Santa Maria-Style Tri Tip

Tri-Tip is a cut of beef that is widely available in supermarkets and butcher shops all over California.  It’s a one and a half to two and a half pound chunk of sirloin; triangular or boomerang-shaped and full of rich beef flavor, tri-tip can be cooked on a grill or in the oven.  If you have a sous vide circulator, you can also cook tri-tip with that method, which is what I did this time, with excellent results.   There is no heat on under the pot; the circulator heats the water to a pre-determined temperature and maintains it there.  It keeps the water in motion around the food, which is seasoned and vacuum-sealed in a bag.  The temperature for tri-tip is 130°F, and I cooked my two pound steak for four hours.  It came out cooked perfectly medium-rare and evenly pink edge to edge.  To finish the tri-tip I seared it on all sides very quickly on my gas grill.  After a little rest, we enjoyed the beef with the traditional side dishes of beans, salsa, and garlic bread.

It’s important to season the beef before cooking.  I use a recipe for beef rub that I found at the New York Times Cooking section.  Use any favorite seasoning but be sure it’s got lots of salt, pepper, and garlic flavoring.  If you’re cooking sous-vide you need only apply the rub immediately before you vacuum pack your beef.  When cooking with a grill or in the oven, it’s a good idea to season the tri-tip ahead of time; anywhere from one hour to twenty-four hours will work.

If tri-tip is available in your supermarket, purchase one today.  You’ll love the flavor and texture; just take care to carve across the grain, which changes due to the odd shape of the meat.  Any leftovers make excellent sandwiches.  Go for a tri-tip and bring the taste of California to your dinner table.

Santa Maria Style Tri-Tip

A rich, beefy flavored cut of sirloin, unique to California, gets seasoned with a dry rub and cooked on the grill, in the oven, or sous-vide style.  Delicious, economical, and easy to prepare.

Course Cookout, Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings 5 servings
Author Donna


  • 3 tablespoons Your favorite beef dry rub seasoning
  • 1 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 pound Tri-Tip beef sirloin roast
  • Garlic bread, for serving
  • Fresh salsa, for serving
  • Cooked beans; ranchero, pinto, or small pink beans, for serving


  1. If cooking the tri-tip on a gas or charcoal grill (or in the oven), rub the meat with the seasoning rub, wrap loosely and refrigerate for up to 24 hours before cooking.  Remove from the fridge an hour before cooking.  Heat the grill and sear the tri-tip all over to get a nicely browned crust.  Move the meat to indirect heat and cook until the internal temperature is 130°F for medium-rare.  This will take 20-25 minutes for a 2-pound roast.  You can go a little higher for medium cooked meat, but don't over do it.  Tri-tip is best at medium-rare. 

  2. Remove the steak to a platter or cutting board an allow to rest for 10 minutes or so.  Carve across the grain, and serve with the bread, salsa, and beans as side dishes.  To cook tri-tip in the oven, simply brown it well in a heavy skillet, then roast in a 375°F oven until the internal temperature reaches 130°F.  Rest, and then slice, as mentioned above. 

  3. To cook tri-tip sous vide, set up your circulator in a pot of water that will hold the meat with enough space for the water to cover and surround the vacuum package.  Set the device to 130°F.  Season the tri-tip and place it in a sealable plastic bag.  Vacuum seal the bag, or create a vacuum simply by slowly lowering the the bag into the water.  The air will be forced out of the bag and you can quickly seal it closed before immersing it in the water bath.  Cook the tri-tip for 4 hours.  

  4. Remove the meat from the bag and blot it with a paper towel.  Finish on the grill by searing each side and the edges.  This should take no longer than 2 minutes, on high heat.  Let the steak rest briefly, then slice and serve with the traditional side dishes.  Enjoy!

Recipe Notes

I use a Sansaire sous-vide circulator.  It can turn any pot in your kitchen into a sous vide cooker.  As mentioned previously, my seasoning rub of choice is this one, from the NYT cooking section.  I love the hint of coffee and clove, along with the savory seasonings of this blend.  If you're puzzled as to how to carve this odd-shaped piece of beef , the simplest way is to cut the steak in half at its thickest point and carve each piece across the grain, separately.  Enjoy!