Tri-tip is a quick and easy cook on a kamado grill any time of the year. I wanted to find out all there is to know about this unique barbecue meat, so I asked the pitmasters how they smoke tri-tip.
For the best results, I highly recommend using the reverse-sear method when cooking tri-tip. Set the temperature of your Big Green Egg or Kamado Joe to 225° F. Use the deflector plate, and cook the tri-tip with indirect heat for around about 1.5 hours, or until the internal meat temperature reaches 115° F. Remove the deflector plate, and sear the tri-tip over the flame for about 1-2 minutes each side, or until the internal meat temperature reaches anywhere between 130° F and 140° F. Use hickory, oak, or mesquite as a smoking wood, and applied a decent amount of rub on the tri-tip prior to smoking. It should only take around about 2 hours total cook time.
- There are two main ways to smoke tri-tip on a ceramic grill: at a high temperature (325°F) or at a low-and-slow temperature (225°F) followed by searing.
- The lower temperature will result in more smoke flavor because the meat has more time to absorb the smoke.
- It’s important to keep track of the internal meat temperature and not leave the tri-tip on the grill for too long when cooking at a high temperature to prevent overcooking.
|Smoked Tri-Tip Method||Temperature||Cook Time|
|High Temperature||325°F||1-2 hours|
Note: The Low-and-Slow method involves searing the tri-tip after it has been cooked at 225°F for 1.5 hours, so the total cook time will be around 2 hours. Be sure to use a meat thermometer to ensure that the tri-tip is cooked to your desired level of doneness.
- Barbecue Rub
Use hickory, oak, or mesquite as a smoking wood,
Apply a decent amount of rub on the tri-tip prior to smoking.
Set the temperature of your Big Green Egg or Kamado Joe to 225° F.
Use the deflector plate, and cook the tri-tip with indirect heat for around about 1.5 hours, or until the internal meat temperature reaches 115° F.
Remove the deflector plate, and sear the tri-tip over the flame for about 1-2 minutes each side, or until the internal meat temperature reaches anywhere between 130° F and 140° F.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 175
What is Tri-Tip?
Tri-tip is a cut of beef that comes from the bottom sirloin of a cow. It is a triangular-shaped muscle that is lean and flavorful, and is typically grilled or roasted. Tri-tip is a lean cut of beef, and doesn’t need a long to cook.
The cut of beef was popularized in the Santa Maria Valley region of California in the 1950s. Local ranchers would slow-roast the tri-tip over red oak wood, which imparts a distinct smoky flavor. The tradition of cooking tri-tip in this manner is now known as “Santa Maria-style barbecue.”
Tri-tip gained popularity in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s and became a staple of Californian cuisine. It is now widely available across the country, and is often marinated or seasoned with a variety of spices before being grilled or roasted.
In a kamado-style cooker or Big Green Egg, you want to start out low-and-slow so that the tri-tip can absorb some of the smoke flavor. Then, after an hour, remove the deflector plate and reverse-sear over a flame. Since tri-tip is a lean cut of meat, so if it’s overcooked, it will dry out. Most people also serve it medium or rare. This is the case when smoking lean cuts.
What Temperature Do I Smoke Tri-Tip?
There’s a couple of different ways that you can smoke a tri-tip on your ceramic grill. Some pitmasters cook tri-tip it in the 325°F range. The other way is to cook it low-and-slow in the 225° F range, then finish by searing.
I find the lower temperature will have more smoke flavor, because the meat has more time on the grill to absorb that lovely smoke. Cooking in the higher temperature range won’t do any harm to the tri-tip, as long as you don’t leave it on too long and keep a track of the internal meat temperature.
How To Set Up a Kamado For Smoking Tri-Tip
If you haven’t setup a kamado before, check out the below video which will go over all the basics for smoking meat on a ceramic grill. Before you can start smoking tri-tip on your kamado, you will need to properly set up the grill. Here are the steps you should follow:
- Assemble the kamado: Make sure all the parts are securely in place and that the grill is level.
- Prepare the charcoal: Fill the charcoal chamber with the desired amount of charcoal. For smoking, it is recommended to use natural hardwood charcoal. You can also use a charcoal starter to light the charcoal.
- Configure the airflow: Adjust the top and bottom vents to control the airflow and temperature inside the kamado. The bottom vent controls the intake of oxygen, which will in turn control the flame. The top vent controls the exhaust and the temperature inside the kamado.
- Allow the kamado to heat up: Once the charcoal is lit, close the lid and allow the kamado to heat up to your desired temperature. This will usually take around 15-20 minutes.
- Add the meat: Once the kamado has reached the desired temperature, place the tri-tip on the grill grates. Close the lid, and let the meat smoke for the desired time. You can use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the tri-tip and take it off the grill when it reaches the desired doneness.
- Let the tri-tip rest: Before slicing, let the tri-tip rest for a few minutes to allow the juices to redistribute.
Tri-Tip at 225⁰F
Set up your kamado so that you can maintain a low and slow 225° F. This is your ideal temperature range, and the tri-tip should be able to sit on the grill for around about an hour or an hour and a half at this temperature.
Once the tri-tip reaches around 115° F, remove it from the smoker and remove the deflector plate. Sear the tri-tip over the flame until it reaches 130° F for rare or 140° F for medium.
The total cook time for this method will be around about 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on the size and thickness of the tri-tip. and your ability to maintain a stable temperature.
Tri-Tip at 325° F
If you want the tri-tip cooked a little faster, there’s nothing wrong with cooking it at 325° F. I’ve seen several pitmasters cook it out at this temperature. It will take around about 1 hour total cook time. Smoke the tri-tip at 325°F until the temperature reaches 115° F internal temperature. Then, remove the heat deflector and sear it over the direct flame for a few minutes until the meat hits between 130° F and 140° F.
How to Light a Big Green Egg Like a Pro
Cooking a tri-tip on a Big Green Egg is a great way to get a delicious, smoky flavor. In order to set up your Big Green Egg for a tri-tip cook, you should first assemble the grill according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure all parts are securely in place and that the grill is level. Next, you will need to fill the charcoal chamber with natural hardwood charcoal. You can also use a charcoal starter to light the charcoal.
Once the charcoal is lit, you will need to adjust the top and bottom vents to control the airflow and temperature inside the Big Green Egg. The bottom vent controls the intake of oxygen, which will in turn control the flame. The top vent controls the exhaust and the temperature inside the Big Green Egg. You will want to allow the Big Green Egg to heat up to your desired temperature, usually around 225-250°F for smoking. This will usually take around 15-20 minutes.
After the grill has reached the desired temperature, it’s time to season the tri-tip with desired spices and place it on the grill grates. Close the lid and let the meat smoke for the desired time. It is recommended to smoke the tri-tip for around 2-3 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 135°F for medium-rare. You can use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the tri-tip and take it off the grill when it reaches the desired doneness.
Once the tri-tip is cooked, it’s important to let it rest for a few minutes to allow the juices to redistribute. Once rested, you can slice the tri-tip against the grain and serve it. You can enjoy the smoky flavor that the Big Green Egg imparts and the juicy and tender meat.
|1||Assemble the Big Green Egg according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure all parts are securely in place and that the grill is level.|
|2||Fill the charcoal chamber with natural hardwood charcoal. You can also use a charcoal starter to light the charcoal.|
|3||Adjust the top and bottom vents to control the airflow and temperature inside the Big Green Egg. The bottom vent controls the intake of oxygen, which will in turn control the flame. The top vent controls the exhaust and the temperature inside the Big Green Egg.|
|4||Allow the Big Green Egg to heat up to your desired temperature. This will usually take around 15-20 minutes.|
|5||Season the tri-tip with desired spices and place it on the grill grates. Close the lid and let the meat smoke for the desired time.|
|6||Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the tri-tip. Take it off the grill when it reaches the desired doneness.|
|7||Let the tri-tip rest for a few minutes to allow the juices to redistribute.|
|8||Serve and enjoy! Your tri-tip is now ready to be served, and you can enjoy the smoky flavor that the Big Green Egg imparts.|
If you want to know how barbecue guru sets up his Big Green Egg for smoking, then check out this video.
After you have removed the tri-tip from the grill, it’s important to allow it to rest for about 10 minutes before slicing. This allows the meat to relax and release any juices that may have been pushed to the center of the meat during the cooking process. If you slice the tri-tip immediately after taking it off the grill, you risk losing much of the juices and flavor of the meat.
When slicing the tri-tip, it’s important to slice it against the grain. This means cutting perpendicular to the direction of the muscle fibers. Slicing against the grain creates shorter muscle fibers in the meat, making it more tender and easier to chew. If you slice the tri-tip with the grain, the meat will be stringy and less tender.
The best smoking wood for beef is hickory, oak, or pecan. If you want to really strong smoking wood, experiment with mesquite. Some people find mesquite overbearing, but it can be good for short fast cooks like a tri-tip.
The thing I like about mesquite is it gives you some intense smoke flavor in a really short space of time. However, for longer cooks, mesquite can make the meat taste bitter. You can use fruit woods such as apple cherry etc, but I like something a little stronger when smoking tri-tip because the meat will not be on the grill for very long.
|Oak||Beef, Pork||Strong, robust flavor. Can be used with a variety of meats, but particularly good for beef.|
|Mesquite||Beef, Pork||Strong, assertive flavor. Can be overpowering if used in large quantities, but gives a nice smoky flavor to beef.|
|Pecan||Beef, Pork, Poultry||Mild, nutty flavor. Pairs well with beef and pork, and can also be used with poultry.|
|Cherry||Beef, Pork, Poultry||Mild, sweet flavor. Can be used with a variety of meats, but particularly good for beef and pork.|
|Apple||Beef, Pork, Poultry||Mild, sweet and fruity flavor. Can be used with a variety of meats, but particularly good with pork and poultry.|
|Maple||Beef, Pork, Poultry||Mild, sweet flavor. Can be used with a variety of meats, but particularly good with bacon and poultry.|
|Hickory||Beef, Pork||Strong, smoky flavor. Can be overpowering if used in large quantities, but gives a nice smoky flavor to beef and pork.|
The Best Rub For Tri-Tip
There are several ways you can season a tri-tip. You can use a simple Texas style rub, or you can do something more complex. If you want to keep it really simple, just season the tri-tip with some kosher salt and black pepper. This will allow the natural beef flavors to be the star of the show without the rub taking anything away from those flavors. Barbecue guru Aaron Franklin will almost always season his meat with a simple salt and pepper mix. He often blends a little garlic powder, or granulated onion to give the meat a savory taste. Also, a little paprika will give the meat some color and spiciness.
For a great rub recipe, here is a really simple homemade rub that will work wonderfully with tri-tip. The great thing about this recipe is you can add and subtract according to your tastes. I usually leave out the salt, because I prefer to salt my meat separately. Check out the Rub Guide for more information.
- - ½ Cup Paprika
- - ½ Cup Salt
- - ½ Cup Sugar
- - ½ Cup Granulated Garlic
- - ¼ Cup Granulated Onion
- - ¼ Cup Chili
- - ¼ Cup Cumin
- - 2 Tablespoons Black Pepper
- - 2 Tablespoons Dry Mustard
- - 1 Tablespoon Cayenne Pepper
- Combine all the spices together in a large mixing bowl
- Store rub in rub shakers
There are several great barbecue rubs on the market, and I love to use Killer Hogs, which is produced by legendary pitmaster Malcolm Reed. In this post, I’ve gathered the best barbecue rubs on the market.
Do You Wrap Tri-Tip?
Unlike brisket and other large cuts of meat, tri-tip doesn’t need to be wrapped. You only need to wrap meat that is going to be in the smoker for a long time, and is at risk of trying out or being overexposed to smoke.
The main benefit of wrapping, is it helps the meat cook faster because the foil traps steam, speeding up the cook. Tri-tip is only going to be in the smoker for 1.5 to 2 hours, so there’s no need to wrap. We need the meat to absorb as much smoke flavor as possible in that short space of time, so wrapping is only going to hinder that smoke absorption.
Do You Spritz Tri-Tip?
You can spritz the tri-tip throughout the cook, but it’s not necessary. If you’re cooking at a higher temperature (in the 325° F range), one or two spritzes during the cook won’t do it any harm. If you’re smoking in the lower range, I wouldn’t worry too much. Use apple cider vinegar or apple juice as your spritz, but you can use whatever you wish. Some people believe that spritzing will attract more smoke, so you can experiment and see for yourself.
How Long Does it Take To Cook Tri-Tip on a Kamado?
If you’re cooking at a high temperature, you can have the tri-tip cooked and served in around 1 hour. If you’re cooking in the lower range, expect the total cook time to be around about 2 hours. You only need to allow about 10 minutes for the tri-tip to rest, then you can slice and serve.
Why Reverse Sear Tri-Tip?
Reverse searing is a common method for smoking tri-tip because it allows for a more precise control of the cooking process and results in a more evenly cooked and tender piece of meat.
The reverse searing method involves first smoking the tri-tip at a low temperature until it reaches the desired internal temperature, and then finishing it off with a high-heat sear to create a crust on the exterior of the meat. This method allows the meat to cook more evenly, as the low-temperature smoking allows the heat to penetrate the center of the meat without overcooking the exterior. The high-heat sear at the end helps to create a crust on the exterior of the meat that adds flavor and texture.
According to the BBQ experts, smoking tri-tip low and slow before searing it over high heat can create a more evenly cooked and tender piece of meat. The low-heat smoking allows the meat to cook through gently and evenly, while the high-heat searing helps to create a flavorful crust on the exterior. This method also allows for better control over the final temperature of the meat, which is important for ensuring that the tri-tip is cooked to the desired level of doneness.
|1. Prepare the Tri-Tip||Trim any excess fat and season the tri-tip with your desired rub or marinade.|
|2. Smoke the Tri-Tip||Place the tri-tip on the grill and smoke it at a low temperature (around 225-250°F) until it reaches an internal temperature of around 110-120°F. This will take around 1-2 hours.|
|3. Heat up the Grill||Turn up the grill to a high heat (around 500-550°F) to prepare for the searing process.|
|4. Sear the Tri-Tip||Once the grill is hot, place the tri-tip on the grill and sear it for 1-2 minutes per side. This will create a crust on the exterior of the meat and help to lock in the juices.|
|5. Check the Temperature||Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the tri-tip. It should be around 130-135°F for medium-rare, 145°F for medium, and 160°F for well-done.|
|6. Rest the Tri-Tip||Once the tri-tip has reached the desired temperature, remove it from the grill and let it rest for 10-15 minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute and the meat to relax.|
|7. Slice and Serve||Slice the tri-tip against the grain and serve it immediately. Enjoy the tender and juicy meat with a flavorful crust.|
My Favorite Meat Smoking Tools
Thanks for checking out this article. I hope you learned a few things. Here are some of my favorite tools I use when smoking brisket that may be useful to you. These are affiliate links, so if you decide to purchase any of these products, I’ll earn a commission. But in all honesty, these are the tools I recommend to my family and friends who are just starting out.
Meat Thermometer: There are dozens of fancy thermometers on the market, but I still use my trusty TP20. For around $50, I have a high-quality meat thermometer with two probes, and can track the temperature of my smoker with one probe, and my meat with the other probe. The ThermoPro TP20 is an Amazon Best Seller because it’s the easiest thermometer to operate, is durable, highly accurate, and comes with pre-programmed meat settings.
Instant Read Thermometer: Arguably, the second most important tool you need is a fast and accurate instant-read thermometer. These tools play an important role in the latter stages of the cook when the meat needs regular checking in multiple areas. I use the ThermoPro TP19 because it can do everything a ThermaPen can do, but for a fraction of the cost. You can check out the TP19 on Amazon here.
Wireless Thermometer: The latest thermometers on the market have no wires and can be controlled by wi-fi via your phone. Airprobe 3 is the best of this technology.
Butcher Paper: Wrapping brisket in butcher paper has become a huge trend in barbeque thanks to Aaron Franklin. Wrapping your brisket in paper will give you a nice brisket bark. However, you can’t just use any old paper, it has to be unwaxed, food grade paper. You can find it on Amazon here.
Advanced Thermometer and Automatic Temperature Controller: Once you’re ready to take things seriously, the FireBoard 2 Drive is a six-channel Bluetooth/Wi-Fi thermometer that can monitor up to 6 pieces of meat, control and graph your cook sessions on your smartphone, and attaches to an an automatic blower that will convert your charcoal smoker to a set-and-forget. This is one of the most advanced meat thermometers on the market. You can check it out on the FireBoard website here.