Slow cooking is a simple method for coaxing a lot of flavor out of beef cuts like tri-tip roast. The low-and-slow approach also helps tenderize meat. Better still, you can often cook your main dish and side dish all in one pot, which increases the tastiness and saves a busy home cook precious time. Tri-tip isn’t overly expensive, either, so it’s easy on the budget. Because you’re cooking the cut slowly there is less chance of making mistakes or burning the meat.
Choosing a Tri-tip Roast
When shopping for a tri-tip roast, you might find it called by other names – either bottom sirloin butt or a triangle roast. The average size of this cut is between 1 ½ pounds to 3 pounds, and between 2 inches to 3 inches thick. Look for a well-trimmed cut that’s nicely marbled. If the tip still has a layer of fat, you can lose over two pounds to fat, so take that into consideration for proper portions. The standard serving size for cooked tri-tip is 3 ounces.
Making Paprika Butter
Paprika butter is but one of many flavors that bring out the richness of a tri-tip cut. There are numerous types of paprika to choose from. Hungarian paprika has a sweet undertone but it may also have a piquant side. Spanish paprika has a milder flavor than Hungarian. When you buy smoked paprika, most often it’s the Spanish variety. Which you choose is a matter of personal taste. The basic proportion for paprika butter is approximately one part paprika to three parts butter. You can either rub this into the tri-tip before cooking, or melt it and use it as a sauce.
Using a Slow Cooker
Slow cookers are made for unhurried dishes. According to the University of Minnesota Cooperative Extension, before using a slow cooker for your tri-tip, it's always good to test to make sure it gets hot enough for food safety. Fill the cooker about halfway full with plain water. Put the cooker on the low setting. Check the water in eight hours using a food thermometer. If the water is 185 degrees Fahrenheit, the cooker is safe. Less than that, and the cooker isn’t keeping food hot enough according to food safety guidelines, and should be replaced.
Provided everything is fine with your system, give the interior of your pot a coating of cooking spray. This helps with clean-up later. Any hard vegetables you plan to cook with the meat go on the bottom of the cooker, and the tri-tip on top. Place about 1/3-inch of wine, water, or stock in the bottom for moisture and for making a rich gravy later. Cook on low for eight to 10 hours. The roast is done when the internal temperature reaches 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Let the roast rest for 10 to 15 minutes for a medium doneness.
Slow Cooking in the Oven
If you don’t have access to a slow cooker you can turn your oven into one easily. Treat the tri-tip as you would for the slow cooker with the paprika butter. Line an oven-proof pan with aluminum foil, leaving enough on both ends to cover the beef completely. You can still add vegetables to the bottom of this set up. Turn the oven to 250 degrees F and cook for about four hours. Check the meat with a thermometer at the three-hour mark just to be sure you’re not over-cooking, as every oven heats a little differently. For well done tri-tip, look for a temperature of 150 degrees F, letting it stand for 15 minutes.
Low and Slow Barbecue Tri-Tip
Low and slow is a favorite saying among grillers. You can use any barbecue unit for tri-tip, but for slow cooking, an offset grill makes things much easier. An offset grill has two chambers: one for charcoal and smoking wood, and the other for cooking. This means that your roast gets indirect heat at temperatures similar to slow cooking in the oven. If you’re working with a regular grill, you’ll need to set up an area on one side for the charcoal and on the other side for the meat. The advantage to this method is that you can sear the outside of the tri-tip before cooking to seal in juices. Every grill is unique in terms of temperature consistency. Use a meat thermometer while the roast smokes or cooks, watching for it to reach 140 degrees F in the thickest portion of the tip. On average, this takes about a half hour for a small roast.
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Patricia Telesco has been a writer since 1992. She has produced more than 60 books with publishers that include HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster. Her articles have appeared in "Woman's World" and "National Geographic Today." Telesco holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Buffalo.