This is the easiest recipe for pan-seared tri-tip steak. It gives you a steak with a beautifully brown and crispy crust while keeping the inside just right. Follow the recipe steps, and you’ll nail it every time. For an extra kick of flavor, try it with your go-to sauce, like chimichurri or a nice steak butter.
The Ingredients You’ll Need
To prepare a flavorful tri-tip steak in a skillet on the stovetop, you’ll need:
- Tri-Tip steak
- High-smoke point oil (I recommend avocado oil)
- Kosher salt
- Thyme or rosemary
- Garlic cloves
The Tools You’ll Need
- Cast Iron Skillet
- Instant Read Thermometer
How to Cook Tri-Tip Steak on a Stove
First, get all your ingredients ready, then just follow the steps I’ve put down here to cook a tasty tri-tip steak in a skillet on your stove. Keep reading for a few extra tips to ensure your pan-seared tri-tip steak turns out perfectly.
Step 1: Prepare the Tri-Tip Steak
Thoroughly dry the tri-tip steak on all sides, and then choose your preferred salting method based on the time you have:
- The Best Way: If you’re not in a rush, generously salt the steak on both sides and let it rest overnight on a wire rack in the fridge. Just remember to take it out about 30 minutes before you start cooking.
- The Quicker Way: Short on time? Salt the steak and let it sit on a rack in the fridge for around 45 to 60 minutes. Before moving to the next recipe step, quickly pat the steak down with paper towels.
- For Immediate Cooking: If you’re short on time, it’s okay to skip the salting step. Just go straight to the next step of this recipe.
After you salt the steak, its surface will look wet because the salt pulls moisture out. That’s normal. But give it about an hour, and you’ll see the steak reabsorb most of that moisture back in. Remember, moisture is the enemy of a good sear. The steak must be dry on the surface to form that delicious crust. That’s where the magic of leaving your salted tri-tip steak in the fridge overnight comes in. This extra time allows it to dry out enough on the surface, making it perfect for a fantastic pan-sear the next day.
Step 2: Preheat the Cast-Iron Skillet
Heat your cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Let it warm up for about 2-3 minutes. Then, add a tablespoon of refined avocado oil and give it a minute to heat up. Typically, it takes 3-4 minutes to get your skillet to that sweet spot temperature range of 400-475°F, which is perfect for getting a good sear on your steak.
Now, about the steak. If you haven’t salted the tri-tip steak yet, sprinkle the salt just a few seconds before it hits that hot skillet. This way, you’ll get the best crust.
Note: Always double-check that you’re picking refined avocado oil. As you’ll be cooking the Tri-Tip steak in a skillet at high heat, choosing an oil that can withstand those temperatures is vital. Refined avocado oil is an ideal choice because of its high smoke point, around 500°F.
Step 3: Place the Tri-Tip Steak in the Skillet
Place your seasoned tri-tip steak, garlic cloves, rosemary, or thyme in a hot cast iron skillet. For an evenly cooked tri-tip steak, flip it every 30 to 60 seconds. Keep an eye on the steak’s internal temperature using a thermometer. Aim to remove it from the skillet when it’s about 15°F below your target temperature. For instance, if you’re going for medium-rare doneness, usually around 130-135°F, remove the steak from the skillet at about 115°F.
Note: Remember to insert the thermometer probe into the thickest part of the steak for an accurate temperature reading. As for the garlic, rosemary, or thyme, keep an eye on them while searing. Feel free to take them out of the pan once they’re browned to your liking.
Step 4: Let the Pan-Seared Tri-Tip Steak Rest
After cooking, give your pan-seared tri-tip steak 5 to 10 minutes to rest. This resting time is crucial for the juices to redistribute evenly throughout the steak. Additionally, the steak undergoes carryover cooking during this period, subtly continuing to cook. Its internal temperature will increase by around 15-20°F, and the steak muscles relax. So, when you slice it, you’ll see it’s perfectly cooked and won’t lose all those juices like it would if you sliced it right off the pan.
When’s the best time to remove a Tri-Tip steak from the pan?
Removing a tri-tip steak from the pan is best when its internal temperature is about 15°F below your target final temperature. Why? The steak keeps cooking even after you take it off the heat. Thanks to carryover cooking, the temp can go up another 15-20°F.
What is the best doneness for a Tri-Tip steak?
In my opinion, you can’t go wrong with medium-rare doneness. The fat melts when you cook a tri-tip to medium-rare doneness, making the steak more juicy and tender.
Pan-Seared Tri-Tip Steak
- tri-tip steak
- kosher salt
- black pepper finely ground
- 1 tablespoon High-smoke point oil I recommend refined avocado oil
- garlic cloves
- rosemary or thyme
- Prep Your Tri-Tip Steak:Pat the tri-tip steak dry and season with salt. Choose your salting method:Overnight Salting: Generously salt both sides and leave in the fridge overnight on a rack. Remove 30 mins before cooking.Quick Salting: Salt and leave in the fridge for 45-60 mins on a rack. Pat dry before cooking.No Time to Salt: You can skip the salting and go straight to the next step in the recipe.
- Preheat Heat Your Skillet:Preheat your cast iron skillet over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes. Then add a tablespoon of avocado oil and let it heat up for a minute.
- Sear Tri-Tip the Steak:Place the steak in the skillet along with garlic and herbs. Flip every 30-60 seconds, keeping an eye on the internal temperature. Take it off the heat when it's about 15°F below your preferred doneness.
- Rest Time:Let the steak rest for 5-10 minutes after cooking. This helps the juices redistribute.
- Make sure your steak’s surface is dry for a great sear.
- Choose refined avocado oil for its ability to handle high heat.
- Letting the steak rest after-cook is key for a juicy, perfectly cooked steak.