Smoked Tri-Tip Steak is Easier Than Brisket

by R.B. Quinn
tri tip sirloin

Smoked tri-tip is simple, delicious, and a time-saving substitute for brisket.

If you like tri-tip sirloin and your meat department sells it, you’ve probably grilled it with great success. Tri-tip is an odd-shaped, triangular cut that makes a beefy, flavorful steak. It’s big in California (Santa Maria-style barbecue) made popular for the rest of us by food television. But, have you smoked it yet?  

grilled tri tip

Smoked tri-tip is fantastic. You can slice it thin and eat like Texas brisket with crackers, sliced pickles and onion, or lay the slices on a hoagy roll or crusty bread for a sandwich like they serve at the Taft Ale House in Cincinnati. The folks at Taft Ale say they sear their tri-tip before smoking (then finish in the oven). I cut out those steps and just smoke the meat sitting on foil in the smoker rubbed generously with Kosher salt and coarse black pepper until it’s cooked through with a nice, crusty exterior.  

There’s not much to it, really. A couple hours in a low temp (about 225F) smoker or Weber kettle will do it. The goal is to cook the meat all the way through and to pick up some easy smoke along the way. Unlike the high heat approach of grilling, you’re not looking for a medium-rare, 130 degree steak finish.    

A note about smoking meat in general: meat can absorb only so much smoke. Over-smoked meat is no more fun to eat than over-seasoned meat. It’s bitter, acrid, and unpleasant. So, a few chunks of hardwood at a time are enough to generate plenty of smoke. I primarily use oak for it’s evenness and overall compatibility with the meats I usually smoke. Keep the top vent on the smoker cover open, always, and don’t trap the smoke. 

As much as I love brisket, sliced smoked tri-tip is a much faster alternative. And for another brisket alternative, smoke a beef chuck roast a few hours, finish it in a low, steady oven, slice and serve just like brisket. Here’s how I smoke a beef chuck roast:

Texas Smoked Beef Chuck is Easier than Brisket

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