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How Long to Smoke Tri-tip

How Long to Smoke Tri-tip

Although it is overlooked, tri-tip is a juicy, tender hunk of meat. Tri-tip is a lean cut of beef which means it has a low-fat content.

However, the key to taming this beast is marinating it and knowing how long to smoke.

Tri-tip can be prepared in a variety of ways. When it is smoked, it can create a flavor unlike any other.

However, before w discuss smoking tri-tip, let’s find out what it is.

What Is Tri-tip?

Essentially tri-tip is a triangular-shaped cut of beef that is fabricated from the sirloin.

This subprimal cut is primarily made up of a muscle called the tensor fasciae latae muscle.

Tri-tip is usually sold trimmed, and they can weigh approximately 3 pounds. In contrast, untrimmed tri-tip can weigh approximately 5 pounds.

The history of the name tri-tip is unclear. However, it is distinctive as it refers to the triangular-shaped sirloin tip.

Additionally, tri-tip is also called Newport steak, Santa Maria steak, sirloin tip, and triangle steak.

Smoked tri-tip is a simple meal that is best served with robust beef gravy, BBQ sauce, roasted or mashed potatoes, green beans, or the usual BBQ sides.

Tri-tip vs. Brisket

What’s the difference between tri-tip and brisket? Tri-tip is fabricated from the lower half of the sirloin, which is located in the front of the steer.

Tri-tip weighs about 3 pounds and is lean. Even though it is a leaner cut of beef, it still retains enough moisture throughout the smoking process to yield a tender, juicy slice of meat.

In addition to this, because it is fabricated from the sirloin, it is not as tough as some cuts of beef.

On the other hand, brisket is fabricated from the rear of the steer. A brisket can weigh as little as 12 pounds or as much as 20 pounds.

Brisket contains a lot of fat which must be trimmed. If you want to know how to trim brisket, check out our in-depth guide.

Briskets fat is looser than tri-tip, and it generates more juice than tri-tip. Even though the meat is a juicer, it is tougher and grainier than tri-tip.

If you want to know more about what is brisket, check out our detailed guide.

Believe it or not, tri-tip is popular because of its lean muscle and robust flavor.

Like a perfectly seared steak, brisket is best cooked between medium-rare and medium.

Nevertheless, with a flavorful marinade and the perfect smoking temperature, tri-tip produces a stunning piece of meat that is oh so juicy and flavorful.

Why Smoke Tri-tip?

Essentially there are 3 reasons to smoke tri-tip. First, the low ambient temperature of the offset smoker allows the tr-tip to slowly cook and achieve an even pink color throughout the meat.

If you were to cook tri-tip at a high temperature, you would yield a brown cut on the exterior, pink in the center, with a noticeable gray line of demarcation.

Additionally, why wouldn’t you smoke tri-tip when beef and smoke pair perfectly together.

Foods such as chicken, cold-smoked cheese, and fish can easily be overwhelmed by the smoke’s robust flavor.

However, beef absorbs the perfect amount of flavor.

Lastly, smoking tri-tip adds beautiful, rich color to it. Tri-tip develops a dark crust when it is smoked.

However, if your goal is creating tender tri-tip, you do not have to smoke it.

Tri-tip will be tender whether it is grilled, baked, or smoked as long as you slice it correctly.

How To Prepare Tri-tip for Smoking

Like the silver skin should be removed from a rack of ribs, it should be removed from the tri-tip.

The silver skin will not render during the silver skin. However, marbled fat is okay as it will render and add flavor to the meat.

You can massage a BBQ rub onto the surface of the tri-tip before placing it into the pellet smoker.

Additionally, you can also brush it with olive oil before adding the BBQ rub to it.

If you want to apply a specialized rub to your tri-tip, add it after removing it from the marinade.

How to Smoke Tri-tip?

Like smoking brisket, smoking tri-tip is relatively easy.

When it comes to seasoning tri-tip, some BBQ experts recommend keeping it simple with salt and pepper.

Coarse salt and pepper can work wonders for tri-tip. Simply massage it into every side of the meat.

Alternatively, you can also add a bit of garlic powder or onion powder. However, it should not be overpowering.

After you have experience with seasoning tri-tip, you can incorporate more seasonings such as a steak or rib rub and Worcestershire sauce.

Whether it is a pellet smoker or natural gas grill, you need to make sure your smoker can maintain a constant temperature of 225 degrees.

A steady temperature will allow the tri-tip to cook slowly and tenderize as the heat slowly penetrates the meat.

In addition to this, the smoking process will also help preserve the tri-tip’s moisture levels.

Next, the brisket is seared at a high temperature so the crust can caramelize.

As we all know, searing meat is important as it locks in moisture as wells as adds a beautiful flavor to the meat.

The ideal way to sear tri-tip is by using a cast-iron skillet.

How To Cook Tri Tip on a Grill

Tri-tip is small enough that you can smoke it on a kamado grill. Additionally, if your grill has a smoker box, you can cook your tri-tip in it.

Additionally, you can also create a makeshift smoker box using aluminum foil and add a few holes to it to allow the smoke to escape.

You can add wood chips to your smoker box to add extra flavor. Oak, mesquite, and hickory, all pair perfectly with beef.

You can either sear the tri-tip before or after placing it into the smoking chamber.

If you are searing it before placing the tri-tip into the smoking chamber, heat the grill to 350-375 degrees and sear the meat for 4-5 minutes on both sides.

Next, turn off all of the burners except for one burner.

Place a drip pan directly below your grill’s cooking grates over the cooler burners to catch the grease that renders from the meat.

The drip pan prevents the fat from dripping onto the burner, which can cause a flare-up.

Add your wood chips to the smoking chamber, and close the grill to allow it to come up to temperature.

Once the grill generates smoke, arrange the tri-tip directly over the drip pan and cook it for 20-30 minutes.

Turn the brisket in 20-30 minute increments.

Cook the tri-tip until it has an internal temperature of 130 degrees Fahrenheit for well-done tri-tip.

However, if you want medium-rare tri-tip, remove it from the smoker once it has a temperature of 125 degrees Fahrenheit.

Next, wrap the tri-tip with foil and allow it to sit for 10 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute into the meat.

Carve the tr-tip at a 45-degree angle into 1/4-inch slices.

How Long to Smoke Tri-tip

Everybody has a certain way that they like to cook their Tri-tip.

However, most people will generally agree that it should be smoked at 250 degrees until they achieve an internal temperature of 35 degrees.

However, on average, tri-tip takes 30 minutes per pound.

A 2-pound tri-tip will take about 1 hour, while 3-pound tri-tip will take 1 1/2 hours.

Do You Flip Tri-tip While It’s Smoking?

Yes, you flip tri-tip while it’s smoking. Tri-tip should be flipped approximately 1 hour into the smoking process.

This will allow each side of the tri-tip to develop a beautiful, flavorful crust.

What Is the Temperature To Cook Tri-tip?

The length of smoking time depends on your desired level of doneness.

However, this is a two-step cooking process temperatures can be a bit complicated.

Nevertheless, these temperatures will help you to avoid overcooked tri-tip.

For the smoking stage, remove the tri-tip from the smoker once it is 120 Fahrenheit for rare and 125 degrees Fahrenheit for medium-rare.

For medium, 133 degrees Fahrenheit is acceptable and 140 degrees Fahrenheit for medium-well.

Finally, for well-done tri-tip, remove it once it has a temperature of 150 degrees Fahrenheit.

When it comes to the searing stage of the cooking process, remove it from the skillet or grill once it has a temperature of 125 degrees Fahrenheit for rare and 135 degrees Fahrenheit for medium-rare.

If you desire medium tri-tip, remove your tri-tip from the skillet once it has a temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit or 155 degrees Fahrenheit for medium-well.

If you want well-done tri-tip to remove it once it has an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know how to long to smoke tri-tip, you will never overcook it again.

All that’s left is to get ready to devour the most delicious, juicy tri-tip you’ve ever tasted.


Saturday 24th of September 2022

Do you let the tri tip rest before searing it in cast iron pan or do you sear it right out of smoker then let it rest?

William Thomas

Saturday 24th of September 2022

Hi Jessica, sear your tri tip straight out of the smoker and then let it rest for 10-15 minutes.