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Grilled Tri-Tip Roast Recipe

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Several months ago I posted an article with some of my favorite recipes. The cover photo was a gorgeous tri-tip roast…to which I did not provide a recipe. Some of you wrote in asking how I cooked it. This is one of my bar-none favorite cuts of meat, and I finally took the time to document the process.

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Grilled Tri-Tip Roast

First, find a good tri-tip roast.¬† Tri-tips aren’t the most common cut of meat; there are only two per animal, so you may have to find an actual butcher shop or ask your grocery store butcher for one specifically. If whatever they bring out for you doesn’t weigh 3.5 to 5 pounds it’s probably a tri-tip steak, cut from the roast. Skip it, educate the butcher, or head to another store. Or get it – it’ll be delicious, but it ain’t a roast. The one pictured here was about a four-pounder, and it was one my father-in-law (sort of?) bought for us. He has a really good butcher and always brings a couple when he comes to visit.

Season the Roast

Once you’ve got the roast, put the rub on it. The rub I use is a Santa Maria-style rub (tri-tip is often called “Santa Maria steak”). This rub isn’t my own creation – I got it here, but I’ll give you the ingredients.

  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp finely ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne 1 Tbsp crushed red pepper¬† flakes (my change to this recipe)
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano (I used fresh oregano from my herb garden)
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary (again, fresh from my herb garden)
  • 1/2 tsp dried sage (yep…herb garden)

I like to make the rub in a gallon Ziploc. I drop the roast in, turn it several times to get a nice coat of the spices. Put the roast back in the fridge and let it sit in the rub for at least 2 hours and up to 4.

Prepare the Grill

When you’re ready to cook this bad boy, go ahead and pull the roast out of the fridge. Let it start coming up to room temp while you get your grill ready. You’ll want to begin by getting your coals super hot. Once you dump them, bank the coals to one side; this will give you some really hot direct heat and a nice indirect heat.

Next, throw the grill grate on there and let it get hot. clean it if it needs cleaning (and if it does, shame on you). Now it’s time to put the roast on the grill.


First, sear both sides. I put the roast directly over those hot, high coals. I cook it here for five minutes, flip it, and give it five more minutes.

Next, move it to indirect heat. I move it to the cooler side of the grill, as shown below. At this point I’ll close the grill down as tight as possible…almost. I’ll leave the top vent open just a bit. I don’t want to smother the coals but I do want to slow the burn and hold some smoke in.

Once I put the lid back on I’ll give it 20 minutes before checking the temperature.

If you don’t have a meat thermometer…get one. Start checking the temperature around that 20-minute mark. Doneness temps for a roast are roughly:

  • Rare: 120 – 130
  • Medium rare: 130 – 135
  • Medium: 135 – 140
  • Medium well: 145 – 155
  • Well: 155 and up
I was shooting for rare here. Almost nailed it, but got it a bit more done that I wanted.

When it’s cooked to within five degrees of your desired doneness, pull that bad boy off. Remember you’re going to rest this guy and it’s going to come up another 5 degrees while resting. I’m going to do mine rare every time. Pull the roast off, throw it on a plate, and tent it with aluminum foil. Let it rest at least five minutes before carving.


When you’re ready to serve this guy, cut it against the grain. I’m sorry I didn’t get a picture of carving. I took a couple but both of them were out of focus for some reason. Anyway, cut the roast against the grain into slices. I like to go on the thinner side but to each his own. Serve with whatever you like.

I want to talk just briefly about leftovers, too. Honestly, the leftovers are almost my favorite part of this meal. Almost. I get some nice French-style rolls; my local bakery has some nice, soft ones that toast up real nice. I warm up a few slices of roast, heap ’em on the bun with some yellow mustard, maybe a slice of provolone, and some habanero pickles I got my hands on.

And that’s it! I hope you guys tri this (see what I did there?). One more gratuitous pic:

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