Reverse Seared Tri-Tip Steaks

reverse seared tri-tip
smoked to temperature and flame kissed for a crust

Guide updated 7-2020 for newer information.

Quick smoke and flame seared.

Reverse seared tri-tip steak has quickly become one of my favorite steaks. The reverse sear method is incredibly fail-proof. You can achieve an incredibly consistent temperature to your preference while still having a spice-filled crust on the outside, allowing you to enjoy all aspects of steak. No grey rings here! (Unless you somehow prefer well-done steaks)

I’ve tried a number of ways to sear, and I highly prefer using a flame over any other method for the tri-tip. The profile of the tri-tip is curved, which does not allow for an even sear if you attempt to do this on a griddle or iron skillet. A second side effect of a flat surface is that a large quantity of your rub or seasoning can stick to the surface, removing quite a bit of that hard work that you’ve put into the steak. There’s certainly individual preferences for everyone, but I’m going to discuss smoking the tri-tips to your preferred temperature and then searing on the grill.

The entire cooking process only take about 90-120 minutes depending on how big your steaks are. Prep is incredibly important however, and you should start hours before to make you that you have an amazing crust and penetrating flavors.

Reverse-Searing Process

1. Prep the Meat

Generously apply kosher salt on all sides. There is an amount that’s recommended, which is 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt per pound of meat.

Place the meat on a wire rack on top of a baking pan and place in the fridge for a few hours, uncovered. If you can do this overnight it would be best. This allows the seasonings to penetrate the meat, tenderizing and adding flavor. It also dries out the exterior allowing for a better crust.

tri-tip steak prep

Want to add a pre-made rub?

Please feel free. Most pre-made BBQ rubs and seasonings have quite a bit of salt in them already. This just comes down to you being familiar with how salty they are, and experimenting.

2. Prep the Smoker

Preheat the smoker to 225 °F and add your favorite hardwood. If you’re going to a smokey flavor or a smoke ring, you’ll want to add extra hardwood. These tri-tip steaks won’t be on the smoker for very long so you’ll have to compensate. Pellet grills can use the smoke setting for at least 30 minutes before cranking it up to temp.

3. Smoke the Tri-tip

Place the tri-tip steaks directly on the grill and shut it. You’ll want to carefully monitor temp so I recommend using a probe such as the Thermoworks Smoke. I prefer cooking tri-tips to either Medium Rare or Medium Temp, going off the temperature of the middle of the steak.

Here are my ranges for temperature timing:

DonenessTarget Temp in the SmokerFinal Temp during sear
Rare105°F 120°F 
Med-Rare115°F  130°F 
Medium125°F  140°F 
Med-Well135°F  150°F 

I’ll typically pull my steaks at 120°F and will rest tented under some foil as I crank up the heat to 450°F + on the grill.

reverse seared tri-tip sliced
reverse seared tri-tip steaks, sliced and ready to go!

4. Sear & Serve

Now for the fun part!

Make sure your grill is at high heat for searing. Clean the grill grates if you haven’t already. Throw the tri-tip steaks on the searing hot grill for 2-3 minutes per side. Don’t worry about Steak School from the ’90s – we don’t leave our steaks untouched!

Flipping helps control the momentum of cooking, meaning, you don’t overcook your tri tip steaks! It also allows for an even crust on the outside, which is just as important.

Optional Step

Once you have your crust forming on the outside, as you flip you can baste with flavors & fat. Think about using a combination of garlic, butter, oil & herbs. This adds an additional layer of flavor. We ALL love more flavor!

Make sure you don’t baste too early, that crispy crust is important!

Make sure that you have that thermometer at the ready for your final target temp.

One you’re juicy beast reaches the target temp, let it rest for 5-10 minutes to help the juices cool and thicken. You don’t want all of that tasty flavor spilling out on your cutting board!

Recommended Toppings

Get creative! Salsa, chimichurris, even BBQ sauce will taste good. It’s also delicious on it’s own as a slice of steak.

tri tip steak sliced

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