Grilling Tri Tip

A great cut of meat for grilling. Hard to screw it up, and sublime with a little work
Updated: January 2024

This is my favorite meat to grill up for a party. The strips can be served formally or as finger-food, there are options for doneness built into the shape of the cut, and it’s a cheaper cut of meat that can become quite tasty. Takes ~20-30 minutes to grill



Tri tip doesn’t have a lot of flavor itself. But it’s got good fats, a nice texture, and takes on flavor really well, so I try to play to that with the marinade, rub and smoking chips.

  1. Get your instant read thermometer out
  2. Acquire a good grilling/BBQ dry rub, Terry Blacks is my current favorite
  3. Smoking chips (no preferences here, currently working through a random bag of mesquite chips)
  4. At least 4 hours beforehand, put the tri tip in a bag with some salt, pepper, oil, and any other seasonings you’re partial to. My very secret highly researched go to is soy sauce.
  5. Throw an handful of smoking chips in a little cup with a splash of water / your beer.


  1. Get the coals going
  2. Set the coals on one half of the grill so that there’s a direct heat side and an indirect heat side. I learned this technique from The Food Lab highly recommended.
  3. Cover the grill to get the grill hot
  4. Rub the tri tip thoroughly with your favorite rub
  5. Tri tip has a fatty side that needs to get rendered, so start with that side down over the direct heat side until it’s mostly rendered. Keep the grill covered otherwise it’ll flame up and char the fat too much - you can see this happening in the header pic. 2-3 min.
  6. Flip it over, keeping it on the direct heat side, the goal is to get some nice roasty bits on the outside. 2-3 min.
  7. Move it over to the indrect side
  8. Throw on the smoking chips and close up the holes on the grill
  9. Leave it for a while, rotating occasionally. This might be ~20-25 min depending on the heat of the grill and the size of the cut.
  10. Depending on how you like your meat done, and depending on the thickness of the cut:
  11. If you prefer rare, or the cut is thick (~3”), getting it to 100 degrees is enough It can really overcook the thinner part of the meat if you wait to get the thick part to get higher than that.
  12. If you prefer more done, or the cut is thinner (~2”), let the thick part of the cut get up to ~120 degrees.
  13. When you take it off the grill, let it sit for ~10 min. This will fully cook the interior without further drying out the outside of the meat.


Slice thin 3/4” strips, cutting across the grain of the meat (perpendicular to it’s length). People who like meat well done take from the thin end, more rare from the thick end.