Grilled tri-tip is the Central Coast’s most famous dish—and for very good reason. The tri-tip (which is a triangle-shaped cut from the bottom sirloin) is a really flavorful piece of meat and a great way to cook for a crowd. Around here, everyone cooks tri-tip to feed their crew of workers after a branding, but we also make it for celebrations, and local lunch spots serve it thinly sliced on rolls.
There are a number of ways you can prepare the tri-tip before you grill it. This version—which I made on the first episode of Ranch to Table on the Magnolia Network (which you can stream on discovery+ and also previewed on the Food Network on Saturday 4/10 at 1:30pm ET 12:30pm CT)—is crusted with a mix of garlic powder, paprika, and black pepper. I grill the meat over oak on a Santa Maria-style grill that has a grate that I can move up and down so that I control how close the meat is to the fire.
On the show, I served the meat with a salsa made with chiles, tomatoes, and onions that I also charred on the grill to give them a nice smokey flavor. You can make the salsa while the meat is sitting (after you crust it with the spice rub) or just grill the vegetables then and finish the salsa while the meat is cooking (which takes about 45 minutes.)
Grilled Tri-Tip with Fire Roasted Salsa
For the Tri-Tip
- One 2 lb tri-tip
- 2-3 garlic cloves, cut into thin slices
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 1/4 cup garlic powder
- 1/4 cup freshly-ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley leaves
- 2 tablespoons paprika
For the Salsa
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 5 roma tomatoes
- 9 Anaheim chiles or green poblanos
- 1 yellow onion, peeled
- 1 bunch of cilantro, leaves and thin stems only
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 ears of corn, shucked
- juice of 3 lemons
- kosher salt
- ground cumin
Remove the tri-tip from the refrigerator and let it sit out to come to room temperature, at least one hour. Use a pairing knife to cut small slits all over the meat, and stuff the slices of garlic into each one with your fingers. Mix the salt, garlic powder, pepper, and paprika together in a bowl and pour on a baking sheet, and lay the tri-tip on top of it, flipping the meat until every side is crusted with the seasoning mix. Set aside.
Prepare your home grill and build a wood or charcoal fire; you’ll want the grill pretty hot with enough fuel to char the vegetables and then grill the meat for about 45 minutes.
Make the Salsa: Pour the olive oil onto a plate and set aside. Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise and remove the firm bits at the stem end. Dip the tomatoes in the olive oil (to keep them from sticking) and place the tomatoes, the chiles, and the onions on the grill. Cook until the tomatoes and onions have nice char marks and the chiles are browned and blackened on all sides. Transfer the tomatoes and onion to a cutting board, and place the chiles in a paper bag. Close the bag and let the chiles steam for about 5 minutes, to loosen their skins.
Roughly chop the tomatoes and onions and mince the garlic. Peel the chiles and chop the flesh (discarding the stems), then mix everything in a bowl. Cut the corn kernels off of the cob, roughly chop the cilantro, and mix them with the rest of the salsa. Season the mixture with the lemon juice, and add salt and cumin to taste, and set aside.
Grill the meat: When the meat has been seasoned and rested, put the meat on the grill over medium heat and cook, flipping every 10 to 15 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 130° (for medium-rare), about 45 minutes. Take the meat off of the grill and let it sit for 15 minutes before slicing and serving it with the salsa on top or on the side.
Be sure to sign up for our mailing list to get alerts about future recipes!
Photos by Brian Skope