Santa Maria Tri Tip Recipe

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Santa Maria Tri Tip is a classic Californian barbecue dish known for its robust flavor and tender texture. This recipe combines simple seasoning with a cooking method that ensures juicy, flavorful results. Perfect for any occasion, from casual dinners to backyard barbecues.

Why You’ll Love This Santa Maria Tri Tip

  • Bold Flavors: Paprika, black pepper, and chipotle chile pepper bring depth to the meat.
  • Tender and Juicy: Proper seasoning and cooking techniques ensure moist and succulent tri tip.
  • Versatile: Enjoy it sliced as a main dish or in sandwiches.

Ingredients Overview

Main Ingredients

  • 2 lb tri tip roast
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle chile pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • Tallow or neutral cooking oil for searing

Step-by-Step Instructions


  1. Trim and Season: Trim any silverskin from the tri tip if necessary. Rub paprika, black pepper, and chipotle chile pepper all over the meat. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight for flavors to meld.
  2. Bring to Room Temperature: Ninety minutes before cooking, remove the meat from the refrigerator to bring it to room temperature. This ensures more even cooking.

Cooking Process

  1. Preheat Oven: Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).
  2. Season with Salt: Pat the tri tip dry with paper towels and generously season with kosher salt on all sides (approximately 2 tsp total).
  3. Sear the Meat: Heat tallow or oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Sear the tri tip for 2 minutes on the first side until golden brown. Flip and sear for 1 minute.
  4. Roast in Oven: Transfer the skillet (or transfer the meat to a wire rack placed over a baking sheet for more even cooking) to the preheated oven. Roast for 35-50 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 125 degrees F (52 degrees C) for medium-rare.

Resting and Serving

  1. Rest the Meat: Remove the tri tip from the oven and let it rest on a rack or cutting board, loosely tented with foil, for 30 minutes. This lets the meat’s juices move around inside it.
  2. Slice and Enjoy: After resting, slice the tri tip against the grain into thin slices. Serve immediately and enjoy the tender, flavorful meat.

Tips for Perfect Santa Maria Tri Tip

  • Quality Meat: Choose a well-marbled tri tip for the best flavor and texture.
  • Even Searing: Ensure the skillet is hot enough to achieve a golden sear without overcooking the meat.
  • Resting Time: Patience during the resting period ensures juicier meat when sliced.

Choosing the Right Cut of Meat

Tri tip is a lean and flavorful cut from the bottom sirloin. It’s known for its tenderness and is popular in California-style barbecue.

Health Benefits of Tri Tip

  • Lean Protein: Tri tip is a good source of lean protein.
  • Rich in Nutrients: Provides essential vitamins and minerals like iron and zinc.
  • Low Fat: Compared to other cuts, tri tip is relatively low in fat.

Serving Suggestions

  • Side Dishes: Pair with grilled vegetables, roasted potatoes, or a fresh green salad.
  • Sauces: Serve with a chimichurri sauce or barbecue sauce for added flavor.

Variations and Additions

  • Marinades: Experiment with different marinades before seasoning.
  • Smoked Tri Tip: Use a smoker instead of oven-roasting for a smokier flavor profile.
  • Herb Rubs: Add herbs like rosemary or thyme to the seasoning for an aromatic twist.

Storing Leftovers

Store any leftover tri tip in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Before you serve it, slowly warm it up in the oven or microwave.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Skip the Overnight Refrigeration Step?

While overnight refrigeration enhances flavors, you can proceed directly to cooking if necessary. However, the meat may be slightly less flavorful.

What’s the Best Way to Slice Tri Tip?

Slice tri tip against the grain for maximum tenderness.

How Do I Know When the Meat is Done?

Check the temperature inside with a meat thermometer. For medium-rare, it should reach 125 degrees F (52 degrees C).

Can I Grill Instead of Roasting?

Absolutely! Grill over medium-high heat until desired doneness is reached, approximately 15-20 minutes per side for medium-rare.

What Sides Pair Well with Santa Maria Tri Tip?

Grilled corn on the cob, baked beans, or garlic bread complement the flavors of Santa Maria tri tip.


This Santa Maria Tri Tip recipe offers a taste of classic California barbecue with its bold flavors and tender texture. Whether you’re hosting a barbecue or preparing a family dinner, this dish is sure to be a hit. Follow the simple steps and tips to achieve perfectly cooked tri tip every time, and enjoy the rich flavors that make this dish a favorite.

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