A tri-tip is a triangular roast cut from the bottom sirloin that an incredible beefy flavor and is a great cut of beef to put in a smoker. Try smoking a tri-tip with a reverse sear and you will be amazed at how juicy it is. In this recipe, the roast is smoked low and slow for about an hour and then seared over a hot fire.
This is one of the easiest recipes on this site. Five simple ingredients produce a very flavorful and juicy roast with just enough smoke. This recipe is all about technique. A lot of tri-tip recipes will have you sear the roast first THEN smoke it. Well, that's old school. Searing it first tends to dry it out a bit and it also seals the roast so the smoke doesn't do much. Smoking the tri-tip low and slow first followed by a sear over a hot fire (a reverse sear) allows the smoke to add a lot of flavor. The best results for a juicy tri-tip are achieved with a reverse sear after smoking.
What is the Best Wood for Smoking Tri-Tip?
There are a handful of wood choices for smoking meat that are readily available throughout the United States. Some or better than others when it comes to smoking a tri-tip. The choice is also influenced by the type of smoker being used.
When I cook a tri-tip in my Yoder stick burner, the entire cooking process is done with kiln-dried oak. In Texas, most stick burner cooks use post oak which a type of white oak. These smokers burn split logs 16" - 20" in length and they are easy to obtain. Other varieties of logs are available, but they are more expensive so oak is the most popular.
Other types of smokers are going to use chunks of wood rather than logs. I use chunks in my Kamado Joe. I can readily find chunks of oak, hickory, pecan, mesquite, apple and cherry. I recommend using wood chunks instead of wood chips. Chips burn much faster and have to be soaked for 30 minutes before using.
Assuming that you are not using a stick burner, which wood is best for smoking a tri-tip? The answer is, it depends on the intensity of flavor that you are looking for.
Oak is the go-to wood for stick burner cooks because it works well. It burns slowly and lasts a long time. This helps when you are trying to smoke for an hour or more. Oak imparts a very pleasant flavor to a tri-tip without being overpowering. It is a great wood to start with if you are new to smoking tri-tips.
Hickory is another slow burning wood that works well anytime you need a longer smoking time. This wood will provide a sweeter, but stronger and more intense flavor than oak. I have used hickory with both tri-tips and briskets, but I prefer oak. When I use hickory, I decrease the number of wood chunks by 20% to help compensate for the stronger flavor.
Pecan imparts a very mild, almost sweet smoke. It also imparts a lot of color, but it burns faster than oak or hickory. I like to use pecan when making a whole chicken because of the beautiful, golden color it provides. Of course, you won't notice much of a color change with a tri-tip. Pecan is a nice, mild wood that is worth trying.
I live in Austin, TX and mesquite is pretty popular with many well-known pit masters here. I am not a fan. The flavor is very intense and can easily overpower whatever I'm making to the point that all I taste is smoke. I have ruined more than a few expensive pieces of meat using mesquite. If you want to try mesquite, I recommend only using one or maybe two chunks and using oak for the rest of the wood.
Apple and Cherry
Both apple and cherry produce mild, sweet smoke that is good with a tri-tip. I mention them together because I use the both interchangeably. I honestly can't tell the difference between the two when it comes to the taste of whatever I am smoking. Cherry chunks, however, seem to produce smoke a little longer than apple. Both are great options for smoking a tri-tip.
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper
- Garlic powder
- Dried oregano
See recipe card for quantities.
Trim the excess fat from the tri-tip roast.
Season on both sides with salt, pepper, garlic powder and oregano.
Smoke the roast for about an hour until the internal temperature reaches 110°F. Then remove the roast and cover with foil for 15 minutes. Setup the smoker for direct heat and raise the temperature to about 400°F.
Return the roast to the smoker and grill (turning over once) until the internal temperature reaches 124°F (for medium rare), measured with a meat thermometer. Rest the roast for 10 minutes then slice across the grain and serve.
Let the roast rest for the full 10 minutes before cutting. If the roast is cut right after searing, the juice will just run out and you will have a very dry tri-tip. The picture below was of a roast that rested for 10 minutes. Look at how juicy it is.
This recipe was prepared in a Kamado Joe. I have also made this tri-tip in a Yoder Cheyenne stick burner and a Weber charcoal grill. The Kamado Joe was the easiest to control because I used a FireBoard to maintain the temperature.
Store any leftover tri-tip roast in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.
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These are my favorite dishes to serve with this recipe.
- 3 lb Tri-Tip Roast trimmed
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 12 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon oregano dried
- Setup the smoker to cook at 225°F. Trim the excess fat from the tri-tip roast. Season on both sides with salt, pepper, garlic powder and oregano.
- Smoke the roast for about an hour until the internal temperature reaches 110°F. Remove the roast and cover with foil for 15 minutes to let it rest.
- While the roast is resting, setup the smoker for direct heat and raise the temperature to about 400°F. Return the roast to the smoker and grill (turning over once) until the internal temperature reaches 124°F degrees.
- Rest the roast for about 10 minutes. Slice across the grain and serve.