If you.ve never had the pleasure of eating tri-tip, trust me when I say you are in for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
I love firing up my offset smoker and smoking my tri-tip at 180°F.
When I first started smoking tri-tip, the trouble I had was how long to smoke it at 180°F.
Although it took some time, I finally figured out how long t smoke tri-tip at 180°F, and I’m giving you the scoop, so you won’t have to go through the same thing I did.
However, before we get to how long to smoke tri-tip, let’s discuss what tri-tip is.
What Is Tri-tip?
In short, tri-tip is a beef roast that’s shaped like a triangle hence the name tri-tip. Tri-tip is fabricated from the bottom of the sirloin.
Tri-tip usually comes trimmed and weighs about 2-3 pounds.
However, like brisket, untrimmed tri-tips have a large thick layer of fat on top of it as well as a sheath of silver skin. Untrimmed tri-tips weigh about 5 pounds.
In the same way, top round can be cut into top round steak; tri-tip roast can also be cut into pieces known as triangle steak.
These boneless steaks are usually 1-inch in thickness and are lean and tender.
Triangle steak may also be called Santa Maria steak since it rose to fame at California’s Santa Maria barbecue festival.
As you can imagine, tri-tip became popular in other parts of the country after its debut, and it hasn’t slowed down since.
What Does Tri-tip Taste Like?
Although I will probably say that all steaks can be flavorful, tri-tip is really well flavorful. There’s no other way to say it.
Tri-tip has a lovely robust beefy flavor and a tender bite.
Surprisingly, even though tri-tip is considered a lean cut of beef, it has a moderate amount of fat, giving it a slightly buttery flavor.
Furthermore, tri-tip also absorbs the flavors of marinades really well, which enhances its taste even more.
Why Smoke Tri-tip?
Unfortunately, most people will try to convince you to take the easy way out and avoid smoking tri-tip.
The theory behind this is that you do not need to smoke tri-tip to create a tender cut of beef.
It will come out nice and tender as long as you cut the tri-tip across the grain.
While this is technically true, there are 2 primary reasons to smoke tri-tip color and flavor.
Smoking tri-tip at a low temperature lets the beef cook slowly, giving it a uniform pinkish reddish color throughout the meat.
If you place tri-tip into a pellet smoker set to a high temperature such as 400°F, the same grey band in overcooked ribeye steak will show up in your tri-tip.
Ultimately, the interior of the tri-tip will be pink, but the exterior will have an outer band of grey overcooked meat.
Beef is to smoking as ranch steaks are to searing. Beef and smoke are like Bonnie and Clyde’s partners in crime. In this case, it is a delicious, tasty crime.
Smoke can easily ruin the flavor of chicken and fish, but beef absorbs the smoky flavor and gets addictingly tastier with every bite.
Can You Smoke Tri-tip Too Long?
Just like you can overcook prime rib, you can overcook tri-tip. Since tri-tip is on the leaner side, it’s essential not to overcook it.
Furthermore, because it’s cooked for a longer time, and its marbling is much less than a cut of beef such as brisket, it does not have high enough fat stores to support an extended cooking time.
This is why it’s crucial to know how long to smoke tri-tip, whether you are smoking it at 180°F or 225°F.
How Long to Smoke Tri-tip at 180
To maximize the smoky flavor, some people add more time to the cooking process.
I find this trick to be worth it since it infuses the tri-tip with even more beautiful smoky flavor.
Normally a 1 1/2-2 pound tri-tip takes about 40-45 minutes t cook. However, because we are cooking it at a lower temperature, the cooking time will be extended to 1 hour per pound.
So, if you are cooking a 3-pound tri-tip, it will take approximately 3 hours to smoke.
How Long to Smoke a Tri-tip at 250
In contrast, there are those folks who cook their tri-tip at a higher temperature to speed up the cooking time.
If you are smoking tri-tip at 250°F, it will take about 30 minutes per pound. For example, if you are smoking a 4 pound, it would take 2 hours to cook.
Tips for Smoking Tri-tip
Since we are talking about how long to smoke tri-tip, we might as well discuss some useful tips to ensure you get the most tenderand juicy tri-tip.
First, you need to source a quality piece of tri-tip. Luckily, tri-tip is easily accessible at grocery stores or butcher shops.
Second, you need to decide what type of wood chips you want to infuse your tri-tip with. Oak, pecan, and cherry woods work well with tri-tip.
Nevertheless, mesquite or hickory are good options if you want a stronger smoky flavor.
However, you may want to dilute cherry or mesquite wood with milder woods such as cherry or oak since it can easily overpower the flavor of the tri-tip if you are not careful.
Third, you also need to consider the type of fuel you use to smoke the tri-tip. Depending on the temperature you smoke tri-tip at, it could take 3-6 hours to cook.
The amount of fuel you need also depends on the size of the tri-tip and the type of smoker you are using.
Therefore, you should make sure you have ample fuel to sustain the cooking time of tri-tip.
Fourth, you need to determine the doneness of your tri-tip. Usually, tri-tip is cooked to medium, which is 130°F.
However, if you desire medium-rare tri-tip, cook it to 135°F-140°F.
Although I would not recommend cooking tri-tip past medium, remove the tri-tip when it has a temperature of 155°F for medium-well and 160°F for well-done.
Make sure you use an external smoker thermometer to monitor the temperature of the tri-tip so you prevent the meat from overcooking.
While the tri-tip is smoking, you need to spritz it periodically with beef broth or apple cider vinegar to keep the meat moist. Make sure you use a food-safe spray bottle to spritz the meat.
When you remove the brisket from the oven, you must let it rest.
It’s best to use peach butcher paper since it is a breathable material and will not ruin the tri-tips bark.
In contrast, if you prefer a brisket with a steamed bark, you can use aluminum foil. In addition to this, you should let the brisket rest for at least 15-30 minutes.
How to Smoke Tri-tip
This wouldn’t be a BBQ guide; if we did not show you how to smoke tri-tip, now would it. Fortunately, smoking tri-tip is as easy as a smoking pork butt.
Pat your tri-tip dry. If this is your first run at cooking tri-tip, I suggest keeping the seasoning simple by using salt and pepper.
You can also add a little onion or garlic powder to the trip-tip or use your favorite BBQ rub to give your tri-tip a little more flavor.
You can add a layer of mustard all over the tri-tip so the seasoning has something to stick to.
However, the seasoning will stick to the tri-tip just fine without the mustard. Make sure you really rub the seasoning into the tri-tip before letting it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes,
Once your smoker comes to the 180°F, place the tri-tip into the smoker and place an aluminum pan directly beneath the meat.
The pan will catch all the drippings that render from the tri-tip and prevent them from causing a flare-up.
Furthermore, you can use the tri-tip’s drippings to whip up a flavorful dipping sauce for the meat.
Let the tri-tip smoke for about 3-6 hours until it has an internal temperature of 135°F.
Next comes the fun part searing the tri-tip. Searing the tri-tip just means it’s one more step closer to being ready to eat.
In addition to this searing, the tri-tip also seals in the meat’s juices and creates a delicious crust.
You can sear your tri-tip on a hot natural gas grill or in a hot cast-iron skillet. However, make sure you have heat-resistant gloves if you are searing tri-tip in a cast-iron skillet.
Sear the tri-tip on all sides before removing it from the heat and placing it on a cooling rack to rest.
Cover the seared tri-tip loosely with foil and let it for 15 minutes. Next, cut your tri-tip against the grain and dig in.
Tri-tip is a wonderful cut of beef, but it can be easily overcooked if you do not know how long to smoke tri-tip at 180°F.
Luckily, you won’t have to deal with dry tri-tip now that you’ve read this article.
I have been smoking and grilling meat from an early age and enjoy sharing my knowledge and expertise through the hundreds of articles I have written about BBQ. I hope to make everyone’s BBQ journey that little bit easier.