There is one cut of meat that seems to stand out as the Holy Grail of smoked meats: the brisket. It will make the newcomer to smoking scared and the seasoned pro scratching their head from time to time. Well, what if I told you that there is a cut that you could smoke just the same way that you would cook a brisket, except with much less time and almost fool-proof results? You’d be pretty interested, wouldn’t you?

Well, I am here to tell you that such a cut really does exist and it’s becoming easier and easier to find: the tri-tip steak. It will cook the same way as a brisket, develop a beautiful and tasty bark like a brisket, and have that same deep beefy, smoky flavor as a brisket. That’s why I call it a trisket: tri-tip steak + brisket= trisket!  

Now before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s find out a bit more about this once nearly impossible to find cut of beef.

Seasoned tri-tip ready for smoking.

What is a tri-tip?

The tri-tip steak is from the bottom of the sirloin sub-primal cut, just above and in front of the hind legs. It has also been commonly referred to as Newport steak, Santa Maria steak (it is believed to have been first used in Santa Maria, California), triangle tip and triangle steak. The triangle in those names is because the cut itself is shaped like, well, a triangle. Wow, that’s original!

The tri-tip has been used in California as far back as the early 1900s, but it didn’t start growing in popularity until the late ’50s, early ’60s.  It has been traditionally seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic and occasionally other spices, grilled direct to a medium rare finish, sliced and served.

Be careful—there is a trick to slicing tri-tip the right way, but for our application today, its not quite as important. You always want to slice it across the grain, and in tri-tip that can be tricky because the grain runs in two different directions. But that’s a whole other subject for a future article!

These days, it seems that the reverse searing method has been the main way that grillers everywhere choose to prepare their tri-tip. Simply season it, set it over indirect heat at about 225° to 250° until it hits an internal temp of about 115°, remove it, get the fire rip roaring hot, and sear it for a minute or two over the flames. This will give you one tasty steak with beautiful beefy flavor and a delicious sear. 

Smoked tri-tip fresh off the grill!

How do you cook a tri-tip?

But I have found a way to prepare it that has quickly become a hit in my house that the family seems to ask for more and more often: smoked tri tip. I simply cook this tasty little triangle of beef exactly how I would smoke a brisket. Yes, even right down to wrapping it in pink butcher’s paper (you can use foil if you don’t have butchers’ paper). I use the same seasonings, same pit or grill temperatures, and same procedure as a brisket. The only thing that I do not use when smoking a tri-tip is the extra eight to 10 hours that a brisket takes to finish.

Now I know that there will be naysayers who feel that this is not the proper way to treat such a beautiful cut of beef, but I assure you, that is only because they have never tried it. Open your mind and try something different.  If you search for it, you will see that I am not alone in this crazy way of cooking a “trisket.”

Try it, see how you like it. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions or if you make it and want to tell me how much you love it.  I love hearing from you! 

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tri tip trisket

Tri-Tip Steak Trisket


  • Author: Captain Ron
  • Total Time: 4:10

Ingredients

Scale
  • Charcoal
  • Smoking chunks
  • 1 tri-tip steak, preferably with a fat cap
  • Kosher salt
  • Coarse fresh ground black pepper
  • Mayonnaise
  • Pink butchers paper or aluminum foil

Instructions

  1. Prepare your tri-tip for smoking by trimming off any excess fat and silver skin.
  2. Rub the tri-tip with the mayonnaise to use it as a binder.
  3. Combine ¼ cup Kosher salt and ¼ cup coarse ground black pepper (16 mesh pepper if you can find it)
  4. Apply the rub over the entire piece of meat.
  5. Prepare your smoker for 250°, indirect smoking. Place the smoking chunks in your fire; I’d recommend something like hickory or oak
  6. Place the tri-tip on your smoker. I recommend doing this with the fat cap down, if your tri-tip has one and if you are cooking in a kamado-style cooker.  This will protect the bottom layer from getting overdone.
  7. Allow the meat to cook until it reaches 165 to 170° internal temperature, spritzing it with water once or twice. Once it hits the proper temperature and you are happy with the formation of the bark, remove the meat from the smoker and wrap it in peach butcher paper and place it back on the grate.
  8. Just like you would for a brisket, finish cooking the tri-tip at around the 230° mark. It may vary slightly from one piece to another, but the temperature probe should slide in and out with no resistance.
  9. Once it is done cooking, remove it, place it in a cooler, cover it with towels, and allow it to rest for a minimum of one hour.
  10. Remove the meat from the cooler, unwrap it and slice it just the way you would slice a brisket. Now watch your friends and family devour the greatness you have created!
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 4 hours
  • Category: Meats
  • Method: Smoking

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