Tender and Tantalizing: Tri Tip on Treager

September 12, 2022

I learned how to smoke a tri tip on Traeger fairly early on. This is a pretty affordable cut of meat and my family used to smoke it for weekday dinners.

Thus, I have had time to perfect my recipe and methodology. It is now time to share it with you!

Tri Tip On Treager

How to Turn Your Pellet Grill Into a Traeger Smoker?

As you are probably aware, if you have a Traeger grill that works on pellets, then it can be turned into a smoker. So, how do you do this?

Well, that's the great part about using a Traeger pellet grill - making smoked tri tip on any smoked meat at all is a breeze!

First, make sure that there are enough of pellets in your pellet hopper. This will ensure that you are able to make your Traeger smoked tri tip without any interruption.

Once you have done this, all you need to do is to preheat your Traeger grill to 225 degrees F. Close the lid and let it be for 15 minutes. Then, open up the lid, place your meat on the grill grates, close the lid, and smoke until you reach the desired internal temperature.

Tri Tip Roast vs. Tri Tip Steak

I do want to address one thing before moving onto the recipe - the kind of tri tip cuts you can find at your butcher shop.

Now, there are two two types: tri tip roast and tri tip steak. The tri tip roast is taken from the bottom sirloin subprimal cut. It is a crescent shaped cut of beef and can weigh up to 5lbs, whole.

The tri tip steak is merely the roast being cut into smaller slices. You would typically grill these sections.

For smoking, however, the tri tip roast is a far better option.

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Smoked Tri Tip Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3lb tri tip roast
  • 1.5 tsp. of kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. of black pepper
  • 1 tsp. of paprika
  • 1 tsp. of garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. of onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. of cayenne
Outdoor Meat Grill

Method

Step 1

Preheat the Traeger grill - set Traeger temperature to 225 degrees F.

Step 2

Mix the ingredients of the rub in a bowl - combine well.

Sprinkle the rub all over the tri tip and press into the meat.

Step 3

Place the tri tip on the Traeger grill and smoke the meat until it reaches an internal temperature of either 110 degrees F or 120 degrees F, depending on your desired level of doneness.

Step 4

Take the smoked tri tip off the heat and turn the grill up to 500 degrees F. Once heated, place the meat back on the grill grates but keep the lid open.

Sear smoked tri tip on each side for about a minute each or until the internal temp has reached 125 degrees F or 135 degrees F, depending on your desired level of doneness.

Take the tri tip off the grill and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

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Choosing Your Tri Tip

The key to a delicious Traeger smoked tri tip is a great cut of beef. Now, this is a fairly lean cut so you do have to look for one with a little bit of a fat cap on it.

Some are sold completely untrimmed. This allows you to trim the layer of fat down to the perfect amount for you. In doing so, you can retain quite a bit of flavor and moisture for the meat. Of course, this does mean that you have to do a little bit more prep work on your tri tip.

The other thing that you should be aware of is that this is a fairly irregular piece of meat - this is just the way it is, it can't be helped. If you would like to cook tri tip more evenly, however, it is a good idea to look for a piece that has bit more of a uniform shape to it.

When trimming your Traeger tri tip, make sure to leave some fat on one side at least. This way, you allow the cut to smoke at a slower rate and reduce the risk of burning it.

barbeque beef

How to Season Tri Tip?

The rub that I have provided in this recipe is my personal favorite. However, you are free to use your own. Some people like to keep it simple with just salt and pepper. Others, prefer to use a pre-mixed rub.

You can choose a BBQ mix, beef seasoning, or even steak seasoning. It is all about working with the flavors that you like the most. And, naturally, you have the freedom of creating your very own mix - the options are endless!

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Choosing Your Wood Pellets

Tri tips are known for having that strong, beefy flavor to them as they come from the sirloin cut. As a result, this meat can stand up to more potently flavored woods. This is why I typically prefer using mesquite or hickory wood pellets here. I find that it creates a great smoke flavor that complements rather than overpowers the natural profile of the beef.

If you are using hickory or mesquite, though, I would advise you to balance it out with plenty of oak. As mentioned, these woods have a very strong taste. Use too much and it can infuse your Traeger smoked tri tip with an overly bitter flavor.

If hickory or mesquite feels like a bit much, then pecan is a great option too. I like that it lends sweet notes to balance out the smokiness.

Choosing the Smoker Temperature

When making Traeger smoked tri tip, you do have to be careful about the temperature. This is because Traeger tri tip is delicious when cooked to perfection. Cook it past a certain point, though, and you end up with a dry and unappealing piece of meat.

This is why I like to set Traeger temperature to 225 degrees F and nothing more than that. While this cut can handle being cooked at 250 degrees F, it is best not to go any higher.

Yes, this does mean that your smoked tri tip will take longer to smoke, but at least you are sure that you can enjoy the final result.

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Basting the Tri Tip with BBQ Sauce

There are some who like to baste the meat when smoking tri tip. They brush it on in thin layers so that it creates a glaze in the smoker.

Now, you are certainly free to try this. However, when I smoke a tri tip, I prefer to keep things simple. This cut of beef has so much to offer in terms of its natural flavor, it is a shame to overpower it with the additional flavors of the sauce.

It is for this reason that I like to season tri tip as little as possible, too.

Checking the Internal Temp

As I have already mentioned, it is easy to overcook a tri tip. As such, when you smoke a tri tip, you have to monitor the temperature very carefully.

This cut of meat works best when smoked to medium rare or at the most, medium done. However, don't wait for these numbers to register to take the meat off the grill.

This is because carryover cooking takes place. This is when the temperature continues to rise once the smoked tri tip has been taken off the heat. It can often increase by as much as 10 degrees even when it is no longer exposed to heat.

This is why I suggest keeping a thermometer in the thickest part of the tri tip at all times. The second that you sit it hit 110 degrees F or 125 degrees F, take it off.

Reverse Searing the Tri Tip

As you will have seen in the recipe above, I reverse sear the smoked tri tip at the end. This is a great way to avoid overcooking the meat but also ensuring that it ends up with a delicious crust on top.

Now, in this recipe, I used the grill for this purpose but you can also reverse sear in a cast iron skillet.

For this method, heat your cast iron skillet on the stove top on medium high heat. Once it is hot, drizzle some oil onto it. When you see the oil sizzle, add the smoked tri tip to the pan. Sear on each side for one minute.

Make sure to track the temperature here as well. When it reaches 125 degrees F or 135 degrees F, it is time to take it off the pan and place on a cutting board.

Flesh fillet steak food

Letting Tri Tip Rest

As with all smoked meats, it is important for your Traeger tri tip to rest as well. This doesn't have to be for too long, though. As it is a fairly small cut, it only needs to rest for 10 to 15 minutes at a time.

There are some who like to wrap the tri tip in aluminum foil and tent it during the resting period. I find this unnecessary but it is certainly a technique that you can try.

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How to Slice Tri Tip?

As you may be aware, you need to slice against the grain when cutting the tri tip. Due to its unusual shape, though, the grain differs in each section.

Due to this, you first need to separate the two sections. Find where the two grains meet and then cut vertically.

Next, inspect the individual grain of each section. Once you have identified it, slice perpendicular to the grain - do this for each half.

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Wrapping It Up

There you have it - a complete guide to smoking tri tip. Now that you know every little important detail, recreating this recipe to perfection will be a breeze. Go ahead and get started today!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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