How To Cook Tri-Tip Steak

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Tri-Tip Steak
Photo credit: Rachael Ray Show

Beef tri-tip is a relatively cheap and lean steak cut from the sirloin. It cooks up tasty and tender with a marinade. Because it doesn't have a lot of fat marbling like a rib-eye steak, it's best grilled, broiled or pan-seared (higher temperature, quick-cooking methods) so it doesn't dry out. If you'd rather cook it "low and slow," we recommend buying a whole tri-tip roast instead. 

First we'll explain what a tri-tip steak is, but keep reading to find out about the best ways to cook tri-tip steak.

WHAT IS A TRI-TIP STEAK?

Tri-tip steaks are cut from a tri-tip roast, which is the small, triangular end of the beef sirloin. They are boneless and typically pretty thin (about ¾ to 1 inch thick) with a rich, meaty flavor. Some people consider it a "healthier" red meat option since it's on the lean side and it's also cheaper than many other steak cuts so it's budget-friendly, too. While you can purchase it sliced into steaks, our Culinary Producer Grant Melton likes to cook tri-tip sirloin whole, like you would a flank steak.

WHY WE RECOMMEND USING A MARINADE BEFORE COOKING TRI-TIP STEAK

Because tri-tip steaks are leaner than a lot of other beef cuts, marinating will help them turn out juicy and tender. 

If you're using a highly acidic marinade like this chimichurri, they only need about 15 to 20 minutes to tenderize. Depending on the type of marinade, you may want to let your steak marinate for at least a few hours or up to overnight in the fridge.

Just be sure to toss any leftover marinade—here's why.

HOW TO GRILL TRI-TIP STEAK

Whether you're using a charcoal grill or gas grill, you'll want to grill tri-tip steak covered (grill shut) over medium heat, turning once halfway through.

HOW LONG TO GRILL TRI-TIP STEAK

Here's a rough guide for cooking times but keep in mind that the best way to tell when your steaks are cooked to your desired doneness is with an instant-read thermometer.

¾-inch thick steaks: 

  • About 10 minutes for medium rare (remove when 140°F for final temp of 145°F) 
  • About 15 minutes for well done (remove when 165°F for final temp of 170°F)

1-inch thick steaks: 

  • About 15 minutes for medium rare (remove when 140°F for final temp of 145°F) 
  • About 20 minutes for well done (remove when 165°F for final temp of 170°F)

HOW TO BROIL TRI-TIP STEAK

If you want to cook your steak in the oven, the broiler is your best bet because it's a higher temperature, quicker cooking method than baking in the oven. 

HOW LONG TO COOK TRI-TIP STEAK IN THE OVEN

Most importantly, be sure to give your broiler enough time to preheat so it's really hot when you put your steaks in—ideally about 10 minutes. 

Place your steaks on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil and lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray before putting them into the broiler to prevent drippings from getting all over your oven, and make clean-up a snap.

Here's a rough guide for cooking times but keep in mind that just like with grilling, the best way to tell when your steaks are cooked to your desired doneness is with an instant-read thermometer.

HOW LONG TO BROIL TRI-TIP STEAK:

¾-inch thick steaks: 

  • About 5 minutes for medium rare (remove when 140°F for final temp of 145°F) 
  • About 10 minutes for well done (remove when 165°F for final temp of 170°F)

1-inch thick steaks: 

  • About 10 minutes for medium rare (remove when 140°F for final temp of 145°F) 
  • About 15 minutes for well done (remove when 165°F for final temp of 170°F)

HOW TO PAN SEAR TRI-TIP STEAK (aka COOK IN A SKILLET ON THE STOVETOP)

The key here is to use a heavy skillet that is big enough for all your tri-tip steaks to fit in a single layer. This means that if you're cooking more than 4 steaks, you'll probably need another skillet or need to cook your steaks in batches. 

Rach's go-to skillet for meat is cast iron because it retains heat well (gets hot and stays hot).

If you're using a cast iron skillet, preheat it over medium-high heat until it's very hot—you'll know that it's hot enough when a drop of water sizzles when it hits the pan.

Once it's hot, lightly coat with cooking spray or oil and add your steaks (you can skip the cooking spray or oil if you're using a nonstick skillet). Cook the steaks uncovered, turning every now and then.

HOW LONG TO COOK TRI-TIP STEAK IN SKILLET ON STOVE:

Here’s a rough guide for tri-tip steak cooking times on the stove. Again, don’t forget that the best way to tell when your steaks are cooked to your desired doneness is with an instant-read thermometer.

¾-inch thick steaks: 

  • About 8 minutes for medium rare (remove when 140°F for final temp of 145°F) 
  • About 12 minutes for well done (remove when 165°F for final temp of 170°F)

1-inch thick steaks: 

  • About 10 minutes for medium rare (remove when 140°F for final temp of 145°F) 
  • About 15 minutes for well done (remove when 165°F for final temp of 170°F)

HOW TO SERVE TRI-TIP STEAK

No matter how you choose to cook your tri-tip steaks, transfer them to a plate and let them stand for five minutes before slicing across the grain. This will ensure that you don't lose all the precious juices when you cut into them.

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