Santa Maria Tri Tip barbecue is about family, and gatherings with friends. This style of barbecue is very specific to the Central California Coast, and it’s delicious! This is the Godfather’s recipe.
I’m a little emotional about sharing this recipe today because it means so much in our little family. Not only is it a delicious reminder of the few years we spent on the California Central Coast, Santa Maria tri tip was the gateway recipe for the Godfather’s barbecue “hobby”. If he hadn’t decided to try making tri tip at home to create his own version of the tri tip rub recipe, he wouldn’t have gotten into barbecue and we wouldn’t have all his delicious barbecue recipes on the blog. With Mother’s Day being this weekend, this seemed like a fitting recipe to share because tri tip, like most barbecue, is about family, friends, and spending time together.
While we lived on the Central Coast, we had plenty of restaurants that made tri tip, and some were very very good. But the best tri tip was almost always had on weekends, driving down a main street in Lompoc or Santa Maria, looking for the charity or church fundraisers. They’d all set up tents next to huge open grills and for $8-10 you’d get a plate of tri tip or chicken, pinquito beans, salad, and garlic bread. People made tri tip at home on weekends, and every single Mother’s Day or Father’s Day (or Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Labor Day, birthday, sunny day… you get the picture), families would be firing up the barbecue and making tri tip at home to enjoy with friends and family and a local bottle of Santa Maria wine. L loved this idea of community around food, and so once he mastered his tri tip recipe, we’d make it for friends and block parties.
The tri tip cut of beef (sometimes also called the triangle cut) is part of the bottom sirloin and is called tri tip because the grain goes in three different directions. You can purchase trimmed or untrimmed, but it can be a bit difficult to find depending on your location. Most grocery stores out East seem to like to cut it into steaks for some reason, so you may have to request that one be kept whole for you. The whole roast is only about 2-3 lbs, so it’s a good beef cut to barbecue for a small gathering or a family. When we make one for our family of 2 adults and a toddler, it feeds us about 3ish meals. Make multiple if you’re hosting lots of people.
- lb - 3-4 beef tri-tip, untrimmed
- - sea salt
- - ground black pepper
- - garlic powder
- - paprika
- On a cutting board or flat pan, generously apply sea salt, ground black pepper, and garlic powder to all sides of the tri-tip.
- Lightly apply paprika to the fattiest side of the tri-tip.
- Set up the grill while allowing the tri-tip to come to room temperature. Set the coals directly below the meat's intended place, but set as flat as possible. If you have a gas grill, you can mimic the charcoal treatment by soaking some wood chips in water, placing them in foil shaped like a paper boat, and placing the foil in between the burners. Allow the grill temperature to reach at least 250 degrees, but no more than 300 degrees.
- Place the tri-tip on the grill with the fattiest side up, and grill for 20 minutes.
- Flip the tri-tip with the fattiest side down, and grill for 15 minutes.
- Flip the tri-tip twice more and grill for 5 minutes each time. This will result in the meat being cooked medium to medium-well. If you desire rarer-cooked meat, omit this step.
- Remove the tri-tip from the grill and place it on a plate or flat pan. Cover the meat with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes.
- To best serve, remove the foil after resting, and be sure to cut across the grain of the meat. This can be done by cutting the tri-tip where the two visibly different grains meet, which is off the center of the tri-tip. Cut across the grain on each side, with your knife pointing down at a slight angle.