Smoked tri tip has long been popular in California and is quickly becoming a favorite dish across the country. If you haven't heard the rave reviews yet, it is time to join the smoked tri tip fan club. This smoked tri tip is made with wholesome and inexpensive ingredients, and cooks on the smoker low and slow for mouthwatering flavor in every bite.
Here I share the best tri tip rub for smoking, plus my tips for how to perfectly prepare smoked tri tip in only 2 hours. Pair with nearly any sides and be prepared to fall in love!
Why This Recipe is a Winner
Most Beef for Your Buck. The tri tip is cut from the rear area of the cow, at the bottom of the sirloin. So it's not as expensive as the full sirloin itself, but is still a very flavorful piece of meat.
Easy to Prepare. You only need about 15 minutes to rub the tri tip with a homemade seasoning blend, and then it's ready to smoke. Use a leave-in heat-proof thermometer and this becomes basically a "set and forget" recipe. Then quickly sear on the smoker grates, let rest, slice and serve.
Delicious Flavor. Our recipe is made using the tried-and-true low and slow smoking method. This allows the meat to absorb all those great smoky and savory flavors throughout. The taste and texture are somewhere between a prime rib and sirloin steak, and when cooked properly, it's absolutely melt-in-your-mouth wonderful. Tender and juicy with a beautiful sear on the outside, this is a serious meat lover's dream.
Great for Leftovers. Slices of leftover smoked beef are terrific to enjoy on sandwiches or salads. Or simply serve cold or warmed with your favorite sides.
Healthier Red Meat Option. Tri tip has fewer calories and less fat than other beef dishes, like ones that use ground beef.
How to Smoke a Tri Tip
Equipment. Smoker or grill.
Smoking Pellets. Use pecan, cherry or apple wood for the best results. You can also use hickory. However, I would avoid any of the more intense smoke flavors such as mesquite.
Thermometer. You need a heat-proof thermometer that can be inserted and left in the tri tip while it is being smoked.
Trim. Use a sharp knife to trim any silver skin that is on the roast or ask your butcher to do it. Do not trim off all the fat as you will want a fair amount to keep basting the roast while it is smoking.
Season. The best tri tip rub for smoking is a simple blend of kosher salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and freshly ground black pepper. Combine the seasonings and rub all over the meat to evenly coat. Note the cross grains in the roast now for when you will be slicing later.
Smoke. Preheat the smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Insert the thermometer and place the tri tip on the smoker grates. Smoke for 60-90 minutes, until the temperature reaches 130-140 degrees, depending on desired doneness. See recipe notes below on the USDA's official guidelines for safely cooking and consuming beef.
Sear. Wrap the smoked tri tip in aluminum foil and let rest for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, increase the smoker temp to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. When ready, unwrap the meat and sear on the hot smoker grates. Use tongs to turn the tri tip at regular intervals so that you get a nice even sear all around.
Rest. Then transfer the smoked beef to a cutting board, and lightly cover with foil. Rest for 15 minutes.
Slice. Cut the meat into two sections (as noted while you seasoned the roast). Lastly, carve each section against the grain into slices.
Tri Tip Rub Variations
Simple Salt and Pepper. You can omit the garlic and onion powders and use 2 tablespoons kosher salt and 4 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper.
Beef Rub Favorites. Feel free to use any of your favorite beefs rubs to make smoked tri tip. You will need 3 tablespoons for this recipe.
Santa Maria Style Seasoning: This slightly more herbaceous seasoning is a classic smoked tri tip seasoning.
What to Serve with Smoked Tri Tip
Enjoy this recipe as part of a classic meat and potatoes meal. Here are a few of my favorite potato side dish recipes:
- Air Fryer Baked Potato
- Roasted Baby Potatoes - Perfectly Crispy and Tender
- Creamy Mashed Potatoes with Chives and Cream Cheese
And it's always a good idea to have a green vegetable on the plate for a well-rounded dinner. Try any of these delicious and healthy side dishes:
Storage and Suggestions for Leftovers
Leftover smoked tri tip will keep well in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Let the meat cool completely before transferring to an airtight container and placing in the refrigerator.
Smoked tri tip is also great for freezing! Seal cooled slices of meat in a freezer-safe airtight container (like a zip-lock bag). Then wrap in a layer of aluminum foil for extra insulation. Store in the freezer for 3 to 6 months. Defrost the leftovers in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
You can use slices of leftover smoked tri tip roast to make delicious sandwiches on hamburger buns or hoagie rolls. Or roll into tortillas with your choice of fillings for hearty wraps and burritos.
Cold pieces of tender tri tip are also excellent to add to healthy salads loaded with fresh veggies. I love topping a bowl of crunchy lettuce with chopped steak, diced tomatoes, and blue cheese crumbles.
More Delicious Beef Recipes for You to Try
- Exceptional Picanha Steaks
- Irresistible Sirloin Tip Roast
- Handcrafted Smoked Chuck Roast
- Spectacular Eye of Round Roast
- Deliciously Lean and Tender Rump Roast
📋 Recipe Card
Smoked Tri Tip
- Preheat smoker to 225° F.
- In a small bowl, combine salt, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano and black pepper. Take note of the cross grains in the roast. (see Tip) Then, rub the mixture all over the roast.
- Insert a heat-proof thermometer horizontally into the thickest part of the roast. Place tri tip directly on to the grates and cook, 60 to 90 minutes or until the temperature reaches 130℉ for medium-rare (about 30 minutes per pound). Remove the tri tip from the smoker and wrap in foil. Let stand 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, increase the heat of the smoker to 500° F.
- Unwrap the tri tip, return it to the grates and sear, turning, 4 minutes per side or until roast has a nicely browned finish. Transfer the roast to a cutting board and lightly cover with the foil. Let tri tip rest 15 minutes.
- Cut the roast where the 2 sections, that you noted in step 2, meet. Carve each section thinly against the grain. Serve immediately.
- Tri tip is shaped like a triangle with a slight bent tip. The intersection of those two parts is where the grain changes direction. This is where you will want to change your direction of slicing the roast in order to get the most tender cuts. Cutting across the grain always is the way to achieve this.
- According to the USDA, the safe temperature for beef is 145 degrees which is a medium done roast. The USDA recommended temperatures for beef are 135°F for medium-rare, 145°F for medium, and 150°F for medium-well. However, the beef roast will continue to rise in temperature 5 to 10 degrees while it is resting. So, take your roast off the the grill 5 to 10 degrees before it reaches the ideal temperature.
- Trim any silver skin that is on the roast or ask your butcher to do it. Do not trim off all the fat as you will want a fair amount to keep basting the roast while it is smoking.
- Simple Salt and Pepper: You can omit the garlic and onion powders and use 2 tablespoons kosher salt and 4 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper.
- Steak Seasoning: Use 3 tablespoons of my Montreal Steak Seasoning Recipe or use McCormick's Grill Mates Steak Seasoning.
- Beef Rub Favorites: Feel free to use any of your favorite beefs rubs. You will need 3 tables for this recipe.
- Santa Maria Style Seasoning: This slightly more herbaceous seasoning is a classic tri tip seasoning.