Best Smoked Tri Tip Steak

This article has links to products that we may make commission from.
  • 2
  • Jump to Recipe

This Smoked Tri Tip steak is coated with a delicious homemade rub that builds a flavorful crust as it smokes to a perfectly tender juicy meat in just 2 hours.

» You might be interested in this ChefsTemp Finaltouch X10 digital thermometer review.

Smoked Tri Tip

You might also like this Easy Smoked Prime Rib or Smoked Brisket Buns.

If you love Tri tip steak and you have a smoker, you’ll really love this recipe for Smoked Tri Tip. It’s one of my favorite cuts of beef and smoked is a really great way to enjoy it.

Tri Tip is cut from the bottom sirloin and can be found in many grocery stores on the West coast of the United States, and often at Costco. It was made popular in Santa Maria, California, in the 1950s when the Santa Maria rub was also created.

The cut of meat alone is very tender and is best when cooked at low heat and served at medium rare. That’s why a smoker does some a great job with this cut. It’s a very low, slow way of cooking that imparts a lot of flavor.

If you don’t have a smoker, you can also cook tri tip steak on the grill or in the oven. My preferred method is smoking or grilling. The smoked flavor along with the rub are unbeatable.

Ingredients You’ll Need

tri tip ingredients
  • Tri Tip – You can find a tri tip roast at the grocery if you live on the west coast, otherwise you’ll probably need to ask for it from your butcher. I usually cook a 3-pound roast, which is the most typical size. At Costco, you can usually find tri tip as strip steaks, around 6-8 ounces each. You can still cook them on the smoker, but they will take a lot less time.
  • Seasoning rub (either store-bought or homemade) – My homemade rub includes brown sugar, paprika, salt, pepper, chili powder, onion powder, and garlic powder. It’s easy to mix up and can last for a few months, so you can use it for lots of other things.

Yep, that’s all you need! It’s a super simple, but very delicious way to season tri tip that you’ll roast in the oven.

Expert Tips

  • If you want the ultimate flavor and crust on your smoked tri tip, let it marinate with the dry rub on for at least a few hours before smoking.
  • Be sure to slice the tri tip against the grain of the meat for the most tender bites.
  • For added flavor and texture, consider searing the tri-tip over high heat for a few minutes on each side before transferring it to the smoker. You can also do a reverse sear – which means searing it after it’s smoked.

What Size Tri Tip to Buy

Raw tri tip

Tri-tip roasts range from 1 1/2 pounds to 4 pounds.

  • A 1 1/2 pound roast will serve around 3 people, depending on appetite.
  • A 3-pound roast will serve about 6 people.
  • A 4-pound roast will serve about 8 people.

I try to buy a 2 1/2 to 3-pound roast so there’s some left overs for the two of us. It’s great the first day as a main dish with a side dish like smoked cauliflower or smoked vegetables. The next day you can use it for steak sandwiches or steak quesadillas.

How Long to Cook a Tri Tip on the Smoker

Tri tip steak on the BBQ with a thermometer in

The cooking time will vary based on the size of the roast. The best way to make sure the meat is cooked to your preference is to use a digital thermometer to test the meat, like this amazing Thermoworks one.

If you have a digital thermometer that can be left in the meat while it cooks, that’s the best way to ensure it doesn’t over cook. Most smokers come with an internal thermometer.

  • For medium-rare you want 135°F.
  • For medium it’s 145°F.
  • I don’t recommend going over 145°F for this cut, but if you like well done meat, it’s 155°F.

Be sure to take into account the 5-10 degrees from carryover cooking (the amount the temp rises during resting).

How to Make Smoked Tri Tip

Step One: Preparing the Tri-Tip

Raw tri tip

You might notice when purchasing Tri Tip that it can be prepared in a few different ways by the butcher. It will come either trimmed or untrimmed.

  • Untrimmed means it has a thick fat cap on one side that you can choose to leave on or remove.
  • Trimmed often has no fat at all.

If you are buying from your butcher, ask for one with fat on one side that has been trimmed down to 1/4 inch. The fat will keep it from drying out on the smoker.

If there’s fat on both sides of the roast you’ve purchased, that’s okay. You can trim it off yourself to how you want it. You’ll also noticed that there is a silver membrane along one side of the meat that should be removed. It’s a bit tough when cooked and makes the meat less tender.

To remove it, just grab one end and pull. It might come off easily. If not, you can use a paring knife to help peel it off. If you end up having to leave it on because it’s being stubborn, that’s okay too.

Step Two: Dry Rub

homemade dry rub

You can choose what type of rub you put on the tri tip. There are so many great store-bought seasonings and rubs you can use for beef. If you have a favorite one, stick with that. I personally prefer my homemade dry rub.

Homemade Dry Rub

This recipe makes a bit more than you’ll use on one tri tip, but you can save it to use on something else if you have some leftover. How much you use will depend on the size of your roast and how flavorful you want it to be. I like a lot of flavor.

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

Mix together these spices and rub it all over the tri tip to form a thick crust. Rest the meat in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to over night to allow the rub flavors to sink into the meat.

Seasoned, raw tri tip

Santa Maria Rub

The most “authentic” way to make tri tip is with a Santa Maria rub. It’s just three ingredients: salt, pepper and garlic powder. Hard to believe that the original rub that has become so famous includes just 3 ingredients, but it’s true.

  • 1 Tbsp Kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp finely ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder or 2 tsp garlic salt
santa maria rub

Step Three: Smoke the Tri Tip

You want to smoke your tri tip at a low temperature for the best results. It benefits from a slower cook.

I have a Z Grills Smoker (similar to a Traeger Grill), which has a Smoke setting. I preheat my grill using this setting, which fluctuates from 160°F to 225°F.

I let it preheat for 15 minutes, then smoke the tri tip on this Smoke setting for 50 minutes. Then I turn up the heat to 225°F for 1 hour and 15 minutes. During this time, I baste it with additional rub mixed with olive oil two times.

basting tri tip

When the tri tip reaches your desired internal temperature, take it off the smoker and tent it under foil for 15 minutes so the carry-over cooking brings it up to 135°F.

If you don’t have a smoke setting, pre-heat the grill and set it to 225°F. Smoking the tri tip at 225°F the entire time will likely take a bit less time, around 1 hour and 30 minutes. Always check the internal temperature with a digital thermometer to be sure.

You don’t want the heat of the grill to go over 250°. This will keep the heat low enough to slow cook the tri tip and impart a lot of smoke flavor.

smoked tri tip

Once you’ve tented the meat for 15 minutes, it’s ready to slice and serve. Be sure to slice the meat against the grain for the most tender slices.

sliced tri tip

What Smoker to Use

Z GRILLS Wood Pellet Grill Smoker with PID 2.0 Controller, 700 Cooking Area, Meat Probes, Rain Cover for Outdoor BBQ, 7002C

Z Grills 7002C2E Pellet Grill & Smoker

The 7002C2E is a new model featuring a digital PID control board and advanced technology for even temperatures and consistent results. With the built-in dual temperature probes, a huge pellet hopper, pellet cleanout system, and pellet view window, your grilling experience will be enhanced like never before. See this grill and more on the Z Grills site.

Traeger Grills Pro Series 22 Electric Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker, Bronze, Extra large

Traeger Grills Pro Series 22 Pellet Grill & Smoker

Traeger created the original wood-pellet grill as the ultimate way to achieve wood-fired taste. The Pro Series 22 is the one most people choose because it’s compact, yet has plenty of space for cooking.

You can use any type of wood pellets you like. I prefer Hickory, which is great for naturally enhancing beef, chicken, pork, and veggies with full-bodied, bold flavor.

smoked tri tip

How to Reheat Tri Tip

There are several ways to reheat tri-tip, but the best method depends on your personal preference and the equipment you have available. Here are a few options:

  1. Oven: Preheat your oven to 325°F. Place the tri-tip in an oven-safe dish and cover it with foil to prevent it from drying out. Reheat for about 10-15 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 130°F.
  2. Sous vide: If you have a sous vide machine, you can reheat the tri-tip by placing it in a vacuum-sealed bag and heating it in the sous vide water bath at 130°F for about 30 minutes.
  3. Microwave: Place the tri-tip on a microwave-safe plate and cover it with a damp paper towel. Microwave on high for 30-second intervals until it reaches your desired temperature.
  4. Grill: Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. Brush the tri-tip with a little oil and grill it for a few minutes on each side until it is heated through.
  5. Air fryer: Preheat your air fryer to 350°F. Slice the tri-tip into even pieces and place them in a single layer in the air fryer basket. Brush the tri-tip with a little oil to prevent it from drying out. Cook the tri-tip for 5-7 minutes, flipping halfway through, until it is heated through and crispy on the outside.

No matter which method you choose, be sure to use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the tri-tip before serving.

What to Serve Tri Tip With


4.4 from 23 votes
Chipotle Beef Barbacoa Recipe
4.9 from 42 votes
Best Ever Meat Marinade
4.7 from 15 votes
Roasted Rack of Lamb
4 from 41 votes
Easy Instant Pot Pork Roast Recipe

Related Posts:

Like it, Love it, Want Some More of It? Subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook. We really love it when you save our recipes to Pinterest 😊

smoked tri tip

Smoked Tri Tip

This delicious smoked Tri Tip is coated in a flavorful dry rub and slow smoked to perfection.
4.50 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Beef
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 409kcal
Author: Laura Lynch


  • 3 pound tri tip roast

For the dry spice rub

  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil


  • Trim fat on tri tip to 1/4″ and remove membrane, if necessary.
  • Mix the seasonings in a bowl. Season the tri tip with the dry rub, reserving 1 tablespoon for later. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight if possible.
  • Preheat the smoker to 225°F, set the tri tip directly on the grill and close the lid.
  • Mix the remaining dry rub with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  • Smoke the tri tip for about 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours, basting twice during cooking with the olive oil/rub mixture.
  • The roast is done when the internal temperature reaches 125°F for medium rare or 135°F for medium.
  • Take the meat off the grill and let it rest for 15 minutes wrapped with tin foil. This allows the meat to come up to the proper temperature.
  • To serve, slice the roast against the grain in thin slices.

Equipment Needed

  • Smoker Grill


  • If you want the ultimate flavor and crust on your smoked tri tip, let it marinate with the dry rub on for at least a few hours before smoking.
  • Be sure to slice the tri tip against the grain of the meat for the most tender bites.
  • For added flavor and texture, consider searing the tri-tip over high heat for a few minutes on each side before transferring it to the smoker. You can also do a reverse sear – which means searing it after it’s smoked.


Calories: 409kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 47g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Cholesterol: 147mg | Sodium: 903mg | Potassium: 776mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 675IU | Vitamin C: 0.1mg | Calcium: 63mg | Iron: 4mg

Pin it for later!

smoked tri tip

2 thoughts on “Best Smoked Tri Tip Steak

  1. Mike Thiewes says:

    I saw your recipe for smoked tri tip . I’m from N.E. South Dakota. Smoking in a grill is my than. But it’s still too cold here. If u want I can show you a video of my yard.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating