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How to BBQ Tri-Tip

Quick Answer:

Start by placing a rub on the tri-tip and searing both sides for one to two minutes on the grill over direct heat. Then move the trip-tip so it is oriented fat-side up on the opposite side of the grill from the coals to cook with indirect heat. Close the lid and all vents, and cook for 45 minutes. Remove the tri-tip from the grill, cover with tinfoil, and let it rest for 15 minutes before slicing it at a bias and chowing down.

The ProHowNow Way: Rub It and Leave It!

There are numerous ways to prepare and barbecue tri-tip, but this is our favorite technique. In addition to being the simplest, it’s also the easiest to remember for future barbecues. Most importantly, it’s the closest thing you’ll get to a guarantee for tasty results on any type of barbecue—no meat thermometer needed.

To get started, pile your coals off to one side of your barbecue and ignite them with an electric charcoal starter or chimney-style charcoal starter. While the coals are firing up, prepare your dry rub. We recommend the recipe below, but if you have a different rub you prefer, go for it. Once your rub is prepared, spread it over the entirety of your tri-tip and gently rub it in.

With the coals ignited, remove the charcoal starter, taking care to keep all the coals off to one side of the barbecue. If you’re worried about grease dripping onto the bottom of your barbecue, place a drip pan alongside the hot coals on the charcoal grate. Then place the grilling grate(s) on the barbecue at their highest setting to let them heat up. If you have a Weber or another brand with a fixed grill height, no worries.

Now it’s time to grill! Throw the tri-tip on the grill directly over the coals. Let it sear for one to two minutes. If flames start to flare up, move the meat off to the side until the flames die down—you’re going for seared, not charred. Flip the tri-tip and sear the other side over direct heat for another one to two minutes.

After both sides are seared, move the tri-tip and place it fat-side up on the opposite side of the grill from the coals to cook over indirect heat. Close the lid, and close all vents on the barbecue.

Walk away. Seriously, walk away and don’t open the lid for 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes, remove the tri-tip from the grill and place it on a platter. Cover with tinfoil and let it rest for 15 minutes. After it’s rested, cut the meat at a bias and enjoy!

How to Make a Dry Rub for Tri Tip

Here’s our favorite rub recipe for tri-tip here at ProHowNow. The key is including the coriander seed (cilantro seeds), but all quantities can be adjusted to taste.


  • 1 Tablespoon of coriander

  • 1 Tablespoon of coarse salt

  • 1 Whole bay leaf

  • 1/2 Tablespoon of peppercorns

  • 1/2 Teaspoon of paprika

  • 1/2 Teaspoon of chilli powder

  • 1/2 Teaspoon of garlic powder

  • 1/4 Teaspoon of cayenne powder (optional)

Grind all the ingredients with a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder. Remove the stem and any large pieces of the bay leaf that remain. Gently rub into the tri-tip, covering all surfaces equally.

ProHowNow Tip: Save Money by Buying an Untrimmed Tri-Tip

Tri-tip can be an expensive cut of meat and, depending on where you live, might not be available at all since many butchers trim that portion of the beef into different types of cuts. Generally speaking, tri-tip is available in California and the southwestern states of the U.S. Outside of those regions, no promises.

Where tri-tip is available, you can often find a cheaper cut if it is “untrimmed.” This is exactly what it sounds like: the excess fat hasn’t been trimmed off. Since you’ll be grilling the tri-tip for around 45 minutes, this is not a problem, as most of the fat will render off during the cooking process, so buy the untrimmed cut and save yourself anywhere from seven to ten dollars.

For more information on the history of the tri-tip, which originated in the Santa Maria Valley of California, check out this article.

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