Smoking Tri Tip Guide

Before you get to know how long to smoke tri tip, let us introduced you to what is tri tip first. A smoked tri tip is a great alternative to brisket (check our brisket per person guide if you planning on purchasing brisket). Tri tip is affordable and cooked earlier as compared to brisket. It is juicy and tender meat with less fat than other meats. First, you marinate it in homemade spices, and then it goes through rubbing and smoking procedures. Smoking tri tip does not take as long as brisket. You only need a fraction of time to prepare it. Tri tip is getting popular day by day from the west coast to now America.

What is a Tri Tip?

Triangle-shaped beef cut that comes from the lower back of the cow. Sirloin is the area where muscles from different areas meet. That’s why it is called “tri tip”. When you get it from the butcher’s shop, you will see it is almost trimmed and ready to smoke or grill. Typically, trimmed tri tip weighs around 2 – 3 pounds, while untrimmed tri tip weighs about 5 pounds or more.

This cut of meat is tender, lean, and naturally marbled. Marbling is great as it brings more flavor and tenderness to the piece of meat. Marbling works wonders when you smoke or grill the tri tip. Do not worry if you cannot find a tip at your nearby grocery shop. They might have stored it under other names, such as bottom sirloin tip or Santa Maria cut. Tri tip originated from California, but the rest of the US is not behind.

How Do You Make Smoked Tri Tip?

Want to know a quick recipe for smoked tri tip? Here you go! If we describe it casually, it just takes three steps to make a smoked tri tip. The first step is to season it, the second step is to smoke it, and last but far from the least is to sear it. Skipping any one of these steps will ruin your whole flavorful tri tip recipe. Seasoning the tri tip quite well will infuse incredible taste into your steak.

Most of the BBQ experts use homemade spice rub, but a rub brought from a grocery store will do the same. Cover the whole steak with the spice rub and let it sit for a while. Put the meat in your smoker and let it get cooked until it gets almost ready. When your steak gets a brown crunchy crust, it is an indication that steak is ready to be served.

How to Season Tri Tip?

If you are a beginner, keep your seasoning pure and simple. As you progress, you can get your hands on various seasonings for them to turn out special in taste. You can marinate your tri tip in the following ingredients overnight or at least for 8 hours:

  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons roasted garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced onion
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • ½ cup vegetable oil

After keeping it in airtight packaging overnight in the refrigerator, you can sprinkle a dry rub on it. Dry rub ingredients include:

  • ¼ cup kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoon freshly grated black pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard

How to Sear for a Tri Tip?

The ultimate step is to sear your tri tip at high heat. Searing locks in all the moisture and heat and gives a delicious brownish color to the crust. You can sear your steak with some butter on a hot iron skillet or on a gas grill to get beautiful grill marks on the exterior.

how long to smoke tri tip

How Long to Smoke Tri Tip?

Our main concern is how long to smoke tri tip in order to get the perfect end product. Time varies depending on the size of the cut you are going to smoke. Smoke the tri tip at 165 degrees Fahrenheit at hardwood. Fruitwood or oak is ideal as it cooks faster. You should consider almost 2 hours for smoking. Rest aside 5 – 10 minutes for searing to get the crust of your desired color. Also, consider 10 – 15 minutes for rest time for a medium-rare steak. Pull your meat off the smoker at 5 degrees lesser temperature than your desired one. For this purpose, you need a digital thermometer.

What Size Tri Tip to Smoke?

The instructions do not just end here. Now you have to take care of the size of the steak. It comes in the range of 1 ½ to 3 pounds. For an ideal situation, take about 2 pounds of the tri tip. Some people smoke it for hours but that might ruin the taste and nutrition. Sirloin is not as stubborn as brisket, it just needs 1 – 2 hours to get tender and render all the fat.

Beef Temperatures

As mentioned earlier, it is recommended to monitor the temperature of the steak carefully. Do not over smoke it. If you do not want your steak to get dry and tough, make sure you do not go above 150 degrees Fahrenheit.

For not messing up your steak, follow the following temperature pattern:

  • Rare: 115-120 degrees F

  • Medium Rare: 125-130 degrees F

  • Medium: 135-140 degrees F

  • Medium Well: 145-150 degrees F

  • Well Done: 150-155 degrees F

Best Wood For Smoked Tri Tip?

You can go to different kinds of woods to smoke the steak. Keep in mind that smoking your tri tip at different wood kinds will bring about a different taste and aroma. Traditionally, most pitmasters use red oak. Fruitwood and red oak help in smoking the tri tip faster. But if you are unable to get your hands on red oak, get yourself some hickory, applewood, pecan, or cherry wood. You can check our best wood for smoking guide

How To Serve Tri Tip:

After resting the steak in the foil for almost 15 minutes, remove the foil. Thinly slice the tri tip against the grain into smaller pieces for more tender meat. You can serve the tri tip as the main course with an assortment of other side dishes. Serve it in sandwiches, with salads, in chilies, tacos, or other sausages.