If you are looking to expand your grilling repertoire beyond the traditional steak, you may want to consider a tri-tip for your next barbecue. It is a versatile, relatively inexpensive cut of meat that is gaining in popularity across the country.
What is Tri-Tip?:
Tri-tip is lean cut of meat from the bottom sirloin of the steer. For years, it was used in ground beef because of its tendency to become chewy if not cooked properly. Tri-tip started to become more popular around the 1950s when the it became the focal point of a regional style of barbecue in California known as Santa Maria barbecue.The tri-tip, sometimes sold under the name Santa Maria Steak or Newport Steak, can still be a little difficult to find in certain parts of the country. Talk to your butcher if you have difficulty finding the tri-tip, he should be familiar with the cut.
Selecting the Tri-tip:
The tri-tip is already a lean cut of beef so select one with a decent amount of marbling. You may want to go with a Prime grade tri-tip. A Prime cut will give you a little higher fat content.
Preparing the Tri-tip for cooking:
The tri-tip takes well to a wide variety of rubs and marinades. Traditional Santa Maria barbecue calls for a simple rub of salt, pepper, and garlic; however, you should feel free to experiment with your favorite rubs, spices, and sauces. The key is to season the meat liberally before cooking. You should also let the meat rest at room temperature for about 20 minutes before cooking to help it cook more evenly.
Cooking the Tri-tip:
Tri-tip is best when cooked to a medium-rare. Start your tri-tip on the cooler side of the grill. Move the meat to the hot side of the grill when it reaches around 130-135 degrees for a nice char. Make sure you handle the tri-tip with tongs and do not pierce it so you will keep all the lovely juices inside the meat. Take your tri-tip off the grill around 140 degrees and allow it to rest for 10 minutes. Do not rush this step or you will end up with a dry piece of meat. You will likely end up with a variety of doneness levels due to the triangular shape of the cut, making the tri-tip perfect for a family that likes their meat done to different temperatures.
Serving the Tri-tip:
Tri-tip should always be cut thin and against the grain to avoid chewiness. Tri-tip is best when served with a sauce. In Santa Maria, tri-tip is traditionally served with salsa, and a side of pinquito beans and garlic bread.
Next time you barbecue, break away from your usual and give the tri-tip a try. It may be a little hard to find but is worth the extra effort.