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A plate of Santa Maria style barbecue, with tri-tip, beans, salsa, and garlic bread

Santa Maria Style Tri-Tip

  • Author: Clint
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes + overnight cure
  • Cook Time: About 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes active time
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: Entree
  • Method: Grill
  • Cuisine: Santa Maria Barbecue


A crusty, garlicky, juicy steak.  What more could you ask for?  Pair this with my pinquito beans and salsa recipes for an authentic Santa Maria barbecue experience.


  • 1 beef tri-tip roast (about 2 pounds)
  • Garlic salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Generously season the tri-tip with garlic salt and black pepper.  Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  If in a pinch, you can just season the tri-tip before grilling, but try to do so as far in advance as possible.
  2. Prepare your grill for medium heat.  Ideally, you’ll be using wood chunks or logs, but you can use a mix of lump charcoal and wood chunks if that is easier for your setup.  Once the wood has burned down to red-hot coals, you are ready to cook (see notes for a gas grill setup).
  3. Grill the tri-tip, flipping every couple of minutes or so until the thickest part of the meat registers 125°F for medium rare, about 20 minutes.  The tri-tip should start to develop a beautiful deep brown crust all over.  Remove the tri-tip to a wire rack set in a sheet pan, tent lightly with foil, and let rest for 5-10 minutes.  The tri-tip should inch up into the perfect medium rare range (130-135°F) while resting.
  4. Thinly slice the tri-tip against the grain on a slight bias.  This can be tricky because the grain in this cut changes in the middle.  You might find it easier to cut the tri-tip in half at its elbow (i.e., where it hinges) and then slice thinly against the grain.  
  5. Lay the slices on a heated platter and let your guests help themselves to that beautiful beef you just cooked.  I highly recommend pairing with the pinquito beans and salsa.


  • Don’t fret if you only have a gas grill.  Set up your grill for medium heat as usual.  Then, take a handful of wood chips and wrap inside a foil packet.  Punch a bunch of holes in the packet and set over a burner underneath the grill grate.  This isn’t quite the same as cooking over live wood coals, but it will give you a bit of that smoky flavor you are looking for.  Be sure to set the packet on the grill 10 minutes or so before you start grilling to give them a chance to start smoking.

Keywords: tri-tip, Santa Maria, barbecue, bbq, grilled