How to Grill Tri-Tip Steak
Also called the California cut or the Santa Maria steak, this tri-tip steak is naturally lean, but rich in flavor and perfect for your grill. With only a few simple ingredients, it’s easy to prepare. Ready, set — let’s get started!
What You’ll Need
Before starting, make sure you have everything on this list. We recommend Kingsford® Original Charcoal Briquets and Kingsford™ BBQ Smoking Chips. And don’t skip the digital meat thermometer — it’s the best way to make sure your tri-tip is done.
- Kingsford® Original Charcoal Briquets
- Kingsford® BBQ Smoking Chips (in Hickory or Mesquite)
- Kingsford® Chimney Starter (Optional)
- Preferred Ignition Aid (Fire Starters, Kindling or Lighter Fluid)
- Digital Meat Thermometer
- Paper Towels
- Sharp Knife
- Large, Resealable Plastic Bag or Large Dish
- Aluminum Foil
- 2.5 lb. Beef Tri-Tip
- 2 tbsp. of Dry Rub or Marinade
- Cooking Oil
How to Prep
- Remove the tough, chewy “silver skin” from the tri-tip. Using a sharp knife, cut just below the skin and work your way across the meat. Then, trim the excess fat down to about an ⅛” layer.
- We recommend to either marinate the tri-tip or sprinkle on about 2 to 3 tbsp. of rub evenly on each side. Then place the tri-tip in a large, resealable plastic bag or large dish, and let it refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
How to Prep
How to Build Your Fire
- Give your top grill grate a good brushing and set it aside. Pour Kingsford® Original Charcoal Briquets into a chimney — or pour them in a mound and light. Wait for coals to light fully.
- Once the charcoal turns gray with ash, arrange coals in a Two-Zone Method: coals on one side of the grill and a void on the other. For a more smoky tri-tip, add 2 cups of Kingsford™ BBQ Smoking Chips (Hickory or Mesquite). Be sure to soak the chips in water for at least 30 minutes before spreading them onto the coals.
- Coals should be at Medium Heat — about 400°F–450°F. How to control the heat when grilling with charcoal.
- Add the grate and let it heat up.
How to Gauge Grill Heat Without a Thermometer
Carefully hold your hand about 5” to 6” above the grate, and refer to the temperature settings below:
• High Heat (450° to 550°F):
2 to 4 seconds
• Medium Heat (350° to 450°F):
5 to 6 seconds
• Low Heat (250° to 350°F):
8 to 10 seconds
Make sure your clothing doesn’t touch the grate, and always move your hand away from the heat before you feel discomfort.
When you’re at temp, put cooking oil on a folded paper towel. Grab the oiled paper towel with long-handled tongs and oil the grate thoroughly.
- When you’re at temp, put cooking oil on a folded paper towel. Grab the oiled paper towel with tongs and oil the grate thoroughly. For more details, see How to Prep a Charcoal Grill.
How to Build Your Fire
- Place the tri-tip on the cooler side of the grate, close the lid and grill it for about 20 to 30 minutes, then turn it over and repeat.
- Unlike most steaks, you’ll want to sear the tri-tip after grilling to better allow the charcoal-grilled aroma—and smoke flavor if you added wood chips — to penetrate the meat.
- While the tri-tip is on the cooler side of the grill, remove the grill lid and check the internal temperature of the tri-tip with a digital meat thermometer. When it’s close to your desired meat temperature, move the tri-tip to the warmer side of the grill, directly over the coals, and sear it on both sides.
How Done Is My Steak? Let’s Find Out * USDA Safety Guidelines recommend cooking steak to the mediumtemp of 145°F to make sure any harmful bacteria are destroyed.
** Cooking times are approximate and based on a 1” steak, including sear time.
- Keep in mind that the tri-tip will continue to cook after it’s been removed from the grill — internal temperatures will rise.
- After the tri-tip comes off the grill, cover it loosely with foil and let it rest for about 10 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 145°F on a digital meat thermometer.
- Cut thin slices across the grain and serve. Because of its tapered shape, the narrower section will be more cooked than the wider end, giving you a range of doneness to serve your guests.
For safe meat and other food preparation, reference the USDA website.