Smoker Chronicles: Tri-tip

I’ve been hitting the tri-tip pretty hard in the smoker lately, so I figured I’d write a post about it.

I’m able to find tri-tip at my local grocery stores by asking at the butcher counter – they never have the whole tri-tips in the case, only ones that have been cut into pieces.   I’ve paid between $5.99 and $7.99 per pound for this cut, and the tri-tip roasts average 2.5-3.0 lbs.    Since this cut cooks so quickly, you’ll want to remove almost all of the fat cap, as it won’t have time to render.

With a simple dry rub of salt (1 Tablespoon), black pepper (1 Tablespoon), garlic powder (1 teaspoon) and onion powder (1 teaspoon) applied before smoking, the prep work is easy too.   I try to take the tri-tip out of the fridge about an hour before I put it on the smoker, so the meat can warm to room temperature a bit.

Here’s a picture of my tri-tip on the way in:

Tri-tip roast, simple dry rub

Tri-tip roast, simple dry rub

This was a 2.7lb cut that cooked to 135 internal temperature (at 225 degrees in the smoker) in less than 80 minutes.  I used 1 cup of mesquite chips for this one.  I let it rest for about 15 minutes, wrapped in foil, and then sliced it, to get this:

sliced tri-tip.  meat sweats imminent

sliced tri-tip. meat sweats imminent

You can also let it rest a bit longer and the internal temperature will rise a bit more.   I’ve also cooked it to an internal temp of 145 with fine results – medium meat vs. medium rare.

Now, a few things I’ve learned in my still-novice journey smoking this cut of meat:  1) it smokes quickly, so you won’t get a bark on the outside like you will with pulled pork or brisket which are in there for 8-12 hours.  2) since it smokes quickly, you probably want to use a more powerfully flavored smoke – which is why I’ve used mesquite.   I may experiment with a more mild wood chip in the future.  3) this is a cut that you can serve rare.  Some experts only smoke this to 125 degrees internal temp.

Anyway, here’s what it looked like when I melted some cheese on it, threw it on a bun, and served it with my trademark brussels sprouts & bacon:

tri-tip sandwich served with brussels sprouts & bacon

tri-tip sandwich served with brussels sprouts & bacon

related:  my other smoker posts



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