How to Grill a Tri-Tip

The tri-tip, a triangular end piece of the sirloin, is one of the most venerable cookout cuts there is, almost a cross between a steak and a roast. They're somewhat tricky to grill, and can be very tough when cooked past medium-rare, so watch them carefully.

  • If while carving you discover that the inside of the tri-tip is raw or too rare for your taste, return it to the grill at low heat.
  • If you're not able to marinate the tri-tip, season it well with salt and pepper about 30 minutes before cooking.
  • You can use just about any marinade for this recipe. Choose one that goes well with what you'll be serving the tri-tip with. You can also use your favorite barbecue sauce as a marinade, but make sure it doesn't contain too much sugar and that you wipe it off before cooking, or else it will burn.
  1. One day ahead, use a knife to score the fatty side of the tri-tip in a diamond pattern. Cut through the fat just down to the meat.
  2. Prepare a marinade, add the meat to it and refrigerate at least overnight but up to 24 hours. Make sure the marinade contains little or no salt and only moderate amounts of acids such as vinegar or citrus juice.
  3. When ready to cook, prepare a medium or medium-hot grill fire that can be lowered to low heat.
  4. Remove the tri-tip from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Avoid letting it sit out too long.
  5. Notice when the grill is ready, then wipe the excess marinade from the meat and season it on both sides with salt and pepper.
  6. Use tongs and a paper towel to wipe a thin sheen of oil on the grill grate, and place the meat on it over direct heat. You should hear a slight sizzle, but the heat shouldn't be too high.
  7. Brown the meat slowly on both sides - that's the tricky part - then lower the heat and let it cook slowly until the outside gets sort of crusty, yet the inside is medium-rare.
  8. Brown the tri-tip at medium heat for about 10 minutes, turning once or twice. Cover the grill if you can.
  9. Lower the heat after 10 minutes or so, and continue cooking for an additional 10 to 30 minutes. Cooking times will depend on the size and shape of the meat and your individual grill. Turn the meat two or three times during this phase.
  10. Test for doneness the easiest way by simply cutting off a small piece of one of the triangular ends. When the center of this small piece is an opaque pink medium-rare, the rest of the tri-tip has about 5 minutes of cooking left. Eat this corner yourself; it's the cook's sample.
  11. Or check the meat as it cooks with an instant-read thermometer. Remove it when the temperature reaches 125 degrees F. Also try the touch test, which is what true barbecue masters use. Press on the meat as it cooks and you'll feel it getting firmer. When it's medium-rare it will feel like a lightly flexed muscle, although this method takes practice.
  12. Let the meat rest for 10 to 20 minutes before slicing. This helps it finish cooking through residual heat and stay juicy as well.
  13. Slice the meat with a sharp carving knife against the grain, in the thinnest cuts you can manage.
  • 1 whole tri-tip, 2 to 3 lbs., untrimmed (it should still have a layer of fat on one side)
  • cooking oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • marinade of your choice

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