Main Dish | August 2, 2018

Santa Maria Tri-Tip

Santa Maria Tri-Tip? Think thick crispy, salty, smokey crust, tender & juicy inside, and basically the best tri-tip you’ll have in your life. For reals. You’ll never believe how easy this is AND how show stopping.

grilled tri-tip and grilled potato salad on platter with dip in cup

The Seasoned Santa Maria Tri-Tip Crust

This is why the Santa Maria Tri-tip is famous. It has a deep flavorful, salty crust so when you bite into this meat you’re biting into everything! Crispy salt, savory tender meat and a burst of flavor in your mouth. Making sure you  get this crust right is essential! No worries! It’s easy.


Take your seasonings and mix them all together. I love using Remond’s real salt (not sponsored!) for my seasonings. Other seasonings just dont compare. Instead of using onion powder, garlic powder and salt I use their onion salt, garlic salt and then I cut back on “salt” quantity. However, if you only have the powder form (ie garkic powder or onion powder) of these spices that will be ok, just double or triple your salt.

seasonings used for santa maria tri-tip rub

Message the dry rub all over your tri-tip and wrap it in plastic wrap, or gallon bag and let it marinate for 4-6 hours-overnight. I like to give mine as much time as possible, so I do it the day before.

tri-tip with dry rub applied

Smoking vs. Grilling Tri-tip

Which is better? This can completely be left up to your personal preference, in fact- in my family we’re divided on this subject! The truth is you can grill or smoke tri-tip and it’ll come out beautiful. My husband prefers to grill leaner meats like tri-tip. Tri-tip will just take slightly longer on the smoker than grill. I’ve included instruction in recipe card for both.

We have both a smoker and a grill and use both often. If you are looking into a smoker we highly recommend the Camp Chef Woodwind. It’s easy to use, the best to clean but makes even better smoked meat. We’ve been smoking all summer long and love this thing.


This basting sauce will do a few things for the tri-tip. Don’t skimp on this step!

  1. Help keep it moist.
  2. clCreate a deeper flavored crust (I mean, garlic!! vinegar!! mustard!!)
  3. Helps the crust to cook at a higher temp so it is nice and crisp.

sauce in bowl for basting tri-tip

Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl. Allow the tri-tip to cook for about 5 min, then periodically take your silicone brush flip then baste your tri-tip.  Keep doing this throughout the process until the tri-tip internal temp reaches your liking.

silicone brush basting tri-tip on grill

Whats a good internal temperature for Tri-tip?

First off- you need a great thermometer like thermoworks! we love them, and it will reliable + fast.

  1. rare tri-tip roast is 120 degrees
  2. medium tri-tip- 130 degrees
  3. medium well tri-tip- 140 degrees

It depends on your preference. HOWEVER, it is important to allow your meat to rest after removing from smoker/grill. The meat will continue to cook while resting for a few more minutes. If you really want to insure a rare/med rare tri-tip roast you will want to pull it off a couple of degrees sooner.

smoked tri-tip on cutting board with chimichurri saiuce

How to cut tri-tip

Once you’ve let your  tri-tip rest for about 15-20 minutes you are ready to slice this bad boy. Using a sharp knife (I love my ceramic knife) slice the roast against the grain. You can see in the photo the lines of the meat are going north south direction and I cut in an east/west direction.

sliced smoked santa maria tri-tip with chimichurri dip

I love to make a side of chimichurri and grilled potato salad with this Santa Maria Tri-tip. It pairs perfectly!

Love this recipe?! Want more Oh So Delicioso in your life? Follow us on facebook or instagram!! We’d love to become friends and get to know you!

5 from 2 votes
sliced smoked santa maria tri-tip
Santa Maria Tri-Tip
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
1 hr 55 mins
4 hrs
Total Time
2 hrs 5 mins

Step-by-step instructions for the best Santa Maria Tri-Tip recipe. Crispy, salty crust juicy tender inside. Both smoker and grilling instructions included. 

Course: dinner
Cuisine: American
Keyword: santa maria tri tip, tri tip recipe
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 348 kcal
Author: Desarae
  • 2-3 lb tri-tip
Dry Rub
Basting sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup veg oil (or oil that have a very high smoke point)
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  1. Combine dry rub ingredients and coat entire tri-tip. Wrap in plastic wrap or gallon size bag. Place in bowl/pan and keep refrigerated 4 hours to over night. 

  2. In small bowl combine ingredients for basting sauce. 

Smoker Instructions
  1. Preheat smoker 220 degrees. 

    After 15 minutes, flip tri-tip and baste continue this pattern every 10 minutes.

    Tri-tip is done about 127 internal temp (+/- depending on what your preferred doneness is). It'll take somewhere between 60-90 minutes. 

Grilling Instructions
  1. Grill med to med-high heat.

    Flip tri-tip and baste every 5 minutes. Continue this pattern every 5 minutes. 

    for about 30 minutes or until internal temp is 127 +/- your preferred doneness. 

Nutrition Facts
Santa Maria Tri-Tip
Amount Per Serving
Calories 348 Calories from Fat 207
% Daily Value*
Fat 23g35%
Saturated Fat 14g88%
Cholesterol 98mg33%
Sodium 2804mg122%
Potassium 494mg14%
Protein 31g62%
Vitamin A 190IU4%
Vitamin C 0.3mg0%
Calcium 41mg4%
Iron 2.5mg14%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

7 thoughts on “Santa Maria Tri-Tip

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Very confused about the smoker steps. How are you maintaining an even temp in the smoke box if you are opening it every 10 minutes?

    1. Hi Ben! great question, I didnt have any issues maintaining the temperature with my personal smoker, if you think you will I would either not worry about basting it or baste it less.