Tri-Tip: A Labor Day favorite that leaves many scratching their heads
One of the least known cuts off beef on the market today is the tri-tip. (The cut of beef from the bottom sirloin, so-named because of it’s triangular shape.) This savory, meaty morsel tips the scales at 1.5 to 2.5 pounds and is a specialty in the wide open spaces of the West.
Recently an episode of “BBQ Pitmasters,” on Destination America, shed light on the fact that tri-tip is still very much an unknown. In the first episode of the new season, two of the three pitmasters attempted to prepare the cut as they would a beef brisket and pushed their beef to the outer limits of the temperature sphere (200°F).
Many of us at home wondered what that poor little piece of meat had ever done to deserve such treatment. Needless to say, the judges were less than excited about biting into a hunk of meat that could have doubled as a wingtip.
Good news is, it’s not too late to learn how to do it right. Make a bee line for your butcher because this Labor Day you’re making tri-tip!
Start by setting up your grill for a little indirect cooking. If you’re using a gas grill, assign cold and hot zones inside the cooker. Searing a hunk of meat this size over direct heat will scorch the outside before the middle has a chance to catch up so you’ll want to be sure to start the cook on the cooler side of the grill. A good temp to shoot for is between 200 – 250°F on the cool side of the pit.
After you’ve placed the meat on the cooler side of the grill with the thicker end closest to the heat, close the lid and let the grill work for about 20 minutes. Give the tri-tip a flip and cover again. You’re going to look for the meat to come to an internal temp of 110°F, or about 10° below your target temp. Using an oven thermometer with an alarm, like the Original Cooking Thermometer/Alarm, is ideal in this situation because you can monitor the temperature of the tri-tip as it cooks and set the timer to alert you when the meat has reached your desired internal temperature. For a quick look at chef-recommended temps, go here!
Once you’ve reached 10° below your target temp, move the meat to the hot side of the pit and sear the outer layer. A quick spot check with your Super-Fast™ Thermapen™ will let you know when the meat is ready to pull off the heat. Generally, about 5 minutes on each side should suffice. Remove from the heat, cover and let rest for about 20 minutes.
Before you unsheathe your carving knife, consider how you’re going to approach this foreign mass nestled on your cutting board. And speaking of cutting boards, make sure you’ve got ample drip space because a tri-tip cooked between medium and medium rare will flood your counter top. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
You’ll notice a distinct grain in this particular cut. Slice the tri-tip in half, rotate each half and cut it from the tip to the end – against the grain. this way will ensure that your meat remains tender and easy to chew. How thick you cut is up to you; however 1/2” slices fanned out over a plate with the excess juices poured over the top is a good place to start. Serve with roasted corn on the cob, grilled asparagus, or your favorite fresh fruit and enjoy!