Mastering the Art of Smoking Tri Tip


If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a fan of smoked meats and looking to try smoking tri-tip. As someone who loves nothing more than firing up the smoker on a lazy Sunday afternoon, I’m excited to share some tips and tricks for smoking the perfect tri-tip.

Tri-tip is a delicious, triangular beef cut from the bottom sirloin for that unfamiliar. It’s known for its rich, beefy flavor and tender texture, making it a popular choice for smoking.

However, like any meat, tri-tip requires proper preparation and smoking techniques to achieve the best possible flavor and texture.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about smoking tri-tip, from selecting the right cut to choosing the best wood for smoking. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner, I hope these tips will help you smoke a delicious tri-tip with your family and friends coming back for seconds (and maybe even thirds).

Let’s get started.

Preparing the Tri Tip for Smoking

Before I even think about firing the smoker, I prepare the tri-tip properly. Here’s what I do:

First, I select a good quality cut of tri-tip. Look for one that has some marbling and a deep red color. I also trim off any excess fat, which can lead to flare-ups and uneven cooking.

Next, I like to apply a rub and seasoning to the tri-tip. You can use any combination of spices and herbs, but a simple blend of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika works well.

Rub the seasoning into the meat and let it sit for at least 30 minutes (or even overnight) to allow the flavors to penetrate.

When it comes time to smoke the tri-tip, let it come to room temperature before placing it in the smoker. This will help it cook more evenly. The key to preparing the tri-tip for smoking is to keep it simple and let the meat’s natural flavor shine.

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Setting up the Smoker

Once my tri-tip is properly seasoned and ready, it’s time to set up the smoker. Here are the steps I take:

First, I choose the right wood for smoking. I prefer to use a combination of hickory and oak for tri-tip, as they provide a good balance of smoky flavor without overwhelming the natural taste of the meat. Mesquite is another popular option, but it can be quite strong, so use it sparingly.

Next, I prepare the smoker for use. This involves cleaning the grates and ensuring the smoker is at the right temperature. I like to smoke at around 225-250 degrees Fahrenheit for tri-tip. Ensure a drip pan is handy to catch excess juices and prevent flare-ups.

Maintaining the proper temperature is crucial for smoking tri-tip, so I monitor the thermometer throughout the smoking process. If the temperature drops too low, I add more wood or adjust the airflow. I adjust the vents to let out heat if it gets too high.

Setting up the smoker takes time and attention, but achieving that delicious, smoky flavor in the tri-tip is well worth it.

Smoking the Tri Tip

Now that the smoker is set up and at the right temperature, it’s time to smoke the tri-tip. Here’s how I do it:

First, I carefully place the tri-tip on the grates of the smoker. Make sure to leave some space between the meat and the sides of the smoker for proper airflow.

Next, I monitor the temperature and adjust the vents to maintain a consistent temperature. I also add wood chips or chunks regularly to keep the smoke going. For tri-tip, I smoke for about 2-3 hours or until the internal temperature reaches about 135-140 degrees Fahrenheit.

It’s important not to overcook the tri-tip, leading to a tough, dry texture. I use a meat thermometer to check the temperature regularly and ensure it doesn’t exceed 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Finally, when the tri-tip is done smoking, I remove it from the smoker and let it rest for at least 10-15 minutes before slicing. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, resulting in a more tender and flavorful end product.

You must be patient and focused while smoking tri-tip, but the result is worth it. Keep practicing, and soon, you’ll master that ideal blend of smokiness and tenderness in your cooked meat.

Finishing and Serving the Tri Tip

After all the hard work of smoking the tri-tip, it’s time to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Here’s how I finish and serve the tri-tip:

First, I slice the tri-tip against the grain into thin strips. This helps to break up the muscle fibers and make the meat more tender. I also make sure to remove any excess fat or connective tissue.

Next, I serve the tri-tip with some of my favorite sides. A simple green salad and some garlic bread make great accompaniments. Some people also like to serve tri-tip with a flavorful sauce, such as chimichurri or barbecue sauce, but I find that the meat’s natural flavor is enough.

Regarding wine pairings, a bold red wine such as cabernet sauvignon or zinfandel pairs well with a tri-tip. However, everyone’s taste preferences differ, so feel free to experiment and find what works best for you.

If you want to impress your guests truly, keep it simple with the tri-tip. Letting its natural flavors take center stage is key and requires practice and experimentation.

Once mastered, smoking this delectable dish will be so satisfying that they won’t even know what hit them!

Tips and Tricks for Smoking Tri Tip

  1. Choose the right cut: Look for a well-marbled tri-tip with fat. This will help to keep the meat moist and tender during smoking.
  2. Season well: Don’t be afraid to use plenty of seasoning on the tri-tip. I like to use a simple rub of salt, pepper, garlic, and onion powder, but feel free to experiment with your favorite seasonings.
  3. Use the right wood: Hickory and oak are my preferred woods for smoking tri-tip but feel free to use whatever wood you like. Ensure not to use too much mesquite, as it can be quite strong.
  4. Monitor the temperature: Keep a close eye on the smoker’s temperature throughout the smoking process. If it drops too low, add more wood or adjust the airflow. Adjust the vents to let out some heat if it gets too high.
  5. Don’t overcook: Tri-tip is best-served medium-rare, so remove it from the smoker when the internal temperature reaches about 135-140 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. Let it rest: Allow the tri-tip to rest 10-15 minutes after smoking to allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat.
  7. Slice against the grain: When serving the tri-tip, make sure to slice against the grain to help break up the muscle fibers and make the meat more tender.

With a bit of patience and effort, smoking tri-tip can be an immensely fulfilling process with delicious results. Following these simple tips can produce the perfect smoky flavor that will leave your guests in awe.

Related: How Much Tri Tip Per Person


Smoking tri-tip is a great way to achieve a delicious, tender, and flavorful cut of beef. You can achieve that perfect smoky flavor and tender texture balance with practice and attention to detail.

Remember to choose a well-marbled cut of meat, season it well, and use the suitable wood and smoker setup to achieve the best results. Keep a close eye on the temperature and don’t overcook the tri-tip, which can lead to a tough and dry end product.

Finally, don’t forget to let the tri-tip rest before slicing and serving. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, resulting in a more tender and flavorful end product.

I hope this article has provided valuable tips and tricks for smoking tri-tip and that you feel confident in trying it out for yourself. With a little effort, you can smoke and serve a delicious tri-tip that will impress your guests.

Bobby Johnson

When he's not writing about barbecue, you can find Bobby smoking meat for friends and family. He's been a backyard pitmaster for roughly half his life, and has worked with nearly every cut of meat. Not everyone has a hands-on guide to teach them BBQ, but that's what Bobby hopes to do with Electric Smoker HQ. He wants to help people create amazing food that they can be proud of.