Easy, tender, juicy perfect Smoked Tri Tip that turns out with the perfect smoky flavor each and every time! This simple recipe is a pure delight for meat lovers. Serve it up with your favorite sides for a memorable meal!
Before getting a smoker a couple of years ago, I was all about oven Roast Tri Tip. Roasted is arguably equally amazing in its own right, but smoked is an entirely different experience, and now it’s a Smoked Tri Tip life for me!
The deep, rich beefy flavor, that delectable crust, those crispy bits of fat, that incredible smoky flavor that can’t be achieved in any other way…it’s such a joy that it’s almost too much. Almost.
Let’s get straight to smoking the best tri tip, because with a few simple tips, you’ll have the technique. And once you know it, you can’t un-know it my friends!
My Top Tri Tip Tips:
With three simple tools, you’ll end up with stellar smoked tri tip each and every time.
Tip #1: I’ve mentioned this in numerous posts involving larger pieces of meat in the past, but the key to an amazing, tender result is to dry brine the roast ahead of time. More on this in a second!
Tip #2: Keep the seasoning simple! Have faith in the fact that a simple dry rub is enough to make the meat amazing. This will save you time, energy, and stress, but if you want to go deep on a complicated rub or marinade, feel free to do so.
Tip #3: Use a thermometer. This is the only way you’ll know with certainty when the meat has reached your desired level of done-ness (i.e. rare, medium-rare, medium, well-done).
Bonus: Sear the meat either before or after smoking it in a large cast iron skillet or on a regular grill. All it takes is a few minutes per side to get a nice crust.
Some people swear by searing meat before smoking, where others prefer searing it after. I sear after it has finished smoking, but I don’t have a strong opinion either way.
How to Dry Brine Meat:
The term “dry brine” sounds much more complicated than it is. It requires zero water (like a typical brine), and almost no effort.
To dry brine meat, remove it from its packaging and place it on a baking sheet or any container that fits the meat and will fit in your refrigerator.
Sprinkle both sides and all edges of the meat with sea salt. I use Real Salt’s fine grind, but you can use any grind you would like. I just don’t recommend using iodized salt because it is much saltier than sea salt, so you risk over-salting the meat.
Refrigerate the meat, leaving it uncovered, for at least 1 hour, ideally 24.
The goal is to give the salt enough time to penetrate deep into the meat, thereby tenderizing it.
Tri Tip Seasoning:
So what is the best seasoning for smoked tri tip? I keep it simple! Sea salt, garlic powder and black pepper are all you need for an incredibly flavorful, amazing tri tip. Sometimes I also sprinkle on a little paprika.
Combine a perfect cook time with some smoky flavor from your smoker and you’re in for a magically palate-pleasing ride.
If you’re a fan of marinades, you can also marinate the tri tip for 8 to 24 hours ahead of time. I love using my Best Steak Marinade recipe for all-things grilling and smoking.
So let’s do it!
How to Smoke Tri Tip:
If you’d like, you can trim any excess fat off the tri tip. The tri tip I buy from my butcher is usually pretty well trimmed so I usually leave any excess fat there. I also love the way tri tip fat crisps up in the smoker for a flavorful melt-in-your-mouth treat.
Dry brine the meat for 12 to 24 hours (for best result).
When you’re ready to cook, preheat the smoker to 225 degrees F. Sprinkle the tri tip liberally with garlic powder and black pepper. Be sure to get both sides and all edges!
Place the tri tip on the preheated smoker and smoke until it reaches the internal temperature you desire. For a 2 pound tri tip, smoke for about 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour and a half for medium-rare. For a 3-pound tri tip, smoke for about 1 hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours for medium-rare.
Transfer the tri tip to a large baking sheet, so that it catches any juices that come out as it sits.
If you love a crispy exterior on your tri tip, you will need to sear the outside using your preferred method, as the smoker doesn’t always achieve an amazing crisp.
You can sear it in a cast iron skillet over high heat with a generous amount of avocado oil or butter in the skillet for a few minutes per side. You can also sear the tri tip on a regular grill. If you have a large hand torch, that works too!
How Long to Smoke Tri Tip:
The amount of time it takes to cook a tri tip depends on the size and also the level of doneness you’re going for. At 225 degrees Fahrenheit, a 2-pound tri tip takes an hour for rare, to an hour and a half for medium-rare.
A 3-pound tri tip requires about 90 minutes for rare, and 2 hours for medium-rare.
The best way to ensure your tri tip reaches your preferred level of doneness is to use a thermometer and check the meat periodically.
My Traeger comes with a digital thermometer, which is a goof-proof method to cook to perfection without having to constantly check the meat.
Here are the final temperatures you’ll aim for in order to achieve your perfect result:
Final Temperatures for Cooking Beef:
- Rare: 115-120 degrees F
- Medium Rare: 125-130 degrees F
- *Medium: 135-140 degrees F
- Medium Well: 145-150 degrees F
- Well Done: 150-155 degrees F
Once you remove the meat from the smoker, it will continue to cook and rise a few degrees, so be sure to pull it off a few degrees lower than your desired final temperature. The meat will need to rest for at least 10 minutes after it comes off the smoker to allow the juices to distribute throughout it for the best texture.
If you’re searing the meat to get a crispy exterior, be sure to pull the meat off the smoker at least 5 degrees lower than your desired temperature. For instance, if you want medium-rare tri tip and also want to sear it for a crispy exterior, pull it off the smoker when it reaches 123 to 125 degrees F.
I personally go for medium-rare tri tip and if there isn’t enough of a crust on the outside for my liking, I sear it in a cast iron skillet with avocado oil and butter for a few minutes per side.
That’s it! Everything you need to know about smoked tri tip! Serve it up with your favorite side dishes for a delicious meal. I love going with pasta salad, a green salad, and/or sweet potato fries or roasted vegetables.
Enjoy this incredibly tasty, smoky delight!
Smoked Tri Tip
- If you'd like, trim any excess fat off of the tri tip.
- Place tri tip on a baking sheet or in a casserole dish and sprinkle both sides and all edges liberally with sea salt. Transfer to your refrigerator to dry brine overnight (at least 1 hour, preferably 24 hours). No need to cover the tri tip! Leave it open to the air in your fridge.
- When you’re ready to cook, preheat the smoker to 225 degrees F. Sprinkle the tri tip liberally with garlic powder and black pepper. Be sure to get both sides and all edges!
- Place the tri tip on the preheated smoker and smoke until it reaches the internal temperature you desire. For a 2 pound tri tip, smoke for about 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour and a half for medium-rare. For a 3-pound tri tip, smoke for about 1 hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours for medium-rare.
- Transfer the tri tip to a large baking sheet, so that it catches any juices that come out as it sits.
- If you love a crispy exterior on your tri tip, you will need to sear the outside using your preferred method, as the smoker doesn’t always achieve an amazing crisp.
- You can sear it in a cast iron skillet over high heat with a generous amount of avocado oil or butter in the skillet for a few minutes per side. You can also sear the tri tip on a regular grill. If you have a large hand torch, that works too!