What is Tri-Tip?

In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about Tri-Tip. This versatile cut is lean, flavorful, tender, and more cost-effective than other beef cuts. Grilling gives the roast or steak an aromatic taste.

Origins of Tri-Tip

Tri-tip has its origin in America during the 19th century when relegated to ground form, and it was popularly used to prepare hamburgers.

In the 1950s in California’s Santa Maria Valley, the original owner of the Santa Maria Market, Bob Schutz, prepared the meat and ate it like steak. The outcome, called Santa Maria BBQ, became popular among Americans from then onwards.

What is Tri-Tip, Exactly?  

A tri-tip is beef cut in the shape of a triangle, measuring about 1 inch in thickness, with a tapered tip. The tri-tip is famous for its great flavor: tender and lean with little marbling of fat.

What is a tri-tip steak? It’s a complete triangle tri-tip roast cut into individual steaks before cooking. Tri-Tip Steak and Tri-Tip Roast are the same meat; they differ only in terms of cooking techniques. 

The steak is popular in southern California and is often mistaken for Brazilian picanha or brisket. However, tri-tip steak isn’t anything like brisket, which is obtained from beneath the chuck on the front side of a cow.

Raw beef tri-tip steak
Raw beef tri-tip steak

Other Names for Tri-Tip

The tri-tip is cut into multiple steak pieces in the shape of a triangle. As a result, it’s known as a triangle steak or triangle tip. Other popular names of tri-tip include:

  • A bottom sirloin butt,
  • A California cut,
  • A poor man’s brisket,
  • Santa Maria steak,
  • A Newport steak.

Most common names for tri-tip in other countries:

  • Aiguillette baronne in France,
  • Bürgermeisterstück or Pastorenstück in Germany,
  • In southern Germany, it is called the same name as the traditional and popular Bavarian and Austrian dish Tafelspitz,
  • In Austria Hüferschwanz, 
  • Rabillo de cadera in Spain,
  • In Argentine asado, it is known as colita de cuadril.
  • In Brazil, it is known as maminha.

What Part of the Cow is Tri-Tip? 

The Tri-Tip comes from the bottom sirloin subprimal cut, which explains its popularity as a delicious roast. A whole-trimmed roast weighs an average of 1.5 to 2.5 pounds. 

Is Tri-Tip Tough or Tender?

Tri-tip is a quite lean cut that is tough if not cooked and served correctly. The main reason is the grain patterns, one of which runs horizontally and the other vertically. Cooked tri-tip must be sliced thinly and against the grain before serving to make it tender.

What Does Tri-tip Steak Taste Like?

Tri-tip steak has a tender chew and a beefy taste. The small amount of fat in the lean meat cut gives it a buttery taste. The tender meat doesn’t need overcooking. You can marinate it for a richer flavor.

Make sure you slice against the grain of your steak whenever you want to serve a tri-tip steak (Read: How To Cut Steak Like a Pro). When cooked, the steak can also serve as a key ingredient in sandwiches and tacos.

Tri-Tip Steak Nutrition Facts 

The cooked tri-tip steak (3 oz) contains 225 calories, 25.5 g protein, 12.9 g total fat, 5.99 mg zinc, and 3.09 mg iron per serving.

Source: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/174024/nutrients

NutritionPortion size: 3 oz = 85 g
Protein25.5 g
Total fat12.9 g
Zinc5.99 mg
Iron30.9 mg
Calcium10.2 mg
Magnesium22.1 mg
Potassium371 mg
Sodium61.2 mg
Tri-Tip Steak nutrition facts based on 3-oz cut

Where to Buy?

Most popular in California, tri-tip roast or steak is not widely available across the United States. Although you can find this cut in other regions, it probably goes by a different name. You can search it by names Santa Maria, California Cut, or Newport steak. Any experienced butcher can cut out a tri-trip for you.

You may also find reputable retailers or farms online that deliver tri-tip steak. When buying online, make sure that the beef is from grass-fed cows.

How Much is a Tri-Tip Per Pound?

The lowest grade Tri-Tip roast prices start at around $10 per pound. A mid-range cut usually falls within the $15-$25/lbs price range. As for Wagyu Tri-Tip, prices start at $30/lbs.

As a reminder, the average weight of a tri-tip roast is 2-2.5 pounds.

What is Tri-Tip Good For?

Grilling is the most common cooking method for tri-trip. You can grill or roast the tri-tip whole. You can also cut it into individual steaks. Cooked and thinly sliced tri-tip is also great for sandwiches, fajitas, tacos, and stir-fry dishes.

Tri-Tip can also be cooked using pan-frying, roasting, broiling, and braising methods. A delicious tri-tip roast or steak will leave you salivating for more.

Final Thoughts on Tri-Tip

Tri-Tip is becoming more popular outside of California, which is good because it is an excellent beef cut. When cooked perfectly, it has a rich beefy flavor and is tender. It is essential to know how to cut Tri-Tip correctly. If you do it wrong, the meat will be tough and chewy.

Tri-tip is also part of many recipes, which shows its wide use. You can prepare it like a roast or grilled steak or use the small cooked pieces in sandwiches, tacos, and stir-fry dishes.

If you’re having trouble finding this cut in your area, check online butcher stores, especially if you are looking for higher-grade beef, such as wagyu.

Photo of author

Written by: Adam Wojtow

Adam Wojtow, the founder of Steak Revolution, is a true steak enthusiast. His primary goal is to help others perfect their steak-cooking skills.