With the right grilling technique, you can serve a tri-tip that will leave your guests begging for more. The tri-tip is a small, tender and well-marbled roast that packs as much flavor as a steak. Its size and flavor make the tri-tip a perfect choice for your next small gathering or family barbecue. You can also ask your butcher for a Santa Maria steak, triangle roast or bottom sirloin butt -- all names for tri-tip. No matter what you call it, though, this tasty roast is sure to become a staple on your grocery list.
Pour the dry seasonings into a small bowl and mix well. (For a spicier rub, substitute 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper for the 2 teaspoons of chili powder.)
Use a sharp butcher's knife to carefully remove the layer of fat in one piece. Set the fat aside. (Do not discard.)
Rub the seasoning mixture onto the tri-tip, making sure to evenly coat the entire roast. Store the excess in an airtight container.
Heat the grill. If you are using a gas or propane grill with dual controls, heat one side to high and the other to low. If you are using charcoal, concentrate coals in the center of the pit so that heat at the perimeter is less intense.
Oil the grill. Wrap a small hand or paper towel around barbecue tongs, pour about a tablespoon of cooking oil onto the towel and rub over the grill. This will prevent the meat from sticking and aid in cleanup.
Grilling and Serving
Place the tri-tip over high heat to sear in juices and create grill marks. Sear 2 to 3 minutes per side, adjusting the meat halfway through the searing process to create a crosshatch pattern.
Move the meat to low heat and blanket it with the layer of fat. Close the lid and grill for approximately 20 minutes per pound, turning every 7 minutes and replacing the fat. Blanketing both sides of the tri-tip with fat allows the juices to absorb evenly and will result in a tender, flavorful roast.
Test whether the meat is done by inserting an instant-read meat thermometer into the thickest part of the roast. Tri-tip is medium rare when the thermometer reads 135 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not cook beyond medium rare; the roast's internal temperature will continue the cooking process as the meat rests.
Remove the tri-tip from heat and cover it loosely with aluminum foil. Let it rest for 15 minutes. This will allow the juices, which have been forced to the center of the meat during cooking, to redistribute.
Thinly slice the tri-tip on a diagonal. A diagonal slice will cut through fibers that might otherwise make the meat tough.
Buy only USDA choice or prime grade tri-tip. Inferior grades do not have enough marbling to ensure a tender roast.
For grills without temperature controls, use this method to determine approximate heat: Place your hand 2 inches above the grill. If the heat forces you to remove your hand in 2 seconds or less, the heat is high; if you can hold your hand there for 3 to 4 seconds, the heat is medium; and if you can hold it there for 5 seconds or longer, the heat is low.