This grilled tri-tip steak recipe is perfect for simple family dinners or when you need to serve a crowd! The naturally lean and tender meat is marinated before it’s cooked over high heat, yielding mouthwatering results every time.
A well-seasoned steak is one of my favorite meals to serve to family and friends, and thanks to this recipe for tri-tip steak, I don’t have to break the bank doing it!
After soaking in an easy steak marinade, I like to grill the rich and beefy tri-tip to bring out its amazing flavors. Sliced thin and served with tangy chimichurri on top, every bite is just plain impressive.
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What is tri-tip steak?
Also called a Santa Maria steak because of its California roots, tri-tip is a triangular cut of beef from the bottom sirloin steak subprimal (bottom cut). It’s a thick steak that’s naturally lean and tender thanks to its fat marbling.
- Mega-beefy flavors. Just thinking about tri-tip makes my mouth water! I can’t get enough of its naturally beefy and buttery taste.
- Perfect for high-heat cooking. Fire up the grill because the tri-tip was made for high-heat cooking! But if it’s too cold to grill, you can pan-roast it instead.
- Budget-friendly. Despite its steakhouse-quality flavor and presentation, tri-tip is an affordable cut of meat.
While we prefer to cook tri-tip steaks over high heat in our household, a slow-cooked tri-tip roast is just as fantastic. Use the instructions in my bottom roast recipe if you prefer slow-roasted steak.
The steak is taken to the next level with a tri-tip steak marinade made from pantry staples. Here’s an overview of the ingredients you need:
- Tri-tip steak. Look for a triangular cut with even fat marbling. I like to pick up high-quality steaks from my local butcher, but you should also be able to find it at well-stocked grocery stores.
- Vinegar. I like to use white vinegar in the steak marinade.
- Olive oil. The oil keeps the steak from sticking to the grill grates and yields a gorgeous golden crust around the outside.
- Soy sauce. This is one of my go-to ingredients in steak marinade recipes because it adds a layer of umami flavor and caramelizes around the outside of the steak. If you don’t have soy sauce, use tamari, coconut aminos, or Worcestershire sauce instead.
- Balsamic vinegar. To help tenderize the steak.
- Garlic cloves. I prefer fresh minced garlic cloves but you can use garlic powder in a pinch.
- Herbs and spices. All you need is a simple blend of salt, black pepper, cayenne, dried thyme, and paprika
- Mustard. Yellow or Dijon mustard adds a nice tangy element.
Find the printable recipe with measurements below.
How to grill tri-tip steak
Step 1 – Marinate the steak. Stir the tri-tip marinade ingredients in a bowl. Place the meat in the bowl, then transfer it to the fridge and leave the steak to marinate.
Step 2 – Grill. Grill the marinated tri-tip, occasionally brushing it with the reserved marinade. Flip every few minutes until it’s browned on all sides.
Step 3 – Rest, slice, and serve. Set the steak aside for 10 minutes to rest. Afterward, slice it and serve with chimichurri sauce. Enjoy!
How do you pan-roast tri-tip?
I stick to the pan-roasting method when it’s too cold or rainy to grill outdoors. To cook tri tip in the oven:
- After marinating as normal, sear the tri-tip in an oiled cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until it’s lightly browned on both sides. Brush it with the reserved marinade every so often.
- Transfer the skillet to a 425°F oven and roast for 12 minutes per pound.
- Once it’s cooked to your desired doneness (preferably medium-rare), set the steak aside to cool before slicing and serving.
I mention it below, but always use a meat thermometer to check its doneness.
Recipe tips and variations
- Marinate for at least 4 hours. During testing, I found that this is the sweet spot for infusing the steak with balanced, mouthwatering flavors. Of course, 30 minutes is plenty.
- Room temperature meat. Remember to take the marinated steak from the fridge 20 to 30 minutes before grilling. This is enough time for it to come back down to room temperature.
- Take the time to preheat the grill. You want that meat to sizzle when it hits the grill!
- Cook to medium-rare. I love medium-rare steak because that’s when it’s the most tender and flavorful. For medium-rare, the steak’s internal temperature will be between 130ºF to 135ºF.
- Let it rest! I can’t recommend taking the time to rest the steak enough. During these 10 to 15 minutes after grilling, the meaty juices settle back into the fibers of the meat, giving you moist and juicy meat.
- Slice against the grain. Learning how to slice tri-tip isn’t hard! All you need to do is slice the steak against the grain with a sharp knife. This way, you shorten the meat fibers and have more tender slices.
- Baste with BBQ sauce. Instead of basting the steak with reserved steak marinade, use your favorite BBQ sauce for a smoky, charred flavor.
To store: You can store leftover tri-tip in an airtight container or ziplock bag in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.
To freeze: Transfer the cooked and cooled steak and/or slices to an airtight container or ziplock bag. Freeze for up to 6 months.
To reheat: You can quickly reheat the sliced steak in the microwave or heat them in a skillet over medium heat. Feel free to add a splash of beef broth to prevent the steak from drying out.
Serve the reheated steak slices in a steak salad, stir-fries, noodle dishes, tacos, fajitas, sandwiches, and more!
Frequently asked questions
Tri-tip is fantastic for simple family dinners or serving a crowd. In addition to pairing the steak with simple sides, like green beans, smashed potatoes, and asparagus, I like to drizzle a little chimichurri on top of the slices. This zippy and herbaceous sauce pairs perfectly with the beef and gives it a restaurant-quality presentation.
The exact cooking time depends on the thickness of your steak. Generally, a 1.5 kg steak will take around 30 minutes to cook to medium-rare.
The best way to tell is with a meat thermometer. As it grills, insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the steak. You’ll know it’s cooked to medium-rare when the internal temperature measures between 130ºF to 135ºF.
More quick and easy steak recipes
- Picanha Steak – A Brazilian steak recipe with underrated beefy flavors.
- New York Strip Steak – A restaurant-quality steak seared with herb garlic butter.
- Round Steak – Quick and easy to prepare, this steak is perfect for family dinners!
- Flat Iron Steak – The king of steaks for grilling!
Tri Tip Steak
- Combine all the ingredients, except the steak, in a bowl to make a marinade.
- Place the meat inside the bowl with the marinade and allow it to marinate for at least 10 minutes or up to twelve hours.
- If marinating the meat for over two hours, bring the meat to room temperature.
- Preheat the grill on high heat. Place the meat on the grill and cook, occasionally basting it with the marinade liquid. Flip the meat every 4-5 minutes until it browns on all sides.
- Let the meat rest for 10 minutes covered before slicing.
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