Tri-tip is one of my favorite cuts of beef. It’s flavorful with the right amount of chewiness and is forgiving in how you prepare it. In many parts of the country, the cut is from the lower sirloin area and is a well-used and tough muscle that has moderate marbling.
The thing about beef muscle to remember is that the harder it works the tougher it gets, but with that toughness comes the capacity to create tremendous flavor if the chef is patient with it. Prior to the 1950’s, the tri-tip was most likely to be found as a stew meat, ground beef, or sliced. BBQ grillmasters know that the tips (tri-tip… as the name suggests, there are 3 tips to this muscle) are prized when blackened, but Californians have long known that this cut is a fantastic grilling meat. In a Safeway store in Oakland in 1953 that a tri-tip was first put on a spit in a rotisserie.
I enjoy tri-tip year round and while I have no hesitation to putting it on a grill, my favorite method is in the sous vide. The controlled temperature over extended periods of time makes for the perfect combination to deliver outstanding tri-tip that will please everyone.
This is a super simple process that starts with a dry rub.
1 tbs brown sugar (turbinado is favored, but anything will work)
1 tbs ground coffee, coarse grinds gives a better visual appearance
1 tsp coarse salt
1 tsp smoked Spanish paprika
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Preheat water bath to 130 degrees. I have found that anything less than 130 results in a center that is more red than pink, but if you prefer a medium-well done finish, bump the temperature to 133 degrees.
Rinse the tri-tip and coat lightly with olive oil (helps with the dry rub). Mix the rub together and coat the tri-tip from end-to-end, top and bottom. Vacuum bag.
Place the bagged tri-tip in the water bath for 6 hours. Remove from water bath and sear in a cast iron or carbon steel pan, or blow torch it. Let is rest for 10-15 minutes under foil and serve.
This method is guaranteed to produce a flavorful tri-tip that has phenomenal texture and great visual appeal. Sous vide takes all the guess work out of grill timing and temperature, and the best part is that it cooks while you go about your day.
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