A fool-proof recipe for easy Smoked Tri Tip.
Tri Tip is an easy, quick, and affordable alternative to smoked brisket. Learn the secrets to perfectly smoking this lean and delicious cut of beef from a BBQ caterer. Bonus is this recipe comes with perfect wine pairings!
We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again. We absolutely love Smoked Tri Tip around these parts!
It’s the #1 cut of beef we cook around here. This is mostly because it’s the #1 requested meat we cook at Ember and Vine catering events. And that is because it’s a much more affordable option to brisket, both in price and the time it takes to cook. Tri Tip averages around 60-90 minutes to cook, whereas brisket can take you 10+ hours. That’s a serious commitment! With Tri Tip there is little commitment to reap excellent rewards every time!
What is Tri Tip?
Tri Tip is beef, and comes from the backside of the cow. It is where separate areas of muscle meat come together and thus 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.
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 cut in half a select tri tip you quickly realize why you want to maximize the marbling in an otherwise lean cut of meat.
What Size Tri Tip to Smoke
You’ll find them range from around 1 ½ lbs to 3 lbs. We like them somewhere around the 2 lb range. It has incredible flavor when smoked and is pretty lean. 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! Seriously, around 60-90 minutes on average. That’s it!
How long to Smoke Tri Tip
Like I said, 60-90 minutes set to an average cooking temperature of 225 is all you need to cook it to a medium rare (which is what we suggest), or just a little bit longer for medium. You want to cook it until the thickest part of the meat is registering around 127 with an instant-read digital thermometer. That’s the happy spot.
In case you want a different angle…
Once it reaches 127 (or somewhere right between 125-130) we pull it off, wrap it in foil, and let it rest 15 minutes. This is an important step! If it is done early we like to leave it in the cooler (with no ice!) for up to an hour. It acts like a warmer so when you slice, it is still warm, tender, and delicious. We like to cook just between rare and medium rare for the best flavor.
Tri Tip Temperature Cooking Chart
- Rare: 120-125 degrees F
- Medium Rare: 130-135 degrees F
- Medium: 135-145 degrees F
- Medium Well: 145-155 degrees F
- Well Done: 160 degrees F
You can marinade 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.
Recipe for Easy Smoked Tri Tip
- 1 Tri-Tip Beef Roast, around 2 lbs, give or take
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon coarse ground pepper
- Preheat smoker to 225 degrees.
- Cover the tri-tip in olive oil. Combine the salt and pepper and sprinkle over tri-tip liberally. I mean it when I say "liberally". Don't be afraid to get a nice crust on there!
- Place tri-tip on smoker unwrapped for 60-90 minutes. Cook until internal temperature reaches 127 (or up to 130 degrees) for medium rare to medium and remove.
- Wrap 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 another 5 degrees. Further I have found that it makes the cut extremely tender as the juices slowly redistribute into the meat.
- Cut across the grains in thin strips and serve with favorite sides, like smoked collard greens, or top with chimichurri sauce.
Wine Pairing for Tri Tip
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 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
- Red Wine Marinated Smoked Tri Tip (recipe and video)
- Smoked Tri Tip Sandwiches with Chimichurri Sauce
- Smoked Tri Tip Mac and Cheese
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.