Get ready to experience classic tri-tip with this incredibly flavorful smoked recipe! Low-and-slow smoking turns this affordable and flavorful cut of beef into an amazingly tender, smoky masterpiece.

A seasoned tri-trip is smoking on a barbecue grill over a red-hot fire.

Save This Recipe ✉️

Enter your email below, and I’ll send this recipe straight to your inbox.

Plus, I’ll send you great new recipes fresh outta the oven.

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

This smoked tri-tip totally delivers! While delicious when grilled, smoking allows the meat’s rich beefy flavor to truly shine through an incredible smoky bark. Our beef recipe you through selecting the perfect tri-tip, a simple but effective dry brine process, and applying a flavor-packed rub.

From there, it’s all about managing your smoker for that ideal low-and-slow cooking over several hours. We provide all the tips for maintaining temperature, achieving that gorgeous mahogany smoke ring, and bringing the tri-tip to its juiciest, most tender texture.

Raw piece of marbled tri-tip on a dark, textured background.

What is Tri Tip?

Tri-tip is a triangular lean cut of beef famous on the West Coast for its tenderness and versatility despite not having a ton of marbling. However, its unique triangular shape can lead to uneven cooking, which makes it perfect for feeding the family. When sliced, it will have a variety of finished steak temperatures from end to end.

This tri-tip recipe is as classic as it gets, with a simple yet flavorful SPG rub (salt, pepper, garlic). This simple rub acts as our dry brine, allowing the flavors to penetrate the meat for a super tender, flavorful result. You could also use your favorite dry rub instead if you like. 

Plus, we use smoking wood to add good smoke flavor to the meat, starting with a low smoke and finishing with a hot sear to lock in the crust.

Don’t stress, though. Cooking this cut is about as easy as it gets, and we’ve got instructions below for smoking on a gas grillcharcoal grill, or a pellet smoker. The results? Juicy, melt-in-your-mouth tri-tip with big bold smoky depth that might even put Ruth’s Chris to shame.

A raw tri-tip on parchment paper is positioned on a black tile surface, with small bowls containing spices placed beside it.

Smoked Tri Tip Ingredients

  • 1.5-2 lbs tri-tip steak – you may be able to find this at your local grocery store but if not, you can always check out your local butcher or order meat online. The tri-tip shown in this recipe is from Porter Road.

For the SPG rub

  • Kosher salt
  • Coarse ground black pepper
  • Granulated garlic 

Girl Carnivore Pro Tip: If you really want to wow your guests, have the butcher cut a tri-tip roast into smaller steaks, known as Newport steaks, and pan-sear them. 

How to Make a Smoked Tri Tip Roast

Get your tri-tip ready:

  1. Unwrap and dry: Take the tri-tip out of the package and pat it down with a paper towel to soak up any moisture.
  2. Trim the fat (optional): You can trim off any big pieces of fat you see, but it’s not totally necessary.
  3. Make the rub: In a small bowl, mix together the salt, pepper, and garlic powder. This is our steak seasoning. 
  4. Season the tri-tip: Sprinkle the spice mix generously all over the tri-tip, getting it on all the sides and edges.
  5. Let it rest in the fridge: Pop the seasoned tri-tip in the fridge on a plate for at least a few hours, or ideally overnight. This is also known as dry brining, which lets the flavors really soak in.

Prep the Grill:

  1. Heat for low and slow: Set your grill up for indirect heat, aiming for a temperature between 225 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re using wood chips or chunks for smoking, toss them on now and wait until the smoke is nice and thin and blue before adding the meat.
  2. Clean and preheat: Brush off your grill grates to make sure they’re clean. Then, close the lid and let the grill heat up.

Smoking the tri-tip:

  1. Find the cool side: Once the grill is hot, place the tri-tip on the cooler side of the grill, away from the direct heat.
  2. Smoke it low and slow: Let the tri-tip smoke until the center of the thickest part reaches 110 degrees Fahrenheit. This will take about 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of your tri-tip. Always use a digital meat thermometer to check the level of doneness for the most accurate results.

Sear for a nice crust:

  1. Turn up the heat! Once the tri-tip is smoked, take it off the grill and crank up the heat to high (around 550 to 600 degrees Fahrenheit).
  2. Sear it good: Put the tri-tip back on the grill over the direct heat and do a quick sear on all sides until it has a nice brown crust.
  3. Rest and relax (and let the meat relax): Take the tri-tip off the grill and let the meat rest for 10 minutes or so before slicing. Remember, the internal temperature will rise another 5 to 7 degrees while the meat rests. This lets the juices settle back into the meat for a more flavorful and tender steak.
A tri-tip searing on a barbecue with visible flames and coals underneath.

How to slice a tri-tip:

  1. Find the grain: Look for the lines running through the meat. This is the “grain” of the meat.
  2. Cut in half: Grab a cutting board and a sharp knife. Slice the tri-tip in half, right at the middle, where the two patterns intersect.
  3. Thin slices against the grain: Take each half and turn it so the grain runs up and down. Then, slice the meat thinly across the grain (about ¼ inch thick).

Girl Carnivore Expert Recipe Tips

  • Let your tri tip steaks come to room temperature after removing them from the fridge. This helps the steaks cook more evenly on the grill.
  • Do not be afraid to flip this steak. Oftentimes, we try to get beautiful grill marks when cooking, but because of the uneven shape of the tri-tip, it’s better to move it often to help it cook more evenly.
  • Tri-tip is known for having 2 different grains running through it, so it’s essential to understand how to cut against the grain to get the best bite. Look at the center of the roast where the two grains meet before you cook the steak to know where to look when you’re ready to slice.
  • When the meat has cooked, find the area where the grain comes together and slice the steak in half at that point. From there, rotate each portion and slice against the grain into thin ¼-inch strips, about the width of a pencil. 
  • We make our SPG rub in batches and store it in a mason jar. Simply scale the recipe up for your desired quantity, keeping the ratio 1-1-1.
  • We used Jack Daniels Bourbon Barrel Smoking Wood Chunks for a light smoked flavor. However, because tri-tip cooks pretty quickly and can take it, you could use post- oak, hickory, or even mesquite wood.
  • A traditional Santa Maria style tri-tip is cooked over a grill where you raise and lower the grill grates to smoke and then sear. For this recipe, we’ve adapted that for any grill, using the reverse sear method.
A platter with sliced tri-tip, fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, basil leaves, and grilled artichokes. Two forks on the side. A bowl filled with a green dip in the background.

What to Serve With Smoked Tri-Tip Steaks

Smoked tri-tip pairs well with classic side dishes like smoked potato salad, coleslaw, smoked baked beans, or smoked mushrooms. For a blast of seasonal freshness, we served it with a caprese salad and grilled artichokes.

For added flavor, whip up a batch of homemade chimichurri to spoon over top.

Leftovers & Reheating

Store leftover tri-tip in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months. But, keep in mind that the texture won’t be as good the longer it sits in the freezer.

To reheat:

  1. Turn your oven to 325ºF. 
  2. Place your leftover tri tip steak in aluminum foil. 
  3. Reheat your steak for around 5-10 minutes.
A white plate with sliced smoked tri-tip, tomato slices, mozzarella, basil, drizzled with green sauce, and a side of dipping sauce in the background.

More Smoking Recipes

Smoked tri tip steak has got all the juicy satisfaction of a prime rib without the fuss, and the playful smokiness of a campfire without the singed eyebrows. It’s the kind of dish that will impress your friends (or at least make them think you have your life together), and it’s easy enough to become your new weeknight go-to.

Have you tried this recipe? Do us a favor and rate the recipe card with the  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ and drop a comment to help out the next reader.

Save This Recipe ✉️

Enter your email below, and I’ll send this recipe straight to your inbox.

Plus, I’ll send you great new recipes fresh outta the oven.

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Smoked Tri-Tip

Rate this Recipe!
Prep: 8 hours 5 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
Resting Time: 10 minutes
Total: 9 hours
Servings: 8
A seasoned tri-trip is smoking on a barbecue grill over a red-hot fire.
If you're stuck in a rut of mundane grilled meats, get ready to experience smoky, beefy nirvana with this smoked tri-tip recipe. We've unlocked the secrets to transforming this affordable cut into an intensely flavored, melt-in-your-mouth showstopper.

Ingredients  

For the Tri-Tip

  • 1.5-2 lbs tri-tip

For the SPG rub:

  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp coarse ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp granulated garlic

Instructions 

Prep the Steak:

  • Remove the tri-tip from the package and pat dry with a paper towel.
  • Trim any excess fat, if needed.
  • Combine the salt, pepper, and garlic in a small bowl or resealable glass jar.
  • Season the tri-tip liberally on all sides and edges with the SPG rub.
  • Place tri-tip in the fridge overnight.

Prep the Grill:

  • When ready to smoke, prep the grill for indirect heat and a temp of 225 – 250 degrees F. If using smoking wood, add it now and wait until the smoke is clear, blue and whispy before adding any meat.
  • Clean the grill grates and close the lid to the grill to allow it to preheat.

Smoke the Steak:

  • When the grill is holding heat, add the tri-tip to the cooler side of the grill.
  • Smoke the tri-tip until it reaches 110 degrees F in the thickest part with a digital meat thermometer, about 30 to 40 minutes depending on the size of the cut.
  • When it has reached 110F, remove the tri-tip from the grill and increase the heat to a sear, about 550 – 600 degrees F.
  • When the grill has come to temperature, add the tri-tip over the direct heat, flipping to form a good sear on all sides evenly.
  • Remove the tri-tip from the grill, top with compound butter and let rest for 7 to 10 minutes before slicing.

To slice a tri-tip:

  • Find the area where the grain comes together.
  • Slice the steak in half at that point.
  • From there, rotate each portion so you can slice against the grain into thin ¼’ strips, about the width of a pencil.

Notes

Rub: We make our SPG rub in batches and store it in a mason jar. Simply scale the recipe up for your desired quantity, keeping the ratio 1-1-1.
Best Wood for Smoking Tri-Tip: We used Jack Daniels Bourbon Barrel Smoking Wood Chunks for a light smoked flavor. However, because tri-tip cooks pretty quickly and can take it, you could use post oak, hickory, or even mesquite wood.
We love Cowboy Charcoal lump charcoal for grilling. 
For a Pellet Smoker:
  • Prep the tri-tip as instructed.
  • Prep your pellet smoker by preheating it to 225°F. We love Jack Daniel’s charcoal pellets for a grilled flavor when using our pellet smoker.
  • When the grill is preheated, smoke the tri-tip as instructed. When it’s reached 110F, remove it from the grill and increase the heat sear – or 500 degrees F, which ever is hotter on your pellet grill.
  • When the grill is ripping hot, return the tri-tip to the grill grates and sear it, flipping it often for even cooking. 
For a Charcoal Grill:
  • Prep your charcoal grill by building a two-zone fire, stacking lit coals to one side of the grill. Add wood chunks if desired. Put the grill grate in position and adjust the air vents to allow the grill to preheat to 225 – 250 degrees F. Make sure the smoke is clean and blue before moving on. 
  • When the grill has preheated, add the meat to the cooler side of the grill and cover it with the lid. Smoke the tri-tip until it reaches 110 degrees F. 
  • Uncover the grill and allow maximum air flow to get the coals hot – over 500 degrees F. Then Transfer the tri-tip to the hot side of the grill and sear, flipping often to get a good char on all sides. 
  • If using a ceramic grill, we recommend not using the diffuser plates as they can’t handle the heat of the sear. 
For a Gas Grill:
  • Prep your gas grill by lighting all burners and letting it preheat. We recommend using a smoker box filled with wood chips for added flavor.
  • Clean and oil the grill grates.
  • Adjust the burners to create a cool and hot side by turning 2 of the 4 or 1 of the 3 off. Set the others to low and allow the temperature to come to around 225 degrees F. 
  • When the grill is ready, add the tri-tip to the cooler side of the grill and close the lid. Smoke the meat until it’s reached around 110 degrees F.
  • Then turn up the heat on the hot side of the grill to medium-high and allow it to get hot. 
  • When the grill is hot, transfer the tri-tip to the hot side and sear it, flipping often for even cooking on all sides. 
Helpful Guides:
Steak temp guide
Guide to smoking wood
How to light a charcoal chimney
Best wood for smoking beef

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 139kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 55mg | Sodium: 918mg | Potassium: 295mg | Fiber: 0.3g | Sugar: 0.03g | Vitamin A: 4IU | Vitamin C: 0.01mg | Calcium: 25mg | Iron: 1mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Author: Kita Roberts

Bookmark this recipe now!

Recipe FAQs

How long does it take to smoke tri tip?

It totally depends on what desired temperature you like your steak. A medium-rare steak will smoke faster than a well-done steak. Our 1.5 lbs tri-tip took about 45 minutes at 225 degrees F before we seared it.

Can I smoke tri-tip on a gas grill? 

Absolutely! Just set it up for indirect heat, which means the heat source isn’t directly under the meat. You can use a smoker box with wood chips or chunks for added smokiness.

Pellet grill smoker or charcoal smoker? 

Both work great! Pellet grills offer a set-and-forget approach with consistent temperatures, while charcoal smokers give you more control over the smoke flavor. This recipe works for either option.

What kind of wood chips or chunks should I use? 

For tri-tip, hickory, oak, or even mesquite work well. Experiment and see what you like! If you’re new to smoking, start with milder woods like oak or fruit woods for a subtler smoke flavor.

Categories: , , ,

Well, Hey, Y’all.

Kita is a multi-talented individual, boasting numerous accomplishments such as being an award-winning recipe developer, world-traveled professional photographer, and journalist. As the lead creative force behind Girl Carnivore®, she is widely recognized as an authority on all things meat.

SUBSCRIBE!

Signup and get free recipes sent to your inbox every week!

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating