Tri-tip is a delicious cut of beef that is becoming increasingly popular among barbecue enthusiasts. This cut of meat comes from the tail of the sirloin and is known for its rich flavor and tenderness. In this article, we will be discussing the best techniques and methods for smoking tri-tip on a pellet grill. We will cover everything from preparing the meat to choosing the right wood pellets, in order to achieve the perfect smoke flavor.
Partially smoke the tri-tip on the pellet grill at 225° F until the internal meat temperature reaches 115° F. Then finish the tri-tip with a rehearse-sear over high heat until it reaches between 130° F and 140° F. Prior to cooking, apply a decent layer of rub to the tri-tip, and choose a smoking wood that works well with beef such as hickory, oak, or pecan. on the grill.
- Tri-tip is a triangle-shaped cut of beef from the tail of the sirloin
- Popular in Southern California and has gained popularity worldwide
- When smoking on a pellet grill, use a reverse-sear method
- Start by smoking at 225°F until internal meat temperature reaches 115°F
- Finish by searing over high heat until internal temperature reaches 130-140°F
- Trim fat, leaving 1/4 inch
- Brush olive oil onto the tri-tip and apply a thick layer of barbecue rub or Texas rub (50:50 coarse black pepper and kosher salt)
- Choose a smoking wood that works well with beef such as hickory, oak, or pecan
- Allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing against the grain.
- Dry rub
- Salt and Pepper
- Olive Oil
1. Trim the fat, leaving 1/4 if an inch
2. Brush olive oil onto the tri-tip.
3. Apply a thick layer of barbecue rub, or a Texas rub (50:50 coarse black pepper and kosher salt).
4. Use hickory, pecan or your favourite wood pellets.
5. Set the temperature of you pellet grill to 225°F.
6. Cook for about 1.5 to 2 hours, or until the internal meat temperature reaches 115°F.
7. Remove the tri-tip and sear 3 minutes each side until the internal meat temperature reaches between 130° F and 140⁰F.
8. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing against the grain.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 175
What is Tri-Tip?
- Tri-tip, also known as triangle roast, is a cut of beef from the bottom sirloin, known for its rich flavor and tenderness.
- Cut is lean and a great option for those looking for a healthier alternative to other cuts of beef.
- Originally only found in Southern California but its popularity has spread worldwide with the rise of the internet.
- Smoking tri-tip is a quick and easy process, taking under 2 hours compared to the long wait for other cuts like brisket.
Tri-tip, also known as triangle roast, is a cut of beef that is removed from the bottom sirloin. It is named for its triangular shape and is known for its rich flavor and tenderness. The cut is lean, making it a great option for those looking for a healthier alternative to other cuts of beef.
Originally, tri-tip was only found in the butcher shops of Southern California. However, with the rise of the internet and social media, the popularity of tri-tip has spread worldwide. People are now able to easily access information about this cut of meat and are experimenting with it in their own kitchens.
Smoking tri-tip is a quick and easy process. Unlike other cuts of beef such as brisket, which can take hours to smoke, tri-tip should be cooked in under 2 hours. This makes it a great option for those who want to enjoy a delicious smoked meal without the long wait.
The reverse-sear method is the best method for smoking tri-tip when using a pellet grill. This method involves smoking the meat at a low temperature for an hour or so, and then searing it over high heat to finish it off. This method allows the meat to absorb smoke while still maintaining its tenderness.
Since this cut is lean, most people serve tri-tip rare or medium rare. This allows the natural flavor of the meat to shine and ensures that the meat is not overcooked. However, if you prefer your meat cooked to a higher temperature, that is also an option.
Reverse-Seared Tri Tip
- The reverse sear method cooks meats by first cooking at low temperature and then finishing at high temperature.
- This method is popular for smoking tri-tip as it allows meat to absorb smoke while maintaining tenderness.
- Low temperature cooking ensures even cooking, avoiding overcooked exterior and undercooked interior.
- Popular among pitmasters, it starts with slow smoking to infuse rich smoky flavor, then finishing over high heat for a flavorful crust.
- Can be applied to other cuts of meats that are lean and don’t have a lot of fat, such as filet mignon, lamb chops, and pork tenderloin.
The reverse sear method is a technique used to cook meats, where the meat is first cooked at a low temperature and then finished at a high temperature. This method is particularly popular when smoking tri-tip, as it allows the meat to absorb smoke while still maintaining its tenderness.
The reason why the reverse-sear method works well with tri-tip is that it allows the meat to cook evenly. When cooking at a low temperature, the meat cooks from the inside out. This means that the center of the meat reaches the desired temperature before the exterior, which can result in an overcooked exterior and undercooked interior. By starting at a low temperature, the meat cooks more evenly, resulting in a perfectly cooked piece of meat.
In the barbecue community, the reverse-seared method is a popular way of smoking tri-tip. Pitmasters will typically start out slow and let the tri-tip absorb smoke for an hour or so. This allows the meat to take on a rich smoky flavor. After this, the tri-tip is finished over high heat. This sears the exterior of the meat and creates a flavorful crust, while still ensuring that the center of the meat is cooked to perfection.
It’s worth noting that the reverse-sear method is not only limited to tri-tip, it can be used for other cuts of meat as well. It works well with cuts that are lean and don’t have a lot of fat, such as filet mignon, lamb chops, and pork tenderloin.
|1||Trim the fat, leaving 1/4 inch on top|
|2||Brush olive oil onto the tri-tip|
|3||Apply a thick layer of barbecue rub, or a Texas rub (50:50 coarse black pepper and kosher salt)|
|4||Fill your Traeger with wood pellets (hickory, oak, pecan, or mesquite)|
|5||Set the temperature of your Traeger to 225°F|
|6||Cook the tri-tip for 1.5 to 2 hours, or until the internal meat temperature reaches 115°F|
|7||Remove the tri-tip and sear for 3 minutes each side until the internal temperature reaches between 130° F and 140⁰F|
|8||Allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing against the grain|
- You can also cook hot-and-fast at 325°F, rotate the meat every 15 minutes and keep a thermometer probe inserted to monitor internal temperature
- Keep an eye on internal temperature of the meat, once it reaches 115°F, you’re ready to reverse-sear it.
- To reverse-sear, you can use a pan or grill, cooking for 3 minutes each side until internal temperature reaches 130°F-140°F
- Let the meat rest for 5 min before slicing
- Experiment with wood pellets to find the right flavor that suits your taste, hickory, oak, pecan, and mesquite are popular choices among pitmasters.
Preparing Your Tri-Tip
- Tri-tip is easy to prepare
- Leave 1/4 inch of fat on top
- Trim any excess fat
- Fat layer will render and add flavor
- Fat cap should not be removed completely
- Fat cap will provide protection to meat from drying out.
Tri-tip is a relatively easy cut of beef to prepare for smoking. The cut is lean, which means it doesn’t contain a lot of fat. However, it is important to leave a small layer of fat on top of the tri-tip when preparing it for smoking. This layer should be about 1/4 inch thick. This fat will help to keep the meat moist and flavorful while it is being smoked. Additionally, this layer of fat will render during the cooking process, adding even more flavor to the meat.
Leaving too much fat on the tri-tip, however, will not yield the desired results. The excess fat will not render properly and will likely cause the tri-tip to become greasy and unappetizing. Therefore, it is important to trim any excess fat before smoking the tri-tip.
Pitmasters recommend that the fat should be trimmed in a way that the meat is exposed evenly, this way the meat will cook evenly and the fat will render evenly as well. This will ensure that the tri-tip is cooked to perfection.
Another important thing to note is that the fat cap should not be removed completely, as it will also provide some protection to the meat as it smokes, preventing it from drying out.
The Best Dry Rub for Tri-Tip
Apply a layer of rub to the meat, and choose a recipe or a rub that goes well with beef. You can do a simple Texas-style rub—similar to what Aaron Franklin uses ob his barbecue meat. A Texas rub is a simple coarse black pepper and kosher salt. Mix a 50/50 ratio of salt to pepper. If you want a savoury taste, add in some garlic powder and granulated onion.
For a more complicated rub recipe, check out this article or run through some of the best homemade recipes from the pitmasters. Harry Soo’s Slap Yo Daddy and Malcolm Reed’s Killer Hogs are made by champion pitmasters, so you know they are good.
Your other option is to use a pre-made rub. However, but just be careful with the salt content in these rubs. If you’re pre-salting the tri-tip and the rub is high in salt, then you may ruin the meat. Here’s a graph of the best barbecue rubs on the market.
- - 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
Apply a Binder so the Seasoning Sticks
- Binder helps dry rub or seasoning stick to the meat
- Olive oil, yellow mustard, water, or pre-salting can be used as binders
- Without binder, rub coating may be patchy
- Helps achieve even seasoning on the meat.
A binder is a liquid or paste that you apply to your meat before seasoning. This helps your dry rub or seasoning stick to the meat, which ensures that your seasoning is evenly distributed, and doesn’t fall off while cooking.
When smoking tri-tip, if your dry rub isn’t sticking to the meat, you can use a binder to help it adhere. A common binder is olive oil, you can brush a light coat of olive oil on the tri-tip before adding your rub. This will help the rub stick to the meat and ensure an even coating.
Another popular binder is yellow mustard. You can spread a thin layer of mustard on the meat before adding your rub. This creates a sticky surface for the rub to adhere to. You can also use plain water as a binder if you prefer.
If you pre-salt the meat, the tri-tip will become sticky which will work as a good binder. This is because the salt draws out moisture from the meat, and it will create a sticky surface for the rub to stick to.
It’s worth noting that if you don’t use a binder, the bark on the outer layer of the meat may be patchy. This means that some areas of the meat will have a thick coating of rub while other areas will have none.
In short, binders are an important step in barbecue, they help your dry rub or seasoning stick to the meat and ensure an even coating, giving you a delicious, evenly seasoned meal.
Best Wood Pellets For Tri-Tip
Hickory: It is known for its strong, smoky flavor with a slight sweetness. It’s a classic choice for smoking meats, especially beef.
Oak: Oak has a mild, slightly sweet flavor with a hint of nuttiness. This makes it a versatile choice for smoking a variety of meats, including beef. It’s a widely used wood for smoking meat.
Pecan: Pecan has a mild, sweet, nutty flavor with a hint of caramel. It’s a great wood for smoking beef because it imparts a rich, complex flavor without being too overpowering.
Mesquite: Mesquite has a strong, intense smoky flavor with a touch of sweetness. It’s a popular choice for smoking beef because it infuses a lot of smoke flavor in a short period of time. However, it can overpower the meat if used for too long.
Cherry: Cherry has a mild, sweet, fruity flavor with a hint of tartness. It’s a great wood for smoking beef because it adds a subtle sweetness to the meat that complements the rich, beefy flavor.
Fill your pellet grill with a wood flavour that blends with beef. Hickory, oak or pecan are good choices for tri-tip.
For a really strong smoke flavor, try some mesquite. Mesquite is good when you want to infuse a lot of smoke flavour in a short period, but can overpower meat for longer cooks. Tri-tip is only a short cook, so mesquite is a good way to infuse smoke flavour in a short period.
I always like to mix and match my wood pellets. When smoking beef, I usually go a 50-50 mix of a strong flavoured wood (like hickory or oak) with a fruitwood (like apple or cherry).
|Wood Type||Flavor Profile|
|Hickory||Strong, smoky flavor with a slight sweetness.|
|Oak||Mild, slightly sweet flavor with a hint of nuttiness.|
|Pecan||Mild, sweet, nutty flavor with a hint of caramel.|
|Mesquite||Strong, intense smoky flavor with a touch of sweetness.|
|Cherry||Mild, sweet, fruity flavor with a hint of tartness.|
The Ideal Cooking Temp for Tri-Tip
- Best temp for smoking tri-tip is 225°F
- Cook time under 2 hours
- Use instant-read thermometer to monitor internal temp
- Remove at 115°F for medium-rare
- Sear for 3 minutes each side after remove to get 130-140°F internal temp
- Let rest before slicing.
The best temperature to smoke tri-tip is 225°F. It should take under 2 hours to cook at this temperature. Use an instant-read thermometer, or a leave-in thermometer, and remove the tri-tip once the internal temperature reaches 115° F. Then, sear the tri-tip on the grill or in a fry pan for 3 minutes each side until the internal temperature reaches between 130° F and 140⁰F.
When smoking tri-tip, it’s important to maintain the right temperature to ensure that the meat is cooked to perfection.
Cooking tri-tip at 225°F should take under 2 hours. However, it’s important to monitor the internal temperature of the meat using an instant-read thermometer or a leave-in thermometer to ensure that the tri-tip is cooked to your desired level of doneness.
When smoking tri-tip, the ideal internal temperature for medium-rare is 135°F. To achieve this, remove the tri-tip from the smoker once the internal temperature reaches 115°F.
After removing the tri-tip, it’s important to give it a quick sear to create a flavorful crust on the outside of the meat. You can do this by searing the tri-tip on the grill or in a fry pan for 3 minutes on each side until the internal temperature reaches between 130°F and 140°F.
It’s important to let the tri-tip rest for a few minutes before slicing it to allow the juices to redistribute. This will ensure that the tri-tip is juicy and flavorful.
Smoking Tri-Tip Hot and Fast
Another popular method for cooking tri-tip is the hot-and-fast method. This method involves cooking the tri-tip at a higher temperature of 325°F. This method cooks the tri-tip faster, usually in about an hour, but it’s important to be careful not to overcook the tri-tip.
When using this method, it’s important to rotate the meat every 15 minutes. This ensures that the tri-tip cooks evenly and prevents any hot spots on the grill.
It’s also important to use a thermometer probe to monitor the internal temperature of the meat. This will ensure that the tri-tip is cooked to your desired level of doneness. Once the internal temperature reaches 115°F, you can then reverse-sear the tri-tip in a pan or on the grill. This will create a flavorful crust on the outside of the meat while still ensuring that the center is cooked to perfection. The internal temperature should reach 130°F or 140°F.
It’s worth noting that the hot-and-fast method is best used for tri-tip that is less than 2 inches thick. If the tri-tip is thicker, it will be more challenging to cook it to your desired doneness.
How Long Does it Take To Cook Tri-Tip on a Traeger?
- 2 hours at 225°F to smoke and reverse-sear tri-tip
- 1 hour at 300°F or above to smoke and reverse-sear tri-tip
- 10 minutes to rest before slicing
If you are cooking at 225° F, it will only take around about 2 hours to smoke and reverse-sear a tri-tip. This allows the tri-tip to absorb smoke and cook evenly, while still maintaining its tenderness.
If you’re smoking above 300° F, it should be done in around about 1 hour. You also want to allow 10 minutes for the tri-tip to rest—which should only take about 10 minutes.
Cooking tri-tip on a Traeger can vary depending on the temperature you choose to cook at and the thickness of the tri-tip.
If you choose to cook at a higher temperature, such as 300°F or above, the cooking time will be shorter. It should take around 1 hour to smoke and reverse-sear the tri-tip. The high temperature will cook the tri-tip faster, but it’s important to monitor the internal temperature to avoid overcooking.
It’s also important to allow 10 minutes for the tri-tip to rest before slicing it. This allows the juices to redistribute and ensures that the tri-tip is juicy and flavorful.
Reverse-Seared Tri-Tip On A Traeger
The reverse-sear is a popular way of smoking leaner cuts of meat. This technique, you want to allow the tri-tip time to absorb smoke—then finish over a high heat.
Reverse-searing is a great technique for tri-tip because it’s a lean cut of beef that doesn’t need a long time in the smoker to break down any connective tissue as you would a brisket.
Do You Flip Tri-Tip?
Most pellet grills usually circulate an even heat around the grill. You may have hotspots on your grill, so you might need to rotate or flip the tri-tip at certain points. If you have a hotspot, then place the thicker side towards that section of the grill.
If you’re cooking low-and-slow, you want the tri-tip to spend as much time as possible absorbing smoke. If your pellet grill has hot spots and cold spots, place the tri-tip in a cool-zone where it will have more time to absorb those wonderful smoke flavours.
Fat Side Up Or Fat Side Down?
If you find the underside of the tri-tip is cooking faster, then you may want to place the meat fat-side-down. This will shield the meat from the heat, and prevent it from drying out. However, some people believe that fat-side-up will baste the sides and the bottom of the meat, keeping it moist.
Do You Wrap Tri-Tip in Foil?
Foiling is an important step when smoking meat, but it isn’t necessary when cooking tri-tip. This kind of meat will not be in the smoke a long enough to need wrapping. Generally, we wrap meat to speed up the cook, and help retain moisture. I tried to we’ll be done in under 2 hours, so there’s no need for wrapping.
Tri-Tip Done Temperature
Tri-tip is best cooked medium rare and served between 130° F and 140° F. If you go any higher, the meat will become dry. Tri-tip contains a lot of fat, so if you can afford it, by a Prime or Choice grade tri-tip. The higher beef grades will contain more marbling, so the tri-tip will be moist and juicy.
Searing on a Traeger Ironwood or Timberline
If you have a Traeger Ironwood or Timberline, these models have the ability to lower the bottom rack and sear at 500°F. If your pellet grill can’t sear, then you’ll have to finish the tri-tip on a regular grill or in your kitchen.
If you have an Ironwood or Timberline, set the temperature to 225°F and cook until the meat reaches 115°F. Then lower the bottom rack and increase the temperature to 500°F and reverse-sear the tri-tip for 3 to 4 minutes each side until it hits 130° F or 140° F internal temperature.
If you have a Pro Series Traeger, or one of the older 1st Generation Traeger models, you won’t have searing capabilities and will sear the tri-tip another way.
Use a Good Thermometer
You really need to use a good thermometer to keep track of what’s going on inside the meat—otherwise it’s just guesswork. A good thermometer will remove all the guesswork so you can be more precise with your cooking. You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on thermometers. I still use a $50 thermometer that I purchased on Amazon. It’s the number one selling meat thermometer on Amazon because of it’s accuracy, durability and ease-of-use. Check out the TP20 here.
Check out our Thermometer Guide
As with most cuts of meat, slice against the grain. If you slice with the grain, the meat will taste stringy. Before slicing, identify which direction the meat is running, then cut the opposite way.
When you slice open your tri-tip, hopefully you will have a nice smoke ring around the outer layer of the meat. The smoke ring can be mistaken as being rare, but this isn’t the case. The smoke ring is a chemical reaction that occurs on the surface of smoked meat. For more information on the smoke ring, check out this post.
Brisket vs Tri-Tip
Brisket is a very different from tri-tip. Brisket contains a lot of fat and connective tissue—which takes several hours to render. This is why a brisket will take 10 to 15 hours to cook. Tri-tip has very little connective tissue in only a small amount of fat. Tri-tip is also a much smaller cut, whereas brisket is an enormous roast.
Tri-tip is more tender, but if cooked low-and-slow, brisket can also can become melt-in-your-mouth tender. I’ve written a full length article on the differences between brisket and tri-tip. You can check it out here: Brisket vs Tri-Tip
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.