How to BBQ Tri Tip Steak: Secrets of the Grill

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To barbecue tri-tip, you need to remove the fat cap, season the meat with a dry rub, pre-heat the grill, and barbecue for 35 to 40 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 135°F. The meat should be flipped every 6 to 7 minutes and allowed to rest for 10 minutes before slicing thinly, against the grain.

What is Tri-Tip?

Tri-tip steak is one of the most overlooked cuts of beef and it’s located in the sirloin area on the cow.  It’s a shame because grilled correctly, it’s a fantastic piece of meat.

It’s important to know that the tri-tip roast is also known as a triangle roast, bottom sirloin butt, or Santa Maria steak.

Tri-tip can be rich and flavorful when properly cooked. Keep in mind that triangular cuts are lean and need some TLC to bring out their full potential.

How Long Does Tri-tip Take to BBQ?

Timing tri-tip can be tricky depending on your cut, and the type of grill you have.

It takes anywhere in the ballpark between 35 and 45 minutes total time to grill on a bbq. It also requires little prep time if you are doing a standard Santa Maria-style dry rub. If you are marinating, allow for extra time.

The goal is to have an internal temperature of at least 130°F when pulling off the grill. You can check the internal temperature with an instant-read thermometer.

For a tri-tip roast weighing 1 and 1/2 to 2 pounds, grill it for 35 to 40 minutes for medium rare (135°F) and for 40 to 45 minutes for medium (150°F).

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Succulent Grilled Tri-Tip

  • Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes


You only need 6 ingredients to make this knock-out grilled tri-tip recipe.

You’ll start with a salt and pepper seasoning or your preferred dry rub crust, then make a delectable mop sauce from garlic and red wine to baste the meat while it’s grilling.

The end result is a succulent, juicy tri-tip fit to serve for any occassion.


Units Scale
  • 1 Tri-tip roast with the fat cap removed
  • 2 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 2 tsp Black Pepper
  • 2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 1/4 cup Red Wine
  • 2 tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
  • 4 cloves Crushed Garlic


  1. Preheat the Grill. Set your charcoal grill or gas grill to 350 degrees F for two-zone grilling.
  2. Season the tri-tip. Season the tri-tip roast all over with rub of choice or make your own dry rub using equal parts kosher salt, black pepper, and garlic powder.
  3. Get the mopping liquid ready. Combine all the ingredients for your mopping liquid in a bowl before grilling your tri-tip.
  4. Indirect grilling. Over indirect heat, place the seasoned roast directly on the grill grates. Flip the tri-tip every 6-7 minutes on the grill. After each flip, mop liberally with mopping liquid and sauce. Keep grilling until your roast is within 10 degrees of your final target temperature (see next section).
  5. Sear your roast. Turn the tri-tip over to direct heat and grill for 2-3 minutes per side or until done to your liking. Medium rare is a good cooking temperature for this grilled tri-tip. You'll get a juicy, flavorful steak without it drying out.
  6. Let it rest and serve. Rest your meat for 10-15 minutes on a cutting board. Cut it against the grain in thin slices and serve it up.
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour

Can you BBQ Tri-tip in Foil?

You most certainly can! Using aluminum foil allows the meat to stay moist. Just ensure that the foil packet is placed away from the direct heat of the flames on the grill.

Allow the tri-tip to cook for approximately 2 1/2 to 4 hours, depending on its size, until it reaches your desired doneness, measured by taking the internal temperature.

For a perfect medium, remove the tri-tip once it reaches 140°F. It will continue cooking for 10-15 minutes after being removed from the grill.

What is the Best Way to BBQ a Tri-tip Cut?

The best way to BBQ a tri-tip cut is to start with a rich, flavorful rub. Adding olive oil makes a dry rub stick to the roast, sealing in flavor.

Add some delicious homemade BBQ sauce or use a great off-the-shelf sauce to go with your meat – it doesn’t get better than that!

The following tri-tip BBQ tips will net you a winner every time.

Top Tips on How to BBQ Tri Tip

  • A simple rub makes a nice crust on the outside and seals in the flavor.
  • Start out with direct heat, then after you get nice grill marks, move to indirect heat.
  • When you take the meat off of the grill, cover it with foil and let it rest at room temp for 10 minutes.
  • Slice thinly against the grain to serve. You’ll get a juicy, mouthwatering roast this way!
  • If you want to use your oven, follow these steps: Once the meat is browned in a skillet, roast it for 15-20 minutes at 425°F or until the meat thermometer reaches your preferred doneness.

Remove tri-tip from the grill once it reaches these temperatures (and let rest for 10 minutes).

Desired DonenessTemperature
Table for desired meat temperature.

How Do You Cut Tri-tip?

Always cut thin and against the grain. If you cut with the grain you will have a chewy and dry piece of meat.

Best BBQ Rubs for Tri-tip

Rubs are a mixture of herbs, spices, and seasonings liberally applied to meat, poultry, or fish.

Rubs always start with salt. In addition to helping the rub penetrate, it rounds out and brings the flavors together.

Types of Salt:

  • Table Salt: Very fine grain, typically a finishing salt
  • Kosher salt: Coarse grains with large crystals (this is the best type to use for tri-tip rubs)
  • Sea salt: Evaporated seawater, fine grains or large flakes
  • Seasoned salt: It’s salt + spices (you might own a jar already)

Some BBQ rub recipes include sugar to balance out the salt. Sweeteners for BBQ rub recipes include:

  • Brown sugar
  • White sugar
  • Maple syrup
  • Honey

Keep in mind that salt and spice are better than sugar since sugar can caramelize and burn. It is better to use a mop sauce or finishing sauce if you want to sweeten the meat but you can include sugar in your rub if you’re careful.

Be sure to also crush seeds, nuts, dried herbs, and spices before using them in your BBQ rub otherwise they may burn. 

Small glass jars filled with a variety of spices with cork lids on yellow background
Glass jars filled with spices and corked lids

Dry Rubs

Dry rubs only contain nonliquid ingredients. Dry rubs are all about getting that perfect crust that boosts flavor (not moisture). Salt and sugar stick to the natural moisture of the meat, poultry, or fish.

If you’re wondering how long to leave a dry rub on steak or chicken, that’s up to you: the longer you let it soak in, the deeper the flavor. You can pre-season meat and allow to infuse those flavors overnight but in a pinch, give it at least 15 minutes before grilling or smoking the meat. 

Store raw meat in the fridge before or after rubbing to avoid food safety issues.

Wet Rubs

In contrast, wet rubs have a moist ingredient added to the spices and herbs. It’s like a paste. You can make liquid wet rubs with mustard, finely chopped garlic, oil, horseradish, and yogurt. You’ll get the best flavor and moistness if you marinate the meat for at least an hour before cooking (in the fridge, of course).

What’s the Best Way to Apply a Rub to Meat?

Rubs need time to work their magic. Let the BBQ rub rest on the food for 15 minutes to 2 hours (or more if you’ve got time). It depends on the intensity of what you’re applying it to and how strong the flavors are in your BBQ rub.

Because wet rubs add moisture, they’re often used on tougher cuts like flank steak and skirt steak, which need more time to soak up the liquid. Wet rubs work best when applied 2 to 6 hours before cooking. Keep rubbed food in the fridge for safety.


Florida native, home to the Sunday all-day poolside grilling party. When I’m not working, I’m either on the water, minding the grill, or trying to devote some time to help keep our oceans clean.

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