triangular shape and two distinct directions of the muscle fibers.

Marbling is key so you get the most flavor as the fat renders out while smoking. We use at least Choice-rated meat or its local rancher equivalent. If you cut in half a Select grade tri tip you quickly realize why you want to maximize the marbling in an otherwise lean cut of meat.


A peeled (trimmed) tri tip will likely need a little additional trimming using a good boning knife. Typically there will be a small amount of silver skin on one side, and a few fat pockets along the edge and corners. Simply remove them and then season.

Coat the tri tip with a binder of olive oil and then season with kosher salt and coarse black pepper. Alternatively you can use our beef seasoning.

How To Smoke Tri Tip

Whether you use a pellet smoker or an offset the process is the same.

  1. Trim – Trim the silver skin and fat pockets using a sharp knife. Some cuts may have a thick sinewy layer of fat on the base (or thicker side). Remove that as it won’t render and will result in a chewy texture.
  2. Season – A light coating of extra virgin olive oil will help the rub to stick. Then apply equal parts kosher salt and coarse ground pepper.
  3. Smoke – Smoke at 225 degrees Fahrenheit using indirect heat. Fruit wood is great, or oak, because it cooks so quickly. Smoked tri tip temp is ideal when the thickest part of the meat is registering 125 degrees F with an instant-read digital meat thermometer like a Thermoworks Thermapen for rare. 135 degrees F for medium rare.
  4. Rest – After you hit your target temperature, wrap in foil and let rest for 15 minutes on a cutting board, then remove the foil and slice.
  5. Slice – Slice against the grain on the cutting board into thin slices and serve.

Related Article: For a gas grill check out our tutorial on how to smoke on a gas grill using wood chips.

Chef’s Tip – If the roast is done earlier than you want to slice and serve, take the wrapped tri tip and put into a small cooler with no ice. It will stay warm for up to two hours if you don’t open the cooler. Then slice and serve when ready.

Smoked tri tip on a grill.
Smoked tri tip will darken in color as the time goes on.

How Long To Smoke Tri Tip

The average 2 pound roast should take no more than 60 minutes for rare, or 90 minutes for medium rare when smoking. As a reminder, always cook to temperature, not time for best results.

To best measure temperature consider at the minimum a good instant read meat thermometer like the Thermoworks Thermapen One, or a leave in Bluetooth thermometer like the Thermoworks Smoke Unit.

How To Slice Tri Tip

Tri tip will have two directions for the grains due to where it is butchered. Following the rule of slicing against the grain, place the tri tip on your cutting board.

Start slicing the thin tail end. Then as you get closer to the thicker side, rotate the tri tip 90 degrees and continue slicing.

Slicing against the grain is important to keep the cellular connectivity which in turn helps keep the tender texture and moisture. If you slice with the grain, the taste will be slightly chewy because you are breaking the cells by slicing with the grain, and all the liquid they absorbed comes right out.

Expert Tip: If you are using a large cutting board, add a kitchen towel underneath it to prevent it from slipping while you are cutting.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is tri tip

Tri Tip is a a cut of beef and comes from the backside of the cow, specifically the sirloin. It is where separate areas of muscle come together within the bottom of the sirloin and why you have three points to the cut – thus “tri tip”. When you buy it, it should typically be trimmed and almost ready for grilling or smoking. Tri tip can be a lean cut of beef but is still very tender when cooked.

It can also be called a triangle steak or tri-tip steak. For this recipe be sure to buy a whole roast versus sliced up.

Sourcing: Where to buy tri tip

As you travel east from the west coast, it is often difficult to find this cut. It’s become more popular in big box stores, but be sure to call your butcher and see if they carry or can cut this up for you. It’s worth it. When buying for this recipe, buy the entire roast, not one already cut up into smaller steaks. It should look like a large triangle as noted above.

What size tri tip to smoke

You’ll find them range from 1 ½ to 3 pounds. We like them somewhere around the 2 pound range. Because it’s so lean it’s important to not overcook it. We see a lot of Tri-Tip recipes where folks will smoke it for several hours.

In our experience we’ve found that is not necessary because the intramuscular tissue is not dense like brisket nor does it need hours to render large fat pockets. But if you want to do a brisket style tri tip – go for it.

Should I wrap tri tip

No, there is no reason to wrap it because it cooks quickly. Some people smoke tri tip like a brisket, but that is not the goal of this recipe.

Should I sear after smoking

You can sear in a cast iron pan or a hot grill at 500 degrees if you want to reverse sear it. It adds a nice flavor crust from the browning, but it is not necessary.

Beef Temperature Ranges

Be sure to take into consideration the carry-over cooking that happens while the steak rests. For steaks remove them 5 degrees lower than your desired temperature. For roasts remove them 10 degrees lower. The steak’s internal temperature will rise as it rests.

Black and Blue100 – 120° Fahrenheit (F)37 – 48° Celsius (C)
Rare120 – 130° F48 – 54° C
Medium Rare130 – 140° F54 – 60° C
Medium140 – 150° F60 – 65° C
Medium Well (not recommended)150 – 160° F65 – 71° C
Well Done (not recommended)160 – 170° F71 – 76° C

You can marinate or use your favorite dry rub to season your Tri Tip if you wish, but we like to keep it simple and go with a liberal amount of salt and pepper. That’s it! This is exactly how we cook this for events, and we’ve always received high praise for this smoky deliciousness.

Storage and Reheating Instructions

If you have leftovers, then store the tri tip slices in an air-tight container in your refrigerator for up to five days.

To reheat, use a stainless steel or cast iron skillet. Over medium heat add olive oil. When it just starts to smoke add the tri tip slices and stir until just browned.

What To Serve With This Recipe

Serve Tri Tip with smoked collard greens or top with chimichurri sauce. You can also add perfect roasted potatoes or our no-mayo coleslaw.

Smoked tri tip on a plate with collards and coleslaw.

Wine Pairing

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.

It doesn’t need some big tannic wine that will work with a fatty cut. It also takes on some great savory characteristics from the smoke and rub (or salt and pepper), 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).

More Tri Tip Recipes

This post was originally posted in December of 2016 and updated in April of 2022 with new photos, recipe ideas, and details on the preparation of the roast.

About Vindulge

Mary (a certified sommelier and recipe developer) and Sean (backyard pitmaster) are co-authors of the critically acclaimed cookbook, Fire + Wine, and have been creating content for the IACP nominated website Vindulge since 2009. They live in Oregon on a farm just outside Portland.

If you like this recipe we’d truly appreciate it if you would give this recipe a star review! And if you share any of your pics on Instagram use the hashtag #vindulge. We LOVE to see it when you cook our recipes.

Want to save this recipe?
Just enter your email and get it sent to your inbox! Plus you’ll get new recipes from us every week!
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.
Red Wine Marinated Smoked Tri Tip with Chimichurri Sauce
4.36 from 78 votes

Smoked Tri Tip

A simple recipe for the best Smoked Tri Tip. Easy, quick, and delicious. Learn how to make the perfect Smoked Tri Tip, with wine pairing ideas for this flavorful cut of beef.
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 1 hour
Resting Time: 15 minutes
Total: 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings: 6 servings



  • Preheat Smoker: Preheat smoker to 225 degrees using a fruit wood like apple or consider oak.
  • Season: Cover the tri tip in olive oil. Combine the salt and pepper and sprinkle over tri tip liberally. Don't be afraid to get a nice crust on there with a liberal coating of the rub.
  • Smoke: Place tri tip on the smoker, unwrapped, for 60-90 minutes. Cook until internal temperature reaches 125 – 130 degrees F for rare and remove.
  • Wrap and Rest: Wrap the tri tip in foil and let rest for 15 minutes. Optional: place in a cooler (with NO ice) to keep warm for anywhere from 30-60 minutes. This will continue the cooking process for another 5 degrees. Further, I have found that it makes the cut extremely tender as the juices slowly redistribute into the meat.
  • Serve: Slice across the grains in thin strips and serve with favorite sides, like smoked collard greens, or top with chimichurri sauce. See notes for slicing.


Trimming Tri-Tip: There may be some silver skin that needs to be removed with a sharp filet or boning knife. That will help with texture when it is done.
Slicing: When slicing any cut of beef, it’s important to slice against, or perpendicular, to the grains. This helps keep the structure of the beef intact for good texture. Look at the lines of the cut. Start with the thin end and cut. As you get to the thicker side, rotate roughly 45 degrees and finish slicing. You will have thin small slices from the thinner and and longer slices for the thicker side. That is normal.
Internal Temperature of Beef: Cook to your desired internal temperature, we like rare at 125, but adjust the time of the smoking process if you want to go higher. If you do hold it in the cooler (if it’s done too early), know that it will continue to cook, so take into consideration the additional 5 degrees the roast will cook as it rests.
  • Rare: 120-130 degrees F
  • Medium Rare: 130-140 degrees F
  • Medium: 140-150 degrees F
  • Medium Well: 150-160 degrees F
  • Well Done: 160 degrees F (and not recommended)


Calories: 261kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 31g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 98mg | Sodium: 1243mg | Potassium: 499mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 5IU | Calcium: 41mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Resting Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, barbecue, bbq
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 261
Keyword: smoked tri tip, smoked tri tip recipe
Like this recipe? Leave a comment below!

mary cressler headshot


About Mary

I'm Mary, a wine/food/travel writer, Certified Sommelier, mom of twins, former vegetarian turned BBQ fanatic, runner, founder of Vindulge, and author of Fire + Wine cookbook. Thanks for stopping by!

You May Also Like:

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. 5 stars
    I have been wanting to try smoking tri tip, and thought this recipe sounded straight forward. I made this for my family and everyone including the kids loved it (some picky eaters in that crew). I smoked to medium since the kids would be put off by medium rare. Still came out juicy. Smoked ours using mesquite and no reverse sear (was feeling lazy, but still came out great). I really like the basic seasoning which lets the meat flavor shine through. This will be my go to recipe for tri tip from now on.

    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a review and rating! Love that you enjoyed the tri-tip. It’s likely one of our top 3 things to make all year long!

  2. 5 stars
    This was the best and easiest trip tip recipe ever! We hosted Passover for 30 people and I was so nervous about cooking for everyone. I’ve made tri tip before but never loved how it turned out. It was always dry and I felt like I was making it too complicated. But I wanted to use my smoker so that I didn’t have to be cooking during the Passover Seder. I tried your recipe and it was a huge hit. Some guests even told me it was the best tri tip they’ve ever had. Everyone was blown away and I am just so thankful for your post. I will be making this tri tip for all of my guests from now on!

  3. I have a venison roast, do you think I could use this same method? The seasonings I’m sure I can figure out, but the cut of meat and this style cooking plus temperatures ,I’m nervous about.

    1. You can definitely use this method. I would just plan the venison to cook a lot faster than the tri tip given how lean it is. So just keep an eye on the internal temperature as it cooks and pull it at the temp you like.

  4. 5 stars
    I was searching for a fantastic recipe to smoke my tri-tip roast. Most I read said to smoke it for 4 hours. I’m so thankful I came across your site. It saved my family from eating an oversized piece of jerky for dinner. Instead, they are all enjoying delicious, tender strips of tri-tip as I am writing this. Thank you! I will be trying the resting time in the cooler next time, as I wrapped mine in butcher paper and placed it in the microwave for 10 minutes and it did not redistribute the juices well enough. (no, I did not microwave it…lol)