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How to Smoke Tri Tip Steak?

How to Smoke Tri Tip Steak

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Tri tip steak responds favorably to smoking, and smoking tri tip is easy and foolproof with the right thermometer. Smoking tri tip steak enhances the sirloin’s complex flavor profile, and the results are tendy, juicy and affordable. The steak is an ideal alternative to the more expensive brisket, which takes up to 10 hours to smoke.

Tri tip only takes 60 to 90 minutes, and the recipe for slow smoked tri tip rivals the best brisket in flavor, texture and presentation. You can smoke your steak in a fraction of the time while guests enjoy a cocktail and lively conversation, although the conversation might be slightly muffled through their face masks.

What is a Tri Tip?

The steak is a triangular-shaped cut of meat that’s carved from the bottom sirloin, and it is considered a subprime cut that consists primarily of the tensor fasciae latae muscle. Trimmed by your butcher, the tri tip weighs about three pounds, but untrimmed roasts weigh about five pounds with the addition of the fatty cap and silver skin.

Tri Tip Steak

Serving smoked steak is great with simple but flavorful sides like rich beef gravy, parsley potatoes, crispy-tender green beans and browned butter. The origin of the name “tri tip” is not completely certain, but it almost certainly refers to the triangle shape and sirloin tip. The cut is often referred to as Newport steak, triangle tip, triangle steak and Santa Maria steak.

How to Smoke Tri Tip?

The details for smoking tri tip like brisket include three primary steps that are simple and elegant.

Step One: Seasoning

It’s recommended to keep the seasoning light — especially when cooking the steak for the first time. Use coarse salt and coarsely ground black pepper on all sides of the meat. You can add garlic powder or onion powder to the seasoning, but keep it light. After you get a sense of how strongly the meat should be seasoned, you can season the steak a bit more aggressively with meat blends, Worcestershire sauce and even rib rubs.

Step Two: Smoking

You need a smoker capable of maintaining a temperature of 225 degrees for best results. The meat will roast slowly and tenderize while the temperature gradually rises evenly throughout. The even cooking process helps the roast retain moisture. You can smoke the meat for 60 to 90 minutes, during which you test the meat’s temperature with a reliable ThermoPro Meat Thermometer to the desired degree of doneness.

Step Three: Searing

The final step is searing the meat at a high temperature to caramelize the crust. Searing the meat locks in the juices and adds complexities to the meat’s flavor. This step works best when you heat a cast iron pan with sizzling butter to create a gorgeous crust, but you can also sear the meat on a gas grill if you prefer traditional grill marks on your steak. Either method produces a stunning presentation, but the meat will taste better with the butter-seared crust.

Cooked medium rare and sliced thinly, the slow smoked will rival the best beef brisket, but you avoid the long lead time by smoking the steak at an accelerated speed.

What’s the Temperature to Cook Tri Tip?

The exact smoking time to cook your meat to the desired degree of doneness is a bit touchy because of the two-stage smoking and searing process. If you follow these instructions, you’ll never be far off the mark for perfectly cooked steak. Pull the meat from the smoker after the first stage at these temperatures:

  • Rare: 120 degrees F
  • Medium rare: 12 degrees F
  • Medium: 133 degrees F
  • Medium well: 140 degrees
  • Well done: 150 degrees

Pull the meat during the second, or searing, stage when the thermometer reaches these final temperatures:

  • Rare: 125 degree F
  • Medium rare: 135 degrees F
  • Medium: 145 degrees F
  • Medium well: 155 degrees F
  • Well done: 160 degrees F
  • How Long to Smoke Your Tri Tip Steak
smoked tri tip steak

The ideal time to smoke the steak is 30 minutes per pound, and trimmed tri tips weigh between two and three pounds. That means your total smoking time will be between 60 and 90 minutes, but the best way to determine cooking time is by temperature. 135 degrees works for medium rare steak, 145 degrees works for medium and well done steaks hit the needle at 160 degrees. Allow for searing time, and take meat out of the smoker between 5 and 7 degrees lower than the mandated temperature.

You should plan for two hours of cooking time to cover searing time and 15 minutes of rest time. Checking your thermometer often is the only foolproof way to cook meat.

How to Marinate the Tri Tip Steak for Smoking?

Barbecues across Texas, California and even North Carolina frequently feature lean and tasty steak made with dry or wet rubs or marinades. If you want a tasty steak, marinating it before the smoking process delivers just the right level of barbecue flavor.

The ingredients for Sesame-Ginger Smoked Tri Tip marinade include:

  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 3 sliced green onions
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ⅓ cup of beef broth
  • 3 tablespoons of oil oil
  • ½ teaspoon grated raw ginger
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

As you can see, the marinade for this dish hits all the umami characteristics of heat, acid, sweetener and salt for an exquisite flavor. If you can’t find the steak at your supermarket, you can get the butcher to trim one for you. If choosing your roast, look for meat with good marbling. If you get an untrimmed roast, trim the fat cap and remove the silver skin, which is tough.

Marinate the steak in a plastic bag in a refrigerator in a sealed plastic bag r covered food container. You should marinate the steak for at least 6 hours up to 24 hours. Discard the marinade, or cook it down to kill any pathogens from raw meat. You can use leftover marinade as a sauce, but use sparingly because it is strong.

Tri tip steak is perfect for the grill, smoker or even home ovens because it’s a fairly tender cut of meat that’s very flavorful. The marinade tenderizes the meat to make it fork-tender when cut across the grain in strips. Allow 2 hours of cooking and resting time when you smoke and sear the meat. Smoking times take from 60 minutes to 90 minutes at 225 degrees. You also need time for searing the meat and letting it rest before slicing.

Sesame-Ginger Smoked Steak will quickly become one of your favorite dishes, and you can play around with the marinade to find your perfect ingredients, such as replacing the rice wine vinegar with balsamic vinegar, which delivers an awesome crust during the searing process.

Tips for Smoking the Tri Tip Steak

Tips for smoking the triangular cut of meat include the following recommendations:

Santa Maria Steak

Make Santa Maria steak by marinating the steak with sea salt, ground black pepper, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, rosemary, dijon mustard, olive oil and red wine vinegar.

Buy a Trimmed Steak

You can enlist your butcher to trim out a tri tip steak and emve the fat cap and silver skin.

Oven Roasted

You can cook the steak in the oven at a moderate 350 degrees and broil or sear the meat after reaching the temperatures described.

Smoker Versatility

You can smoke the steak in any kind of smoker, even homemade smokers. The secret to cooking at a lower temperature than 225 degrees is having a wireless instant-read thermometer like those made by ThermoPro.

Hardcore Carnivore Black Rub

One of the best ways to season your steak is to rub the crust with a little olive oil and Hardcore Carnivore Black Rub. This makes an incredibly flavorful crust.


You can enjoy many variations on the theme of smoked tri tip steak that include using dry rubs, wet rubs, marinades and simple spices. The trick to successful smoking is recognizing the nature of the twin processes of smoking and searing. Reliable equipment like ThermoPro Meat Thermometers make it easy to monitor temperatures.

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