From Our Kitchen: Santa Maria-style Tri-Tip Barbecue

Growing up in California, our chef Chelsea only knew one thing as barbecue: tri-tip. She remembers summers with stands in front of every grocery store selling tri-tip in wholes, halves, or sliced up on a French roll with sweet barbecue sauce.

The tri-tip is a rich, beefy-flavored cut from the sirloin that is best served as a large-format steak. Santa Maria-style means lots of dry garlic, black pepper, smoked paprika, and, if Chelsea’s Portuguese grandmother is making it, vinegar! To feed five, she prepared two whole tri-tips, to ensure there would be a little extra for sandwiches the next day.

Alongside the beef, pick a few vegetables to grill (grilled kale drizzled with Caesar dressing, broccoli with lemon, bread with garlic and tomato, etc). Also, stop by the bakery the morning of the meal and pick out a fresh loaf of french bread or a bag of rolls.

Ingredients for marinade:

The tri-tip is named for its triangular shape.

  • 4 tbsp smoked paprika

  • 4 tbsp granular garlic

  • 3 tbsp kosher salt

  • 2 tbsp black pepper

  • 1 tsp dry thyme

  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar

  • ¼ cup grapeseed or canola oil

  • A few dashes Worcestershire sauce

Combine ingredients to form paste. Marinate tri-tip overnight.


Allow meat to approach room temperature by leaving it out for about an hour before cooking. Get the grill up to 500 degrees to sear on the first side for about 10 minutes, lid up. Flip and close lid for another 10 minutes. If your grill has an upper rack, place the tri-tip there, otherwise move away from direct flame, and continue to cook, lid down, until reaching an internal 125 degrees (medium rare).

During this time, grill any veggie sides you’ve chosen. Pull the meat and allow to rest for 15 minutes before thinly slicing against the grain.

Serve with vegetables, optionally with barbecue sauce on a fresh roll.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published