Tri-tip is a cut of beef from the bottom sirloin (see picture). It is a small triangular muscle, usually 1.5 to 2.5 lbs. per side of beef. You rarely (pardon the pun) hear of it outside of the west coast, although in New York city it may be called “Newport steak”. In my hometown of plain old Plano, TX you can find it only at few places such as Central Market or Hirsch’s Meat Market, and, of course, at my favorite store, Costco. BBQ Buddy Lee and I have had several tri-tip cook offs over the years, using a marinade recipe from Lee’s Reno friend Jim Riggen, who happens to be a real world McGyver, both in the garage and in the kitchen. The marinade (and baste) is a mixture of sliced purple onion, Teriyaki sauce, olive oil and brown rice vinegar. After spending 12 or more hours marinading, the beef is cooked over indirect heat on the Weber Kettle Grill or in the Weber Smoker.
The original US tri-tip recipe was created in Santa Maria, California, and named accordingly. In fact, it is alleged the town’s Chamber of Commerce has copyrighted the recipe. In its most basic form a rub comprised of salt, pepper and garlic powder is used, and the meat is cooked over red oak. I found a recipe for Grilled Santa Maria Tri-Tip on About.com which is much more involved, but turned out to be a a dead ringer! It calls for these ingredients:
2 to 2 1/2 lb beef tri-tip roast
1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup oil oil
4 cloves crushed garlic
I used Hungarian Hot Paprika in lieu of the garden variety and deli mustard instead of Dijon. Olive oil was substituted for vegetable oil. Preparation began with combining the black pepper, salt, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, rosemary, and cayenne in a small bowl. This mixture was then rubbed on to all surfaces of the tri-tip, and the meat was refrigerated for 3 hours. The meat was removed and given 30 minutes to warm to room temperature.
For the baste the mustard, vinegar, olive oil, and crushed garlic were put into a jar with a lid and shaken vigorously until emulsified. The Weber Kettle Grill was fired up with lump charcoal. Once the coals were ashen white, the meat was placed on the grill and coated with a mixture of olive oil and red wine vinegar. The meat was grilled for a total of 30 minutes to medium rare (135 degrees). Every 3-4 minutes it was basted. After resting for 30 minutes the meat was cut into thin slices.