Santa Maria Tri-Tip Steak

Santa Maria Tri-Tip Steak is a specialty of Santa Maria, California, which lies about 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Tri-tip is taken from the bottom sirloin of the cow, and is often cut into steaks and sold as “sirloin steak” (a tougher version of the prized “top sirloin steak”). When sold whole, as is used in this recipe, it can weigh up to 4 pounds. This lean, moderately tough, and economical cut of meat fares best when cooked only to medium-rare or medium.

The key to making a good Santa Maria Tri-Tip is cooking it so that it has a crusty outside and tender, juicy inside. There are different ways to achieve this result; in Santa Maria, chefs often use a grill that can be adjusted up and down, so as to develop a crust and then pull it away from the fire to prevent burning.

My method is similar. We’re going to only heat one side of the grill, indirectly roast it until it reaches a certain temperature, then place it directly over the fire to create a tasty crust at the end. The end result is a dead simple recipe that always makes for a tasty experience.

Santa Maria Tri-Tip Steak

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

1 Tri-tip steak (2-4 lbs)
2 tbsp sugar-free rub

1. Pat the tri-tip dry using paper towels. Sprinkle the rub evenly over the steak, then let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes while you prep your grill.

2. To prep the grill, get one side hot while the other side cold, about 225-250 degrees on the cool side. This can be done by banking charcoal to one side, or turning off the burners on one half of your gas grill.

3. Place the steak on the cool side of the grill, and cook using indirect heat until it reaches an internal temperature of 110F, about 40 minutes. When it gets to temperature, move it to the hot side of the grill, cook for 5 minutes, then flip and cook for another 5 minutes. This will give you a nice crust on the steak. Pull the steak off the grill when it reaches an internal temperature of about 130-135F.

4. Let rest for 10 minutes then slice against the grain. Serve with its accumulated juices.

24 thoughts on “Santa Maria Tri-Tip Steak

  1. I just found your blog and can’t wait to try this recipe. I also have takayasus arteritis and I am curious to see if the paleo diet would help me in the same way that it has helped you. I look forward to reading more on here.


  2. I have been a follower of your blog and your amazing story and recovery! Currently myself and family have been living the Paleo life! And are enjoying the benefits! My daughter’s husband has an intolerance of grains,so she developed a marvelous gluten free and paleo friendly cracker! Everyone lived it so much that she developed it into a cracker business which is now in based in CA. Her business is located in Ventura. Would you be interested in receiving some crackers ! Also am interested in knowing about the upcoming Expo and if it would be a fit for her crackers! If you are interested we would be happy to send some complimentary crackers! Unless of course you may have already tried them from your grocer! Really enjoy your blog! Thanks for enlightening us about the Paleo way of life! Betty Dorsing

    Sent from my iPhone



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  4. I used to live in Santa Maria and the annual festival was a time for many different vendors to show off their cooking skills. Walking up and down the street with the smells of dozens of grills was always a time of expectation and fun. Thanks for the cooking tips – I will be trying to replicate that wonderful texture and flavor soon.


  5. Having grown up in the area near Santa Maria, this is near and dear to my heart. My dad would make it almost once a week and no one ever complained. He used almost the exact version you do, and it always came out a mouth-watering medium. In Santa Maria, you may still find parking lot BBQs selling Tri-Tip. They usually serve it up with some sour dough bread, beans and salad.


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