A tri-tip roast hasn't always been known as a tri-tip roast. This cut of beef is part of the loin butt, but at some point, clever butchers in Southern California starting marketing it as "tri-tip" because it's a triangle-shaped muscle.
It's locally famous in Santa Maria, California, as the star of Santa Maria-style barbecue, and is often cooked on the grill; however, tri-tip is also decadent and delicious when roasted in the oven. A tri-tip roast should be cooked in the oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes to reach medium doneness.
Buying a Tri-Tip Roast
Bad news: It might be harder than you expect to find a tri-tip roast in the local grocery store unless you live in Southern California. Sometimes, the roast is sold as a Santa Maria Steak or, when cut into individual pieces, as Newport Steak. They aren't incredibly common because there are only two tri-tips per cow.
If you can't find a tri-tip roast in the meat case, it's worthwhile to ask the store's meat manager to order a roast for you. Try to get one that weighs at least two pounds, but bigger is better in this case so you have leftovers to make steak sandwiches, steak salads and steak tacos.
Before you put the tri-tip in the oven, give it a good rub with herbs and spices. This will impart a significant amount of flavor to the beef, as well as create a crust over the meat when it's roasted. Play around with herbs and spices to figure out what combination of flavors taste good to you. Some options to start with include:
- Sweet and Smoky: Olive oil, brown sugar, ground cumin, smoked paprika, garlic powder and onion powder
- Sweet and Spicy: Vegetable oil, black pepper, ground cumin, paprika, ground coriander, cayenne pepper, brown sugar, minced garlic, kosher salt
- Spicy Chipotle: Dried chipotle chiles, pink peppercorns, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, dark brown sugar, kosher salt, mustard powder
- Espresso: Finely ground espresso coffee, brown sugar, chili powder, sea salt, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder
Roasting the Tri-Tip
Roasting the tri-tip in the oven makes perfect sense during the winter months or during rain when you don't want to go outside to heat up the grill. A tri-tip roast is low in fat, so don't cook it too long — the beef is prone to drying out.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Put the tri-tip roast in a shallow roasting pan.
Roast the tri-tip in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until an oven-going meat thermometer reaches 135 degrees F for medium-rare or for 40 to 45 minutes until the thermometer registers 150 degrees F for medium.
Take the tri-tip roast out of the oven, tent it with foil and let it rest for 15 minutes.
Slice the roast against the grain of the meat. This means you look at the direction the muscle fibers are running and cut it perpendicular to that direction. On a tri-tip roast, the direction might change in the middle of the roast, so carve it as two separate pieces.
Using Tri-Tip Roast
Tri-tip roast can be served with a side of potatoes and roasted vegetables for an excellent, well-rounded meal. However, if you have leftover, there's a number of other ways you can use sliced tri-tip roast.
- Add the leftovers to tortillas and top it with cilantro, pico de gallo and sour cream for steak tacos
- Add soy sauce and sesame oil for Asian-style steak wraps
- Put it on top of lettuce with sliced cherry tomatoes, raw onions and blue cheese for a steak salad
- Stuff it between a bun with peppers and cheese for a makeshift cheesesteak
- New York Times: Is That Cut a Tri-Tip or What?
- New York Times: Grilled or Oven-Roasted Santa Maria Tri-Tip
- Good Housekeeping: Sweet and Smoky Tri-Tip
- Serious Eats: Sweet and Spicy Tri-Tip Recipe
- Epicurious: Chipotle Rub
- Serious Eats: The Best Inexpensive Steak For The Grill Part 5: Tri-Tip
- Better Homes and Gardens: How to Cook Tri-Tip Roast
- Epicurious: What to Do with Leftover Steak