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Tri-Tip Roast on the Grill

Rubbed down with a simple rub or marinated all night in something delicious. Sliced thin for fajitas or enjoyed by itself with a nice baked potato. The tri-tip roast holds its own as one of the most tasty and also under-appreciated cuts of beef.  The term “tri-tip” is derived from the fact that the tri-tip roast is triangular-shaped and it is the tip of the sirloin. So, if you have your cow map handy (who doesn’t?), then you know where this cut come from. Up until the 1950′s, this very lean cut of beef was typically made into ground beef. If not sliced thin and against the grain, it can be quite chewy, so it was just easier to ground it up into burgers.  Our friends out in California are credited for changing all of that when the tri-tip itself became a local specialty in Santa Maria. They loved it so much that the tri-tip roast is still occasionally labeled the “Santa Maria Steak”.  Since there are only 2 tri-tips on each cow, it actually is a little harder to come by in some supermarkets these days.  Another sign that the tri-tip has come a long way since its ground meat days.

Although tri-tips soak up marinades like a sponge, I like to keep it simple most of the time and prepare a simple rub. A simple, rubbed down grilled tri-tip is really hard to beat by itself.  In fact, I usually stick with the same method that made this cut so popular in Santa Maria. Tri-tips are great with a simple rub or salt, garlic powder and fresh ground pepper and then cooked slow over an indirect heat source. This simple rub allows for the taste of the tri-tip roast to shine through. I also love rubs like this because I can actually remember them without looking them up and I usually have the ingredients in the spice cabinet at all times! Lets take a look at how to grill the perfect tri-tip roast.


1 Tri-tip roast

1 tablespoon Kosher salt

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  1. Mix the rub ingredients together throughly and then rub a generous amount over all of the surfaces of the tri-tip.
  2. Leave the rubbed-down roast on the counter at room temperature for about 45 minutes before cooking. As an aside, we are going to test this theory one of these days. Most people recommend letting a large cut of meat warm to room temperature before roasting. I’ve done this for a while now and never questioned it, but I wonder if it really makes a difference? I feel a science experiment coming on…
  3. Light your grill and prepare for indirect grilling. This means lighting one side of the grill on high, while leaving the other side unlit. If you are using a charcoal grill, pile the coals to one side of the grill.
  4. Once the grill is hot and ready, place the tri-tip roast on the hot side and sear for a few minutes on each side. Our goal during the sear is to create a nice dark crust on the outside of the roast. Not to seal in the juices (doesn’t really seal them in), but rather to create some delicious caramelization out of the rub and surface juices of the tri-tip.
  5. After you have seared all sides of the roast and have the color you like on the outside, move the tri-tip over to the cool side of the grill and then close the lid.
  6. We are going to now roast the, well, roast on the cooler side of the grill, much like an oven. How long is it going to take?  The real answer is “it depends”, but a total time of 25 – 30 minutes for a smaller tri-tip is usually a good starting guess.  Each tri-tip roast and grill is different though, so you really need to use a meat thermometer to make sure the roast is cooked to perfection. To most, that means medium-rare, or around 140 degrees. We want to remove at 140 degrees, which will allow the temperature to rise about 5 degrees while we rest. If you have a remote probe meat thermometer, this is a perfect use for it, so that you don’t have to open the lid each time.
  7. Once the tri-tip roast has reached your desired doneness, remove it from the grill and let it rest on a platter for 10 minutes.
  8. Slice the roast thin and against the grain for maximum tenderness.

There you have it, fool-proof tri-tip roast.  I’m sure once you try it for the first time, I’m betting you will wish you discovered this great cut of meat a long time ago.



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11 Responses




Hi Steve. Great post on tri-tip. I’ve been grilling this cut of meat for a couple of years now. I use a combination of dry rub and marinade. I light my gas grill after removing the metal flame protector thingies, turn all burners on high and close the lid. After the grill’s really hot, I flip open the lid, place my tri-tip directly over a burner and wait about 7 – 10 minutes (lid open.) The time depends of course on the size of the tri-tip and the ambient outside temperature. I then flip the meat over onto another burner to grill the other side. This always takes longer than the first side. Once again, length of time depends, but usually 10 – 13 minutes. This also with happens with the lid open. If the meat is about 2 pounds and it’s cold outside, then I will close the lid for 2 minutes after I flip the meat. This method allows me to get a nice crust on the outside and whatever doneness I desire on the inside (med-rare).

Lastly, my local Whole Foods sometimes carries Bison tri-tip. It’s a leaner cut than cow but still really delicious and juicy. I’ve begun using bison instead of cow and had great success.




Thanks Adam. Sounds like a great method. I usually cook my tri-tip on a Bubba Keg, which is about the same cooking style as the Big Green Egg. The only problem is that the fire is pretty far away from the grates, so it is hard to get a good crust. To compensate, I sometimes fire up the gas grill just to sear it and get the crust I want and then finish on the Bubba.
Thanks again for sharing your method!




Nice clear article on tri-tip. We held our tri-tip cook off last night and I think 2 of us forgot to slice off some of the fat layer. Major fire. But we turned the heat down and finished until about 140F. The end result was great. I think as long as you don’t over cook it’s hard to mess this up.




Thank you this was a wonderful recipe. I turned out GREAT!




So glad I came across this recipe — just in time for Cinco de Majo fajitas! Really good and easy. My first experience with the tri tip. Yum! Will definitely grill this again.


David Harrison


basically with your directions it felt as though you were bbqing it at my house. Excellent. Thank you




We do Tri-Tip all the time,,, Have been for years. I have one marinating in the fridge as we speek.Gonna cook it on Memorial Day… I used a prime rib dry rub then added Dijon and a little evoo to make a paste. I also stuffed it with garlic (yum yum) I put the marinade on it while frozen and let it defrost in the fridge for 2-3 days… Talk about easy!!!! Then we cook it the same way you guys do, sear and slow and low….




Thanks for this article. I did my first tri-tip tonight and it couldn’t have turned out better.

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