Smoky-Sweet Tri Tip

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True barbecue involves indirect heat and smoke, and dedicated barbecue aficionados invest in a smoker. But you can set up a standard charcoal or gas grill for smoking, which works fine for tender cuts like tri tip, seafood or poultry. Tri tip (also called triangle roast) is a lean, quick-cooking cut of beef sirloin that’s an ideal introduction to smoking. It’s the cut used in Santa Maria-style barbecue in California’s Central Coast. I’ve added a touch of brown sugar to the spice rub for a little flavor of the Deep South. The result is smoky, spicy, subtly sweet, incredibly tender and, as my husband says, very “more-ish.” Serve this with our Santa Maria-Style Beans, corn or flour tortillas and your favorite salsa. Sometimes I’ll serve it with our Roasted Red Pepper Romesco Sauce (only I’ll put the veggies on the grill to smoke with the meat). Leftovers make divine sandwiches for lunch!

Smoky-Sweet Tri Tip


Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Yield: Serves 4-6

Smoky-Sweet Tri Tip


  1. 3 cups wood chips (applewood, hickory or oak)
  2. 1 teaspoon sea salt
  3. 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  4. 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
  5. 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  6. 1/4 teaspoon garlic granules
  7. 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  8. 1 (1-1/2 pound) tri tip steak, trimmed
  9. Canola oil


Place the wood chips in a large bowl. Add water to cover, and let the chips soak for an hour. Drain.

While the chips soak, combine the salt, brown sugar, ancho chile powder, black pepper, garlic granules and cayenne in a small bowl. Pat tri tip dry with paper towels. Rub the spice mixture all over the meat. Let it stand at room temperature 30 minutes.

Set up the grill for indirect heat. Preheat grill.

For a charcoal grill, arrange the hot coals on one side of the grill. Add the drained wood chips directly onto the coals.

For a gas grill, place the drained wood chips in a smoker box, in a disposable foil pan (poke a few holes in the bottom) or wrap the wood in heavy-duty aluminum foil (also poking a few holes in the foil). Whichever arrangement you use, set the container of wood directly over a heat source while the grill preheats.

Brush the meat with oil. When the wood starts to smoke, place the meat on the heated side of the grill. Cook 5 minutes on each side. Move the meat to the unheated side of the grill. Cover, and cook 25-30 minutes or until meat is 130 degrees F (or until desired degree of doneness). Remove meat from the grill and let it stand 10 minutes before slicing it across the grain.

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  • Janelle

    Excellent tri tip.   Can’t wait to eat the leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

  • guest

    I love
    trying new recipes.  I’m so glad I
    found this one.  I just ordered some
    fed beef online
    from La Cense Beef. 
    It should be delivered in a few days. 
    By then I’ll have the other ingredients and be ready to go.  Can’t wait to try it. Yum!