The Ideal Smoked Tri-Tip Recipe: Best Results Every Time!

Step-by-step instructions on how to make the perfect smoked tri-tip as well as the ideal rub for it.
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Last updatedLast updated: May 12, 2021
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There really isn’t any type of meat that can’t be made better on a smoker. These cooking implements are offered by a variety of companies, like Traeger and Masterbuilt. They have the ability to seal in the juices and flavors of whatever type of meat you place on them, all while imbuing them with a delightfully smokey taste as well. Of course, you need to have the right recipe to get the job done right. Smoking is a slow process, and each step needs to be planned out carefully so that the meat comes out right in the end.

Tri-tip steak is one of the most underutilized but delicious cuts of meat on the market today. To make it properly, however, you need to have the right smoked Tri-tip recipe in your repertoire. After all, you don’t want to buy a great cut of meat and let it go to waste or, worse still, ruin it because you didn’t have a good plan in place. In this article, we will guide you through everything that you need to know to make sure your steak is made perfectly each and every time you fire up your smoker.

What is tri-tip?

The Ideal Smoked Tri-Tip Recipe: Best Results Every Time!Tri-tip is a type of steak. It is a triangular cut of meat that comes from the lower part of the sirloin. Depending on where you get your tri-tip, they are going to weigh different amounts. If you get it trimmed from a butcher, then you are going to be looking at a 2–3-pound cut of meat.

If you get the meat untrimmed, however, you are going to get a cut that weighs in at around 5 pounds. This cut will also have a layer of silver skin that needs to be removed and a very large fat cap. This layer of fat can be left on, trimmed down, or removed entirely. This is up to your personal preference for the flavoring and fat content that you desire in your steak.

The ideal smoked tri-tip recipe

When you are looking to smoke any type of meat, whether it be a pork loin or a tri-tip steak, Trager grills are a great conveyance to use. These simple to operate grills and smokers make it very easy to get the smokey flavor that you want in your food each and every time, as long as you have a good understanding of how to use one.

Even if you don’t have a Trager grill, this recipe will work for any wood-fired or pellet smoker that you might have at your disposal. No matter what you have to cook your meat, preparation is the key to making sure you cook up a delicious meal.



The Ideal Smoked Tri-Tip Recipe: Best Results Every Time!This recipe is a very basic one, which makes it an ideal one to follow for any beginner. Feel free to switch out any of the ingredients for your own to alter the flavoring of the meat. For this recipe, you will need the following:

  • Pecan Wood Pellets
  • Tri-tip (3-5 pounds)
  • 1/8 Cup of Pepper
  • 1/8 Cup of Salt

InstructionsThe Ideal Smoked Tri-Tip Recipe: Best Results Every Time!

  1. Once you are ready to cook your meat, the first thing that you need to do is to set your grill/smoker’s temperature to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. You should allow the grill to preheat for about 15 minutes at this temperature with the lid closed.
  2. While the grill is preheating, prepare the meat. Mix the salt and pepper together in a bowl. Then coat every part of the meat in this mixture. Make sure to take the tie to get the front and back as well as the sides of the steak for full flavor coverage.
  3. After the meat has been prepped and the grill is preheated, place the Tri-tip directly onto the cooking grates. It needs to be cooked at this temperature for between 60-90 minutes or until it gets to an internal temperature of 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. After the steak gets to the right internal temperature, remove it from the grill and wrap it tightly in foil. Set it aside, but do not refrigerate it.
  5. Next, increase the temperature on your grill to 500 degrees and allow it to preheat for 15 minutes with the lid closed.
  6. Once the grill is at the proper temperature, remove the steak from its foil and sear it on both sides. You should keep it on both sides for about 4 minutes.
  7. Finally, take the steak off the grill and allow it to sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Once it has cooled for a bit, slice it, serve it, and savor it!


Steak is meant to be enjoyed, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t worry about its nutritional value as well. If you removed the silver skin and fat cap from your tri-tip weighs in around 2-3 pounds, then this is what you can expect to be ingesting from a nutritional standpoint per serving (6 servings):

  • Calories – 81 kcal
  • Carbohydrates – 1 gram
  • Fat – 8 grams
  • Saturated fat – 5 grams
  • Cholesterol – 22 milligrams
  • Sodium – 75 milligrams
  • Potassium – 13 milligrams
  • Vitamin A – 315 IU
  • Vitamin C – 0.2 milligrams
  • Calcium – 22 milligrams
  • Iron – 0.7 milligrams

Best smoked tri-tip rub recipe

The Ideal Smoked Tri-Tip Recipe: Best Results Every Time!There are literally thousands of different recipes and plenty of different smokers that you can choose from when you are trying to find the right one for your smoked beef tri-tip. The most important thing that you need to remember is to look for ones that fit your likes and avoids your dislikes. If you are someone that loves spice, then you might want to add some peppers and garlic to your mix. Of course, if you prefer a more traditional rub, then you could go with something along these lines:

  • 2 Tablespoons of beef seasoning
  • 3 Tablespoons of salted butter
  • 1 sprig of rosemary

You could also choose a prepared rub like this one from BBQGuys. The point is, don’t be afraid to switch things up and experiment a bit. As long as you take the time to perfect your craft, you can make a lovely smoked tri-tip with whatever recipe suits your needs and preferences.

What wood to choose

The Ideal Smoked Tri-Tip Recipe: Best Results Every Time!Much like the recipe itself, you have a lot of leeways when it comes to the type of wood that you choose to use for your tri-tip. The traditional option is red oak, but you can pick whatever you would like. You should stick to harder woods, of course, which include hickory, apple, pecan, or cherry wood. Each of these types of wood will give you that delicious smokey flavor that you are looking for while still offering something variety. Of course, if you have a wood that you always like to use, then feel free to have it!

How to slice it

The Ideal Smoked Tri-Tip Recipe: Best Results Every Time!Once your Tri-tip has been cooked to perfection, it is time to slice it up to serve. The best way to cut this steak so that everyone has a delicious and tender cut of meat is to go across the grain. You should try to keep each slice to about 1 – 1 ½ inches in thickness. Of course, depending on the size of your cut of meat, you might need to adjust the size of your cuts to accommodate the number of people you are feeding.

Cooking temperature chart

When you are making any type of meat, you need to make sure that you cook it enough so that it is safe for consumption. After all, nothing will ruin a good meal faster than a food-borne illness! To make sure that your tri-tip is cooked correctly, you should adhere to the following temperatures:

  • Rare – 130 degrees F
  • Medium Rare – 135 degrees F
  • Medium – 145 degrees F
  • Medium Well – 150 degrees F
  • Well Done – 160 degrees F

We highly recommend that you shoot for Medium Rare or Medium for a tri-tip steak. These two cooking temperatures will allow for the highest level of juiciness while still making sure that the meat is cooked enough to prevent anyone from getting sick after eating it.

How to serve it

The Ideal Smoked Tri-Tip Recipe: Best Results Every Time!As we mentioned, you should thinly slice your Tri-tip across the grain. From there, you can choose to serve it as a stand-alone dish or with other items like rice. Smoked Tri-tip steak also works well as a sandwich or taco meat. In fact, it is tender enough to make a great addition to a salad or chili as well.

Final thoughts

The proper smoked Tri-tip recipe is going to be one that allows you to add the types of flavors that you enjoy to your steak. If you are a fan of spice, then, by all means, add as much spice as you want to your rub so that you can set your taste buds ablaze. Of course, if you, or your guests, like a milder flavor, you can always stick with plain salt and pepper.

No matter what, you want to make sure that you smoke your meat at a low temperature for a good long time so that it is fully cooked. The ideal level of doneness for this type of steak is between Medium Rare and Medium, so be sure to use your meat thermometer so that you can smoke it to perfection. Happy cooking!

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