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Cooking with David

Barbecued Tri-Tip Roast

Copyright © 2006, 2009 by David E. Ross

A triangle-tip beef roast is quite popular in the western U.S. I know from personal experience that this was unknown thirty years ago in the Atlantic states. In 1976, I described to a butcher in suburban Philadelphia where a tri-tip was found on a side of beef and how it was cut. He remarked, "We couldn't cut meat that way!"

Tri-tips weigh 2-4 pounds. They are indeed triangular. Tri-tips are boneless and often have a significant layer of fat on one side. They can be ideal for a family or for a small dinner party. For the two of us, we generally get three or four meals from a medium-sized roast.

My wife used to cook them in the oven at a high temperature (450°) for 35-40 minutes; this followed my mother's recipe. Depending on the thickness and how cold it was (from being refrigerated), however, it would sometimes be underdone in the center. Then, my wife discovered how to cook them in the microwave, using a probe. They came out very good every time, but they lacked the browning on the outside.

Walking past a butcher shop one noon, I saw they were barbecuing tri-tips. I asked how to do it on a gas barbecue. I tried what they told me. That was perfect!

Preheat the barbecue with the highest flame.

If the tri-tip roast has a significant layer of fat, score the fat in two directions with a sharp butcher knife. Cut completely through the fat, but try to avoid cutting into the meat itself. You may also trim away some of the fat.

Place the roast on the the barbecue over a high fire for 5 minutes. Turn and cook 5 more minutes. Ignore all flames.

Reduce the fire to medium-low fire. (Optional: Brush the top side with barbecue sauce.) Close the cover and cook for 10 minutes. Turn the roast. (Optional: Brush the cooked side with barbecue sauce.) Close the cover and cook for 10 more minutes. Ignore any flames shooting out of the barbecue.

Remove the roast from the barbecue. Let it sit for 5 minutes before carving.

The timing is very important:

Any meat should be removed from the refrigerator at least an hour before cooking and allowed to come near room temperature. If the meat had been frozen, it should be removed from the refrigerator several hours beforehand to make sure it is not still frozen in the center. The timing above is for cooking, not for removing the chill.

Roasts of all kinds should be allowed to stand after cooking. This keeps the meat juicy. Without standing, too much juice will run out of the meat while it is being carved, leaving the roast dry. Even after a barbecued tri-tip roast stands 5 minutes, some juice will run out. The juice will have little fat and is excellent on potatoes or spooned over the sliced meat.

The result might be quite brown outside — even slightly charred — but it will still be pink (medium-rare) inside. Slice thinly and top with a mixture of sliced mushrooms and chopped onions that have been sautéed to a golden brown in a mixture of olive oil and a small pat of butter.


After the first night, left-over tri-tip is very good served cold. Slice as thin as when hot. Spread a little prepared horseradish on top.

Left-over tri-tip makes excellent roast beef sandwiches. I add lettuce, sliced tomato, and a slice of cheese, with both prepared horseradish and mustard on the bread. Sometimes, I also add a broken-up slice of raw onion. I prefer a sourdough whole wheat or a rye bread, lightly toasted.

For barbecued beef sandwiches, julienne some of the left-over tri-tip into strips about 2 inches long and 1/4 inch wide. From a large onion, cut one or two slices about 1/4 inch thick or less; cut each slice of onion into quarters or smaller and break the pieces apart. Put the meat and onion into a heavy pot (e.g., cast iron). Add enough of your favorite barbecue sauce to moisten the meat and onion generously but not enough to be drippy. Cover the pot and heat over a low fire until the sauce bubbles and the onion is slightly cooked. Serve on lightly toasted rolls.

22 September 2006
Updated 27 January 2009

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