Sunday, June 17, 2012

Santa Maria Smoked Tri-Tip

Santa Maria Smoked Tri-Tip

Santa Maria, California

Meat: Tri-tip steak
Sauce: Salsa
Santa Maria beef barbecue calls for tri-tip steak, a cut of beef also known as bottom sirloin or sirloin tip. The pros cook their meat over specially-crafted pits, often with a crank and pulley controlling the temperature by raising and lowering the grate over a red oak log fire. The sirloin's ready to enjoy much more quickly than brisket or pork shoulder, and generally served rare to medium instead of well done. The customary topping is a mild green-chile-and-tomato-salsa.
Flavorful tri-tip steak is a cut of beef also known as bottom sirloin or sirloin tip. Compared to other styles of barbecue, this recipe for smoked tri-tip comes together quickly, making it ideal for a weeknight dinner. 
Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 3 ounces steak and 1/4 cup salsa)


  • 3 cups hickory wood chips
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • (2 1/4-pound) tri-tip steak, trimmed
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 cups Santa Maria Salsa
  • Cilantro sprigs (optional)


  1. Soak wood chips in water 1 hour; drain well.
  2. Combine salt, pepper, and garlic powder; sprinkle evenly over steak. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.
  3. Remove grill rack; set aside. Prepare grill, heating one side to high and one side to medium. Place wood chips on hot coals on medium-heat side of grill; heat wood chips 10 minutes. Coat grill rack with cooking spray; place on grill.
  4. Lightly coat steak with cooking spray. Place steak on grill rack over high-heat side of grill; grill 6 minutes, turning 3 times. Place steak on grill rack over medium-heat side of grill; grill 40 minutes or until a thermometer registers 140° (medium-rare) or until desired degree of doneness. Remove steak from grill; let stand 10 minutes. Cut steak diagonally across grain into thin slices. Serve with Santa Maria Salsa; garnish with cilantro sprigs, if desired.
  5. Wine note: Tri-tip from California's Santa Ynez Valley goes naturally with a full-throttle merlot from the same region. Gainey Merlot 2004 (Santa Ynez Valley, California), $26, is plush and plummy, with enough structure to stand up to the steak, the char-smokiness of the wood chips, and the pungency of the salsa. --Karen MacNei


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