Welcome to the delicious world of Grilled Santa Maria Style Tri Tip! Originating in the central coast region of California, this iconic barbecue dish has captured the hearts and mouths of meat lovers everywhere. This cut of meat is a mouthwatering combination of tender, juicy beef and a tantalizing blend of seasonings, grilled to perfection. Your results have a smoky charred exterior and a melt-in-your-mouth interior.
What sets this recipe apart is its simplicity and emphasis on high-quality ingredients. The star of the show is the tri-tip, a triangular cut of beef from the bottom sirloin, known for its robust flavor and excellent marbling. Combined with a traditional Santa Maria-style rub, made from scratch!
What Ingredients Do You Need For Grilled Santa Maria Tri Tip?
- tri-tip – Untrimmed, the tri-tip weighs around 5 pounds
- kosher salt – like our favorite artisan MALDON Sea Salt
- finely ground black pepper
- garlic powder
- onion powder
- cayenne pepper – we love this gourmet LA DALIA Pimentón De La Vera D.O. (Smoked Spanish Sweet Paprika)
- dried oregano
- dried rosemary
- dried sage
Grilling Tips & Tricks
Start with a quality tri-tip: Look for a well-marbled, USDA Choice or Prime grade tri-tip. The marbling will ensure a juicy and flavorful end result.
Let it marinate (optional): While marinating is not necessary, you can enhance the flavor by allowing the tri-tip to marinate for a few hours or overnight. A traditional Grilled Santa Maria Tri Tip marinade usually consists of red wine, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and various spices. Ensure you pat the tri-tip dry before grilling.
Prepare the grill: Santa Maria Style Tri-Tip is traditionally cooked over an open wood fire or charcoal grill. Allow the grill to preheat for about 15-20 minutes. Sear each side for a few minutes for a beautiful crust. Monitor the internal temperature using a meat thermometer.
Cook the tri-tip for about 20-30 minutes per pound, or until the internal temperature reaches your desired doneness.
Rest and slice: After grilling, remove the tri-tip from the grill and let it rest for about 10-15 minutes. This allows the juices to be redistributed within the meat. Slice the tri-tip against the grain into thin slices for maximum tenderness.
Santa Maria Style Tri-Tip
- 4 lbs tri-tip
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 1 tbsp finely ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp onion powder
- 1 tbsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried rosemary
- 1/2 tsp dried sage
- Mix the rub ingredients together in a bowl.
- Place the meat in a roasting pan or a baking pan with edges (this will help keep the rub from getting all over the floor). Sprinkle the rub on the meat on all sides, and massage the rub into the meat.
- Cover the tri-tip with foil or plastic wrap and let it sit at room temp for an hour to take the chill off and allow the rub to work its magic on the roast.
- Prepare your grill for hot direct heat on one side, and indirect heat on the other. (By the way, if you are working with a wood-fired grill, Santa Maria BBQ traditionally uses red oak wood.)
- Sear the roast for 3 to 4 minutes per side. Carefully watch the roast during this process as one side of the roast is typically quite fatty and as the fat heats up it can drip down and cause flare-ups. Keep moving the tri-tip away from the flame if flare-ups occur.
- Once the tri-tip is seared on all sides, move it away from direct heat and place it fat-side up on the grill rack. If you are using a gas grill with a top rack, I recommend placing the roast on that rack, with an aluminum tray on the bottom rack underneath to catch the fat drippings. If you are grilling on charcoal or wood, you may want to turn the roast over every few minutes, for more even heating. Try to maintain a grill temperature of 250°F to 300°F.
- Cover the grill and cook until the temperature of the interior of the tri-tip reaches 120°F for a rare roast, 130°F for medium-rare and 140°F for medium. At this point the meat will take anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes to cook, depending on how hot your grill is, how well done you want it, and the size of the cut. Note that the interior temperature will continue to rise at least 5°F after you take the roast off the heat.
- Once the roast reaches temperature, remove it from the grill and let it rest, loosely tented with foil, for 10 to 15 minutes. Slice across the grain to serve.
You May Also Like:
How Do You Store The Leftovers?
Let the meat rest down to room temperature. This can take about 1-2 hours. This prevents condensation and bacterial growth during storage.
If the tri-tip is not already sliced, it’s a good idea to slice it before storing it. Portion it into smaller serving sizes based on your future needs. This way, you can easily take out and use the desired amount without thawing the entire batch.
Place the sliced tri-tip in an airtight container or wrap it tightly with plastic wrap. Make sure the container or wrap is sealed well to prevent air exposure. Grilled meat generally stays good in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
If you want to store the tri-tip for longer, freezing is the best option. Wrap the sliced meat tightly in plastic wrap or place it in a freezer-safe bag. It will last up to 3 months.
When you’re ready to eat the frozen tri-tip, transfer it from the freezer to the refrigerator. Allow it to thaw slowly overnight. This gentle thawing method helps maintain the meat’s texture and moisture.
Reheat properly: To reheat the leftover Grilled Santa Maria Tri Tip, use gentle heat to avoid overcooking and drying it out. You can warm it up in a skillet over medium-low heat or in the oven at a low temperature.