If you’ve never had tri tip, you haven’t lived! I will show you how to cook tri tip on the grill or in the oven. It’s SO easy and the flavor is unbeatable! We always had tri tip for Christmas dinner growing up, it’s an impressive holiday meal! Or make it in the summer with these Santa Maria Pinquito Beans!

tri tip recipe

Sometimes I start to make a list of things to buy at Home Depot, and I get totally overwhelmed. Does this ever happen to you?? It’s basically impossible to stop at a home improvement store for just one item because there are always SO many projects on the to-do list when you’re a homeowner.

Like yesterday, I was going to head to the store to get the things I needed to hang my multiple rolling pins in my kitchen (like this.) Then I remembered that I also needed to shop for a new meat thermometer (for grilling this tri tip). I asked Eric if we needed anything else.

tri tip oven

“Yeah. Get a wall patching kit, the kind with the mesh screen. Oh, and get some more ducting for the air conditioning, I need to patch some of it. And some new ceiling tile, the entry to the attic is getting worn down. And grab some nails, I’m running low, oh and some sand paper and wood oil so that I can refinish that bench on the porch.”

tri tip grill

I can see future Karen, standing in the aisles of Home Depot, paralyzed with choices. But WHICH ducting should I get?? And nails, do you KNOW how many kinds of nails there are at Home Depot?? Like, 10,000, at least.

I ended up just not going at all. Home improvement, schome improvement.

tri tip marinade

Also, maybe I should have actually been shopping for a new grill? Ours is slowly falling apart. The lid opens up way too far, and now it won’t seal when you shut it. I grabbed some random yard art and our grill scraper to weigh it down while cooking this tri tip. Super classy.

What is tri tip?

how to cook tri tip

Have you ever had tri tip? If not you are missing out. Today I will show you how to cook tri tip on the grill (the best way) or in the oven.

Tri tip is a triangular cut from the bottom sirloin, with 3 tips. Grilling it became a thing in the 50s in Santa Maria, California, and it’s getting more popular nationwide, but some still haven’t heard of it. Sometimes outside of California it’s called a triangle roast. If you ask your butcher for a tri tip roast and he gives you a blank stare, try calling it the “California cut.”

It’s a unique cut that is part steak, part roast. When grilled, you get that perfectly tender, pink center with a browned-to-a-crisp, caramelized exterior,  but it doesn’t take as long to cook as a full roast. It’s also cheaper than if you were to buy an equivalent amount of steak.

how to cook tri tip in the oven

(I wish you could see the juice pour out of this as I sliced it.)

Tri tip is HUGE in my family. We’ve eaten it for every Christmas dinner for as long as I can remember. My family was born and bred in California, so I had no idea it was a regional thing until I moved out of state as an adult, and realized people didn’t know what cut of meat I was talking about.

I actually just learned how to cook tri tip. We never made it ourselves for Christmas. There is a locally famous butcher shop and deli in Manteca, my hometown. It’s called Fagundes Meats (I think their family name is Portuguese). We would always order a huge tray of grilled tri tip to be picked up on Christmas Eve, and then we would warm it in the oven the next day for Christmas dinner.

tri tip recipe

But I live in Sacramento now, an hour away, and I can’t just stop by anytime I want a delicious tri tip. So I called them up and asked about their process for how to cook tri tip. I’m so glad I did, because it’s different from what I thought! (it’s a shorter process than I imagined, which is good news for everyone.)

How to cook Tri tip

tri tip marinade

It’s very simple: Rub the spices on the meat (all pantry spices, nothing special), place it in a large ziplock with some olive oil, and then marinate overnight, or at least several hours. (The longer the better!)

Fagundes is famous for their Santa Maria style dry rub seasoning. I know it’s a secret recipe, so I didn’t bother asking for it, but after lots of research, I’ve come up with something that tastes just right to me! It’s so simple. Just a little salt and pepper and garlic, plus some other spices to enhance that garlicky combo. It’s so good! And you don’t even have to chop anything.

tri tip marinade

When you are ready to cook, you can do it the best way, which is on the grill, or the second best way, which is in the oven. Both ways you are going to get an amazingly tender tri tip, but you are only going to get that ultra-crispy black exterior from the grill. The smoke also adds flavor. The original Santa Maria tri tip is traditionally grilled over red oak wood, but I don’t have any and I’m guessing you don’t either. I promise, a regular gas grill will work just fine! Charcoal would be great too if you have that.

how to cook tri tip in the oven

Here’s the set up for how to cook tri tip by roasting in the oven. This is pre-searing.

How to slice a tri tip roast

how to cook tri tip

Tri tip is kind of weird because the grain runs in two different directions. You can’t slice it in the same direction all the way across. Use the above photo as a guide. The black lines are where you should cut. (Only once it is cooked! Don’t slice while raw. I just took the photo before cooking so you could see the grain of the meat.)

tri tip recipe

Tri tip (and all meat) should be cut against the grain, and that means your knife should be perpendicular to the lines you can see (called the grain) in the meat. The thick black line that I’ve drawn above, where you see that thicker fat, is where you can cut the roast in half. Then slice each section of the tri tip against the grain. That’s why some of the photos on this post show small pieces of meat, and some show super long and thin slices, like this:

tri tip oven

So, now you know how to cook tri tip! If your family is not into turkey, this would be an AWESOME main dish to serve at Thanksgiving. And as I already mentioned, we always have it for Christmas dinner, with all the regular fixings: mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, etc. It’s so good.

The traditional way to serve tri tip is in sandwiches though. Slice it up, put it on a soft roll, hoagie, ciabatta, whatever you want. Slather with mayo, add in some onions and BBQ sauce and you will be in heaven! UPDATE JULY 2020: I finally tried the traditional Santa Maria side dish that goes along with tri tip: Santa Maria Pinquito Beans. They are SO good and the perfect summer compliment to tri tip! Try it out! I’m obsessed:

santa maria pinquito beans with tri tip on a plate

P.S. If you are into grilling, I recently posted all about How to Cook Flank Steak. Check it out!

P.P.S. New update (June 2020)! I recently mastered How to Cook Ribeye Steak! You’re going to love it!

Facebook | Pinterest | Instagram

More Amazing Recipes

Did you make this recipe?
Leave a review »

How to Cook Tri Tip (Grilled or Oven-Roasted)

Serves 5-6     adjust servings

If you have never had tri tip, you haven't lived! I will show you how to cook tri tip on the grill or in the oven, it's SO easy and the flavor is unbeatable! We always had tri tip for Christmas dinner growing up, it's an impressive main dish!


  • 1 (2 and 1/2 pound) tri tip roast
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons garlic salt
  • 1 tablespoon Lawry's seasoning salt
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried or fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup olive oil


Choose your tri tip:

If you can, get your tri tip from a local butcher. They will have what is called "prime" cuts, which has more fat and marbling than you can find at the grocery store. It will take longer to cook because of all the fat. (Fat=flavor)

If you buy your tri tip at the grocery store, make sure that you go to a high-end grocery store. High-end grocery stores are going to have mid-range cuts of meat. A discount store is going to have discount meat, and it will not be marbled well. Your roast will shrink a lot more and it will take a shorter time to cook. 

Ask the butcher or grocery clerk for a well marbled tri tip roast, or "California cut" or a "triangle roast." If they still don't know what you mean, ask for the bottom sirloin butt (subprimal cut).

Prepare the marinade:

In a small bowl, combine all the spices: galic salt, seasoning salt, kosher salt, pepper, sugar, garlic powder, and parsley. 1 tablespoons of dried parsley is fine, you can use 2-3 tablespoons if you are using fresh parsley.

If you are grilling, trim the fat cap from the roast. If you are oven roasting, leave it on.

Rub the spice mixture all over the roast with your hands. Place in a large ziplock bag and add 1/4 cup olive oil. Seal the bag and massage the oil into the meat. Place in the fridge and marinate, turning a couple times, for about 8 hours. (This is ideal. If you only have an hour or even 15 minutes, guess what, you're still going to get a great roast. But the longer you marinate, the more flavor there will be. You can leave it in the fridge for up to 3 days.)

How to Grill Tri Tip:

  1. Remove the meat from the fridge 30 minutes before you plan to cook it. It should start cooking at room temperature.
  2. Preheat your grill to high heat. Make sure you give it a good 15-20 minutes to heat up.
  3. Place the roast on a plate and discard the marinade (or save it to add to a pan sauce if you plan to make one).
  4. Grease the grill (or brush oil directly on the meat).
  5. Sear the roast over high heat for about 2-3 minutes, until it is nicely browned. Flip over (grease again if necessary) and sear the other side for 2-3 minutes. Keep the lid shut as much as you can.
  6. Turn off the heat on the side of the grill that your meat is on. We are cooking it over INDIRECT heat. Lower the other side of the grill to low heat. If you are cooking over charcoals, arrange the meat and charcoals so that the meat is off to the side, not cooking directly above the charcoal. 
  7. Grill without opening the lid for about 20-25 minutes, or about 10-15 minutes per pound, depending on how rare you want it. Rare is 135 degrees F. Medium rare is 145 degrees F. Use a meat thermometer inserted in the center of the roast to check the temperature. 
  8. Remove the roast from the grill, and place on a rimmed serving platter. Cover well with foil and let rest for 10-15 minutes.
  9. Slice against the grain and serve (see photos). Try this tri tip with it's traditional side dish, Santa Maria Pinquito Beans!

How to Roast Tri Tip in the Oven:

  1. Remove the meat from the fridge 30 minutes before you plan to cook it. It should start cooking at room temperature.
  2. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
  3. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and place an oven-safe cooling rack on top, and set aside.
  4. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil. When the oil shimmers, place the roast in the pan, fat side down. Sear the roast for about 3-4 minutes, until a brown crust has developed. Flip and sear the other side.
  5. Place the roast on the cooling rack. Save the marinade and oil from searing for a pan sauce, if you choose to make one.
  6. Put the roast in the oven and bake at 400 degrees for about 20-30 minutes, or about 10-15 minutes per pound, depending on how rare you want it. Rare is 130-135 degrees F. Medium rare is 135-145 degrees F. Don't cook it past 145; the meat doesn't have enough fat for medium  well or well. Use a meat thermometer inserted in the center of the roast to check the temperature. 
  7. Remove the roast from the oven, and cover well with foil. Let rest for 10-15 minutes.
  8. Slice against the grain and serve (see photos). Try this tri tip with it's traditional side dish, Santa Maria Pinquito Beans!

To make a pan sauce:

Save all meat drippings* and excess marinade. Add to a small saucepan with 2 cups beef broth.* Bring to a boil. In a small bowl, combine 1/3 cup cold water and 3 tablespoons flour. Whisk until smooth, and then slowly pour into the boiling broth. Continue simmering for 5-10 minutes until thickened. Add 2 tablespoons butter, season with salt and pepper, and serve with meat.


If you make this recipe, share it on Instagram using the hashtag #TheFoodCharlatan so I can see it!

You could also try marinating and serving Tri Tip with this Chimichurri Sauce. That would be so good!!

More holiday dinner ideas!

Easy Fall-Apart Pot Roast with Carrots (Slow Cooker) << this is my favorite pot roast ever!

crockpot pot roast


Cuban Mojo Marinated Pork (Lechon Asado) << my most popular recipe of all time!

Cuban Mojo Marinated Pork from The Food Charlatan


Bacon Blue Cheese Brisket (Slow Cooker!) << how can you go wrong with bacon??

Bacon Blue Cheese Brisket (Slow Cooker!) from The Food Charlatan


Oven Roasted Cranberry-Dijon Glazed Ham << this is so great for the holidays!

Oven-Roasted Cranberry-Dijon Glazed Ham from The Food Charlatan


More steak recipes from blog friends!

Carne Asada from Foodie with Family
Grilled Steak and Fresh Mozzarella Flatbread from Valerie’s Kitchen
Grilled Flat Iron Steak from Savory Sweet Life