I have attended BBQ contests, mixed and matched spices and rubs and have tasted so-called winners “Best”. Honestly, few have lived up to their billing. While attending a BBQ contest last summer, I spoke with three competitors who all cooked their Tri-tip roasts differently. The first group smoked theirs in a hanging smoker. When served, the temperature was 135 and rare. The sauce a mix of ketchup. The first rule of thumb is…
TEMPERATURE; You need to achieve slightly pink in the middle and totally done around the exterior. In order to achieve this, I pull my Tri-Tip at 138 degrees. Let the meat sit for 15 minutes and it will come up 10 degrees in temperature. Remember, 140 is rare, 150 medium, 160 well. A well done Tri-Tip is chewy and lacks flavor and taste.
The second competitor called their entry “Santa Fe style”. They used a Santa Fe style rub on the beef. They also had a special red tree bark thrown on to smoke the last 10 minutes which was supposed to impart a special flavor on the beef. What I found was very little flavor from the rub, and no extra special taste from the bark.Dull and bland!
PREPARATION: I have found little to no difference utilizing countless rubs on Tri-Tip. Remember you are cooking a roast. If you really want to impart flavor, use a wet marinade. You have a thick piece of beef and you need penetration. Try to marinate for at least 24 hours with potent flavors to build character and flavor profile. You can add your spices to the marinade.
The last competitor and winner of this BBQ Tri-Tip award was a local winery, whose chef did little to no prep but creatively hid his trip tip in a small brioche bun with a bit of home made chutney. I thought it was smart, but far from showcasing the meat product. He hid it!
BUILD CHARACTER AND FLAVOR: the meat should be marinated to build a rich flavor. The longer the better but try for over night. Sear the outside of the roast first to help build a char and a crust. If you have a bit of a fat layer, this will help build a good crust. A total of 5-10 minutes over direct heat when you are getting the coals going should do the trick. Once the sear is complete, pull it across the grill and indirectly smoke it. Use chip and chunk and a mix of hickory, apple, cherry or other fruit. Hickory for its pungent signature and fruit wood for its mild taste. Watch your temperature and pull it at around 138 degrees. Sit it for 10-15 minutes before cutting into it ENJOY!