Grilling Tri-Tip is Easy *IF* You Follow These Directions

Ten steps to make a wow-worthy tri-tip for your summer cookout, fall tailgate, or winter holiday party

American meat lovers like to romanticize tri-tip roast as an invention of California butchers, but it’s been a popular cut of the cow for long before it gained fame in Palm Springs, Oakland, or Santa Maria. The Spanish call it rabillo de cabrera. Germans call it Bürgermeisterstück (seriously). Argentinians call it colita de quadril. I call it the easiest way to impress at both family cookouts and unruly beer bashes.

The tri-tip cut comes from the bottom sirloin—that’s near the backside of the cow. It’s not soft like a sirloin steak. It’s not tough like a round roast. It’s right in the middle. That’s why it pays off to sear it and roast it—which takes less than an hour. Here are my ten easy steps to make a perfect tri-tip on a gas grill every time:

  1. Buy your tri-tip. Make sure you’re purchasing the tri-tip roast and not the tri-tip steak. You can buy it pre-marinated. I actually prefer my own seasoning. Pro tip: These go on sale all the time. Stock up and freeze extras if you can. You’ll save a small fortune.
  2. Three hours before you fire up your gas grill, rub down your tri-tip with a mixed combination of cumin, granulated garlic, cayenne, paprika, chili powder, salt, and black pepper. If you bought the marinated version— congratulations—you can advance to the next step.
  3. One hour out, remove your meat from the fridge.
  4. Ten minutes before cook time, set your two left grill burners to high and your right burner to medium low.
  5. Start to cook the meat about an hour before you serve it. Sear the tri-tip on the high burners (the two on the left) for five minutes each side. Turn those burners down to medium low.
  6. Put the tri-tip fat side up on right burner (which is already at medium low). Close the grill lid.
  7. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until the tri-tip reaches 130(F) in the deepest part for medium rare. Pro tip: I use a digital thermometer. When inserting, push it in deep, then pull back a little so the thermometer’s tip is resting in the middle of the meat (dear god, what did I just write?).
  8. Once done, let sit 15 to 20 minutes.
  9. Cut against the grain. Most tri-tip roasts have two grain directions, so be sure to watch out for when it switches. Make the cuts between a half inch and an inch apart. And make sure you have a sharp knife—you don’t want to squish out all of those great juices you just spent the last hour preserving.
  10. Serve. See? That was easy!

The meat is so flavorful that you don’t need any decorative condiments like a horseradish sauce or salsa verde. I’m not saying don’t, but you don’t have to. I like to serve my tri-tip with grilled peppers and tortillas or a salad or mashed potatoes and grilled broccoli (which can be made while the meat is resting).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: