Tri-tip is a cut of beef from the bottom sirloin that became popular as a local specialty in Santa Maria, California (according to Wikipedia). According to us, it is really good, quality steak. We grilled it this night by adapting the recipe “Smoked Santa Maria Tri-Tip” from one of our favorite grilling cookbooks. Adding hickory smoke while the beef grills is a great way to layer another level of flavor to the dish. The garnish of fresh salsa with tomato, green chiles, green onions, cilantro, etc. adds even more flavor.
The salsa ingredients include tomatoes, green chiles, green onion, garlic, cilantro, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, Tobasco and red wine vinegar.
We used hickory chips for the smoke flavor. Hickory chips are available at most supermarkets in the grilling section. Soak the chips in water for at least half an hour before using them on the grill, otherwise your hickory chips will burn instead of creating that flavorful smoke.
While the hickory chips soak in water, prepare the salsa by chopping everything up and combining it in a bowl. Refrigerate until the tri-tip is done and you are ready to garnish.
Preparing the rub for the tri-tip. From the top, clockwise — celery salt, granulated garlic, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and salt.
The tri-tip should rest at room temperature for approximately half an hour before it goes to the grill. While the beef rests, you can make the salsa and rub, preheat the grill, and work on any side dishes that will accompany the smoked tri-tip.
Our grill has a built-in smoker box. Even if your grill doesn’t have one of these, you can still use smoker chips. Make a packet of several layers of aluminum foil to enclose the chips, and poke a few holes in the top of the foil packet to let the smoke out. Place the foil packet above the gas burner but below the grill grate. (If you place it on top of the grill grate, there won’t be enough heat to generate the smoke.)
Once the grill is hot and the smoker has been started, generously apply the rub to the tri-tip, then place it on the grill.
Grill the tri-tip over direct medium-high heat for approximately 12 minutes, turning once. This sears the meat and gives you nice-looking grill marks.
Smoke emanating from the grill smoker box — smells like hickory goodness.
After the tri-tip has been seared, move it to an area over a burner that has been turned off, and continue to cook over indirect medium heat with the grill lid closed until the internal temperature reaches 130-135 degrees for medium. (Remember that the beef continues to cook even after it has been removed from the grill, so the internal temperature will rise another 5 degrees or so after you take it inside.)
As with all grilled beef, the tri-tip should rest for 10 minutes after it comes off the grill, to allow the internal juices of the beef to redistribute.
Cut the tri-tip against the grain. Tonight’s beef came out a perfect medium.
Smoked Grilled Tri-Tip with tomato salsa. The hickory smoke flavor is fairly mild because it doesn’t smoke for too long, but it definitely adds a lot to the final dish and is worth the extra effort. We served the tri-tip with sauteed baby zucchini and crushed potatoes (one of the best and easiest potato side dishes ever).