Grilling tips, tricks and advice for a memorable start to grilling season.

Beef 101: Tri-tips for Outdoor Dining

Grilling tips, tricks and advice for a memorable start to grilling season.

Good food brings people together like nothing else I know, but there’s something special about an outdoor meal. It’s food served with an extra helping of atmosphere, flavor and natural fun. I love a good back yard barbecue — don’t get me wrong, but say ‘outdoor dining’ and I think fresh flowers on tabletops, glistening strands of white lights overhead, candles (citronella if need be!), and perhaps a crackling fire for atmosphere.

When planning a more elegant affair your first thought may be to serve sizzling steaks. The number of guests on your list may make that cost prohibitive. Burgers are an alternative, but they don’t always create the elegant presentation you imagine. What’s the solution? Grilled tri-tip.

Easily recognized by its triangular shape, the tri-tip is a lean, tender and boneless cut of beef. It has a rich meaty flavor that’s great with only salt and pepper, but you can add even more flavor factor with a spice rub. You can cook it whole, or cut it into individual steaks and grill. My preference is to grill the roast, then slice thin and pile beef on a platter for buffet-style serving. A standard rule of thumb is to plan on a pound of roast for every two guests; half-pound per two children. Then, add an extra pound just in case.

 Example serving size:
Six adults (3 lbs.) plus four kids (1 lb.) = 3 lbs. for adults, 1 lb. for kids, plus 1 lb. extra=5-lb. roast

In this scenario, you would probably purchase up to three tri-tips, they’re usually 2-3 lbs. each. Have leftovers? Slice it and serve atop salad. It’s a great way to beef up your lighter side with extra protein.

Tri-tip with Santa Maria Rub

Top your tender tri-tip with a flavorful spice rub, then grill to desired doneness. One of my favorite rub recipes is the Santa Maria Rub. The addition of granulated honey adds a touch of sweetness.

While tri-tip is popular in some sections of the country, you may not find it readily available in your grocer’s meat case. Ask for it by name! Request tri-tip from your butcher — get a bag of them if it’s in your budget, then freeze for use later. The flavor factor plus cooking ease plus crowd-feeding characteristics of this cut make bulk purchases worth it. Think of your freezer stash of tri-tip roasts as your secret ingredient to spur-of-the-moment entertaining (well, after you thaw the beef, of course!).

fe238eee-2e67-449b-ad93-99d479248796Want a more hands-on approach to dining? Make Tri-Tip Soft Tacos with Peruvian-style Hot Sauce. It’s made with Ancho chili, red pepper flakes, cumin, cloves and pumpkin seeds.


For more recipes — like Stuffed Tri-Tip Roast — or recipes featuring other delectable beef cuts, visit Also find grilling tips, cooking videos and all sorts of useful information for the fabulous steaks of summer!


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Jennifer Kiko

Jennifer lives on a rural route with her husband, kids, horses, cows and faithful Labs, Cash and Carter. She's an aspiring foodie and enjoys making good food for great friends. She lives next door to a winery, plays the piano, and admits to growing too many tomatoes.

One thought on “Beef 101: Tri-tips for Outdoor Dining”

  1. I like the tip about the amount of meet per person. I never knew that was a good amount. And I love the idea of what to do with the left overs. Thanks for sharing these great tips!

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