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Tri Tip Recipes: How to Cook Tri-Tip Steak in the Oven

Tri-tip recipes

Tri tips are one of the first cuts I bought when I got interested in good beef. The boomerang shape is striking and great for impressing guests. And while they can be easy to overcook, if you nail that medium to medium-rare range, this cut is as tender and flavorful as they come.

What is tri-tip steak?

Tri-tip steak is a triangular cut of beef from the bottom sirloin of a cow’s hindquarter. It’s also known as a California cut, Santa Maria steak, Newport steak, triangle steak, and bottom sirloin butt.

Tri-tip is lean and boneless with great marbling. It’s also cheaper than other steaks with similar flavor, like ribeye. It has less fat than a brisket but still has some of that signature beefiness associated with tougher cuts.

What is tri-tip steak best for?

Tri-tip is most often eaten as a main protein alongside some good veggies and carbs. Chimichurris or another steak sauce is also popular to accompany tri-tip with. These steaks are lean and best for cooking to medium (125º and rest to 135-140º).

That being said, tri-tip steaks are a great choice to elevate dishes that typically use more economical cuts. Here are a few examples:

  • Fajitas
  • Brazilian churrasco
  • Steak tacos
  • Steak and horseradish sandwiches
  • Mediterranean bowls
  • Bulgogi

The ideal tri-tip steak marinade

While not necessary, marinades add a lot of flavor and some moisture to tri-tip steaks. I prefer marinades when I am theming a meal to a cuisine. Some flavors are only available in liquid form (soy sauce, balsamic). If you are cooking a classic steak dinner and aren’t looking for a particular flavor, a dry rub will achieve a similar effect.

Marinades aren’t complicated. All you need is some salt, some oil, something acidic, and whatever seasonings you want. Again, the best move is to match the marinade to your meal. Making Mexican? Use lime juice and a bit of cumin. Thai? Add soy sauce, some peanut butter, and ginger.

Here’s a good foundational marinade you can tweak as needed:

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1tsp of salt
  • Garlic
  • Fresh pepper
  • Sugar (to increase browning and caramelization if desired)
  • Any fresh herbs like rosemary or parsley

Mix it all together. Put it in a bowl or bag. Submerge the meat inside, and then marinate the cut for at least 30 minutes, but ideally around 8 hours. Less than an hour and the salt hasn’t had time to penetrate the meat. Salt also draws out moisture at first, which can prevent browning. If you marinade a steak for more than 24 hours it can get rubbery and mushy from the acid.

How to cook tri-tip in the oven

The cast iron and oven combo is how a lot of people prefer to cook tri-tip steaks. Here’s how

  1. Make a rub or use a pre-made option.
  2. Pat steak dry with a paper towel.
  3. Season liberally with the rub.
  4. Cook immediately or let sit uncovered in the fridge for up to 12 hours, but at least one hour and ideally 8.
  5. Bring tri-tip to room temp if in the fridge.
  6. Preheat oven to 400º.
  7. Get a cast iron to medium-high heat. Water should sizzle.
  8. Coat the cast iron with a little bit of high-heat oil (avocado, vegetable, ghee).
  9. Sear one side for 2-3 minutes undisturbed until a dark brown crust forms.
  10. Flip and transfer to the oven in the cast iron.
  11. Cook until steak is around 125º for medium.
  12. Place on a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes (tent in aluminum if the kitchen is drafty or chilly).
  13. Cut tri-stip steak in half, splitting it into two triangles.
  14. Slice thinly against the grain. (Note: Tri tips have two grains, so you have to switch the way you cut to get both against the grain. Use this photo from Smoking-Meat.com for an easy guide.)
  15. Serve immediately.

Other tri-tip cooking methods

For cooking tri-tip steak only on a cast iron or grill, you can either direct sear by searing on high heat for 2-3 minutes on each side until a brown crust forms, drop the heat until 10º below your desired temp, and then cut across the grain on both sides of the tri-tip and slice thinly.

Or, flip the process for a reverse sear: cook on a lower temp until 15-20º below your target temperature and then high-heat sear on both sides to temp.

14 best tri-tip recipes

Here’s a good list of tri-tip recipes that use the steak in a variety of ways, from sandwiches to salads.

1. Whole santa maria tri-tip roast

Whole santa maria tri-tip roast recipe

Most people cook tri-tips as a whole roast and then slice them into individual steaks. This recipe is a great tri-tip foundation — all you need is a good rub and a grill. You can add any sauces you like or slice it thinly and put it into a sandwich.

2. Smoked and sliced santa maria tri-tip

Smoked and sliced santa maria tri-tip recipe

Smoking steak just gives the meat a little extra oomph. This recipe from chef Laura Reigel keeps things mindfully simple — letting the meat do the talking. All you have to do is bring it up slowly to temp and then finish it with a good reverse sear.

3. Sesame-ginger tri-tip steak

For a more eastern spin on your steak, use this delicious recipe from The Spruce Eats. Dried ginger will not cut it, and the brown sugar adds wonderful caramelization during the sear. You can also pour extra marinade over the cut when it’s finished for a bit of extra flavor.

4. Easy oven-roasted tri-tip

Use this recipe from The Kitchn if you want to use the oven and are looking for classic flavors that go well with sides like mashed potatoes and green beans. This recipe uses a direct sear — searing on a cast iron first and then bringing it up to temp in the oven.

5. Argentinian-style tri-tip with chimichurri

Argentinian-style tri-tip with chimichurri recipe

Russ Crandall grills the tri-tip in this recipe, but you can cook it any way you want. The real secret is the chimichurri sauce that goes on top. Garlic, oregano, cilantro, olive oil, and red wine vinegar on a fresh steak? Sounds amazing.

6. Grilled tri-rip steak with tiger sauce

Grilling is the best-tasting way to make this recipe, but like the other options above, you can make it any way you want. The tiger sauce is the real trick here, and it has only three delicious ingredients: mayo, sriracha, and lime juice.

7. Tri-tip horseradish sandwiches

Mustard-marinated tri-tip, horsey sauce, caramelized red onions, toasted ciabatta, and a whole lot of cheese. If that ingredients list from Spoon Fork Bacon didn’t convince you to make these, then I’m not sure what to tell you.

8. Tri-tip bulgogi

Bulgogi just means “fire meat”, a.k.a. Korean BBQ. This recipe from Jabberwockystew’s secret is its marinade: Asian pear, gochujang, ginger, sesame oil, brown sugar, soy sauce, and some fresh black pepper. Soak your tri-tip steak and mushrooms in that, grill up the meat, and top with diced green onions alongside white rice.

9. Skillet tri-tip fajitas

Skillet tri-tip fajitas recipe

Fajitas are normally made with flank or skirt steak, marinated, and pounded with a meat mallet for tenderness. Tri-tip is a nicer, more expensive cut than flank and is a wonderful cut to make fajitas with. Ethan Torgerson uses sous vide in this recipe, but you can use an oven or grill just as easily. Slice as thinly as you can!

10. Tri-tip steak salad with cilantro dressing

If you want to take a break from all the carbs, use this recipe from Chelsea’s Messy Apron. The dressing is a delicious lime, lemon, honey, olive oil, and mustard mix, and the steak is set on top of a bed of tomatoes, roasted peppers, feta cheese, almonds, and cranberries.

11. Mediterranean tri-tip steak bowl

For another take on a salad or meal without bread, try this Greek-inspired tri-tip bowl from A Dash of Macros. Cook up the steak how you like, slice it thinly, and then put it into a bowl with hummus, olives, red onions, greek yogurt, and a few other delicious ingredients.

12. Low and slow-smoked tri-tip

HeyGrillHey has another take on smoked tri-tip, with a classic rub of equal parts garlic powder, salt, and pepper. This recipe also includes some good grill tips and a smoking temp guide to help you nail your next cookout.

13. Carne adobada tri tip steak tacos

Tri-tip is fantastic in tacos when cut thinly. This recipe from Cooking with Cocktail Rings uses an awesome mix of guajillo, chiles de arbol, and chipotles in adobo sauce in their marinade. That smoky heat goes a long way in these tacos, and remember to pick up high-quality taco shells or make your own corn tortillas for the best results.

14. Soy and garlic marinated tri-tip

For another Asian-inspired marinade, use this recipe from The Cooking Guy. Use fresh garlic, and you could easily add some fresh ginger and a bit of sesame oil for more depth as well.

Tri-tip steak FAQ

Here are a few of the most common tri-tip questions we hear!

What is the best way to cook tri-tip steak?

There isn’t a lot of fat or connective tissue on a tri-tip, so tri-tip takes best to medium and medium-rare temps. We like to sear the tri-tip on a hot stove or section of the grill before dropping the heat and cooking it up to temp.

How do you make tri-tip more tender?

Don’t overcook it, slice thinly, and slice against the grain on both sections of the tri-tip.

Is it better to marinade or dry rub a tri-tip?

Both are good options! Marinades can give you access to different flavors like soy, fresh ginger, and balsamic, but dry rubs are convenient and delicious. The acids or bases you use in a marinade can also change the texture, whereas a rub will keep the texture the same.

Should you poke holes in tri-tip before marinating?

You don’t have to, but if you are doing a shorter marinade this can help the seasoning and oil get into the meat faster. If you are planning a long marinade and want a perfect presentation, then you can skip it.

Should I season a tri-tip overnight?

While marinades aren’t mandatory, we love to build flavor and depth with them. Steaks take really well to marinades around the 8-hour mark, which would be either in the morning or through the night. Aim for at least 30 minutes and under 12 hours.

Is it better to sear a tri-tip before or after cooking?

Whether you direct sear or reverse sear is a matter of preference. Searing after means the crust will be fresh, but you risk overcooking your steak. Direct sears mean you have to monitor the steak in the oven right up until the end, which means checking the temperature inside the oven instead of on the skillet.

Should I sear my tri-tip before baking?

Yes! Searing builds flavor via the Maillard reaction and creates a wonderful crust to contrast against the tender inside. This is even more important if sugar is in your marinade.

Should tri-tip be room temperature before cooking?

It doesn’t have to be completely room temperature, but we recommend taking the cut out of the fridge for at least 30 minutes before cooking. This helps develop a good crust during searing.

What side of tri-tip do you cook first?

It doesn’t really matter as long as the thickest part of the steak is cooked to the temperature you want. Some chefs recommend placing the fat-side up first to get a good char before roasting it up to temp, but we like to sear both sides anyway.

Should you flip a tri-tip?

When you’re searing, sure! This will get a crust on both sides. Try to resist flipping it too much or it will be hard to get a good crust, though.

What temp is tri-tip most tender?

Because tri-tip is a lean cut without a lot of fat, tri-tip is best cooked to medium or medium-rare. Final temperatures for medium rare are 130-135º, and medium is 140-145º. The steak will continue cooking another 10 degrees or so after you pull it, though, so many people pull tri-tips between 120-130º.

Where to buy the best tri-tip

The best tri-tip steak recipes start with the best tri-tip steaks, and the best steaks are from cattle entirely fed on grass from the beginning of their lives to the end. No grain feed. No added hormones. No antibiotics.

We work exclusively with farmers who raise their cows in Tasmania — revered in the meat industry and known to have the best grass in the world. Our partner farms practice regenerative agriculture and do everything in their power to keep us and our world as healthy as possible.

To see what real grass-fed and grass-finished beef raised on the best grass in the world tastes like, check out our tri-tip steaks.

The bottom line

Tri-tip steaks are a unique and delicious cut from the bottom sirloin.

Outside of their characteristic appearance, tri-tips are tender, take well to marinades, and can be eaten on their own or used in a variety of dishes.

For the best results, cut across the grain on both sides of the tri-tip, buy grass-fed and grass-finished beef, and cook it to medium or medium rare.

Enjoy!

 


Nathan PhelpsNathan Phelps

Nathan Phelps owns and writes for Crafted Copy, a boutique copywriting shop that finds the perfect words for interesting products. He is also an ethical foodie, outdoors-aficionado, and hails from Nashville, TN. He splits his time between helping sustainable businesses find new customers and managing his ever-increasing list of hobbies, which include playing guitar, baking bread, and creating board games.