Juicy, flavorful tri-tip roast is rubbed in spices, then cooked in the oven to medium-rare. It's an inexpensive cut that produces impressive results!
However, they are also expensive. For everyday meals, I still like to cook a large roast, but I opt for cheaper cuts. Those are often tougher - not as tender as more expensive cute - but they are wonderfully flavorful. London broil is one example. Tri-tip roast is another.
What is tri-tip?
It comes from the sirloin. The sirloin is separated by butchers into top sirloin and bottom sirloin. The top sirloin can be made into steaks. I sometimes use it in stir-fry recipes such as this beef stir-fry. The bottom sirloin provides us with the Tri-Tip, also called "Santa Maria Steak."
The ingredients you'll need
The ingredients you'll need to make oven tri-tip roast and their exact measurements are included in the recipe card below. Here's an overview of what you'll need:
Dry rub: You'll mix kosher salt, black pepper, and several spices to create a tasty dry rub that greatly enhances the flavor of the roast. The spices I like to use include garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, and cayenne pepper.
Tri-tip: I get mine at Costco. It costs around $10 per lb. and you get two 2-lb. roasts in a tray, so a total of 4 lb. I love that you can cook both on the same pan and get lots of tasty leftovers to last you several days.
Oil spray: This is only needed if your meat has been completely trimmed by the butcher (as happens at Costco) and has no fat layer on top to keep the meat moist and juicy as it cooks.
How to cook tri-tip?
It can be either grilled or roasted. I prefer oven-roasting. It's an easy hands-off cooking method that produces superior results. The trick is to cook the meat to medium-rare. This ensures a tender roast. If you cook it to medium or medium-well, it will be tough and chewy.
The first step is to mix salt, pepper, and spices. Next, you rub this dry rub all over the meat, massaging it in. Now place the meat on a greased wire rack fitted into a rimmed roasting pan.
First, you cook the meat briefly in a hot (500F) oven for 15 minutes. This is instead of sauteing it on the stove-top. It's much easier, and it achieves the same goal - browning the meat.
Now, turn the oven temperature down to 350F and keep cooking the meat until a meat thermometer indicates that it's reached 130-135 degrees F for medium-rare.
It's important to let the meat rest for at least 20 minutes after pulling it out of the oven. This allows the juices to redistribute and settle and will prevent them from escaping the meat as you cut it (although some juices will escape, and you can pour them on top of the meat after slicing it).
How to cut a tri-tip roast
Since it's a fairly tough, fibrous cut of meat, you want to cut it against the grain - slice it so that you break the meat fibers as you slice the meat. This makes chewing much easier.
The challenge is that in a tri-tip, you have two parts, and in each of them, the meat fibers run in a different direction. So you want to identify that direction prior to cooking, then cut the roast into two parts, and slice each of them against the grain of that particular part. You can watch the video below to see how I do it.
How to serve it?
Tri-tip roast goes with any side dish that you would normally serve with steaks or roasts. A few examples include sauteed mushrooms, steamed asparagus, microwave broccoli, and mashed cauliflower. It's also excellent with a simple side salad such as this arugula salad.
What to do with leftovers?
You can keep them in the fridge, in an airtight container, for up to 4 days. I reheat them very gently, in the microwave, covered, on 50% power. Sometimes I slice them into strips, leave them cold, and add them to a salad. They're not great for sandwiches, though - they're a bit too chewy for that.
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Oven Tri-Tip Roast
- 1 tablespoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt (not fine salt)
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 whole tri-tips about 2 pounds each
- Oil spray
- In a small bowl, use a fork to mix together the spices.
- If it hasn’t been trimmed by the butcher, trim the silver skin from the bottom of the roasts.
- Rub the spice mixture all over the meat, pressing to make sure it adheres.
- Place the meat, fat side up, on a gresed rack in a roasting pan and allow it to get to room temperature, about 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 500°F. If the meat is completely trimmed of fat (I get mine at Costco and it’s fully trimmed), lightly spray it with oil.
- Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of one of the roasts and set the thermometer to 130°F or 135°F (medium-rare).
- Place the roasts in the 500°F oven and cook them for 15 minutes.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Keep roasting the meat until the thermometer registers 130°F-135°F. For 2- lb. roasts this should take roughly 20 minutes (10 minutes per pound). But the only way to know for sure is to use a meat thermometer.
- Remove the roasts from the oven. Loosely cover them with foil and allow them to rest for 20-30 minutes, then cut into thin slices against the grain (see notes below) and serve.