Monday, September 7, 2009

California Tri-Tip, Santa Maria Style for Labor Day


A few days ago, my husband mentioned that I have not made Santa Maria Style Tri-Tip in a long time. He's right-- in fact, I haven't made it since January-- and I did blog about it. This recipe receives a lot of hits on GOOGLE, so it must be a very popular way of preparing this affordable cut of meat. Here it is-- it is always in a triangular shape. I paid about $5.75 a pound, so this cut cost about $13.00. This could easily feed four very hungry people, but as many as six guests. Tri-tip used to be a lot cheaper, but people caught on to this cut of meat and drove up the prices a bit.  Bummer.


I decided to make this recipe for Labor Day, and to take new photographs. So, this is a revised and updated version of how to make this popular meal.  If you don't live in California, then you might not be familiar with this cut of meat. I found an illustration and info on what tri-tip is on Wikepedia. Essentially, it's from the bottom sirloin.

Tri-tip is really popular in the Salinas Valley (California), where I live. Actually, it's popular all over California! On many weekends, I see barbecues set up in parking lots, selling this meat for fundraisers.  Typically, tri-tip is served with ranch style beans (or chili), garlic bread and a salad.  A few years ago, my husband and I were returning from a cruise to Mexico and we decided to pull into the coastal town of Santa Maria for lunch. We noticed a BBQ set up in a parking lot, and they sure were doing a brisk business selling tri-tip.  Wow! This was the best tri-tip we've ever had.

California Grill masters pride themselves  in cooking tri-tip with oak wood. This takes a lot of time, and I don't have oak wood readily available. It's not cheap! When I found this recipe in an issue of Cook's Country Magazine (part of the Cook's Illustrated family) I knew I had to make this.  Forget BBQ sauce... this is an amazing recipe! Cook's Illustrated adapted this recipe where you used wood chips, soaked in water.  You grill the tri-tip, seasoned only with salt & pepper (the Santa Maria way) and-- towards the end-- you add the wet chips to the coals to give a smoky flavor to the meat. I'm telling you, if you love to eat red meat-- this is to die for! Seriously, it's worth trying.

Santa Maria style tri-tip begins with fresh garlic. No garlic from a jar, swimming in oil for God-only-knows-how-long, please. Garlic powder doesn't cut it, either.  You need the real deal-- lucky for me, garlic is plentifully grown on Christopher Ranch in nearby Gilroy, California-- home of the famous "Gilroy Garlic Festival".  You also need olive oil and kosher salt-- not table salt, or it will be totally inedible. Kosher salt only!  I love my garlic mincer. It saves time and does the job very well, thank you.


 I love garlic. I don't think there's such a thing as too much garlic...unless you're dating. I'm married, thank goodness, so I pile it on. Fortunately, Craig loves garlic, too.  You want a paste consistency.

Poke about 20 holes all over the tri-tip and rub the garlic-salt-oil paste all over. (NOTE TO SELF: Next, time wear disposable gloves. I had a couple of cuts and the salt made it sting!) Wrap it in plastic and let it sit in the refrigerator for several hours, or even overnight. This was done at 9am, to give this about 8 hours.

In the meantime, Craig got the coals ready and I soaked some hickory chips in water (I can't seem to find oak chips, but these work fine).  I removed the meat from the fridge to bring it to room temperature.  I deviated from Cook's Country's recipe instructions-- the recipe says to sear the meat on indirect heat (coals shoved off to one side) for five minutes, and then remove the garlic with a paper towel. Why? Because garlic burns easily and turns bitter.  Phooey! That's a hassle, so this is what I did-- and it works great

I wiped off the garlic with a paper towel and then lightly seasoned the meat with garlic salt and fresh cracked pepper. Go really easy on the garlic salt, please. I'll explain why in a bit...


Over direct coals, the meat was seared for about five minutes on each side-- so it's doesn't have that wonderful crust...just yet. Carefully, the roast is removed from the grill and then damp chips are scattered over the coals. Then, the meat was moved to indirect heat (away from the coals), covered with the vents open and grilled for about 20 minutes.  Craig doesn't like rare meat, so we went for 140F-- otherwise, go for 130F if you like it red in the middle.

It's important to let the cooked meat rest for at least twenty minutes. We cover it with foil and allow the juices redistribute.

You want to cut this meat against the grain. We like our sliced a little on the thin side. How juicy does this look?

See that nice crust on the outside? Oh, yeah!  This is cooked to perfection-- good job, Craig!


I was so busy, today, making a sweet potato hash and a Mile High cake (I will post later on in the week) that I never got around to making Pioneer Woman's Ranch Style Beans (or Santa Maria beans, which I should blog about someday). Instead, I toasted some sandwich rolls and ate these as a sandwich.  Craig added mayo, fresh lettuce and fresh garden tomatoes. Me? I ate it plain, with a green salad.

TASTING NOTES: Oh my!  I wish you could taste this-- infused with garlic, this is out of this world fantastic! The wood chips give the meat a nice smoky taste, just as though you had cooked this over an oak wood fire.I know that this photo is a bit out of focus. You see, my mouth was watering for these that I just wanted to sit down and take a big bite. OMG!  Garlic... juicy... a little salty.  That's why I say, go really easy on adding garlic salt-- or leave it out completely, if you prefer.

This rocks my world. It's rocks my husband's world. We love this. Leftovers make excellent fajitas...but I think these will be in our lunch boxes tomorrow.

I hope you can find this cut of meat where you live. This is it! Just like we devoured in a Santa Maria parking lot. Wonderful memories.

We had a relaxing and wonderful Labor Day.

Oh, I almost forgot to tell all of you....My son moved out!  He's almost 21, and it was time for Mama Bird to nudge baby bird from the nest. Yep, he's settling into his own apartment, with a friend. He loves his new place. He's about 10 minutes from home.  My son will weep if he hears he missed out on this dinner.  I wonder what he's eating? Mac 'N Cheese, no doubt. From a box.

We mom's know how to lure our kids to visit, don't we?  I'm sure he'll show up for Sunday Suppers when he grows tired of bachelor cooking.

 I hope all of you enjoyed your weekend,







California Tri-Tip, Santa Maria Style on Foodista



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19 comments:

My Carolina Kitchen said...

What a gorgeous steak and cooked my way too. I'm not sure we can get that cut here, but I'm sure going to ask. Glad you had a nice holiday.
Sam

Kim said...

Looks delicious. That cut became popular here about 3-4 years ago and would you believe that I've still never tried it? Love the steak and can't wait to hear about the mile-high cake!

Christopher Ranch said...

Hi, Debbie ~
Thank you for your post about California garlic...I work for Christopher Ranch, based in Gilroy, Calif. Fresh, California-grown is definitely the best, in terms of freshness, flavor, health, safety & sustainability. Look for Christopher Ranch California heirloom garlic in your local grocery.

Cheryl said...

Ok I am making this the minute my husband comes home, that looks so tasty and juicy, YUM

Bella said...

I sure wish I could have made this for Labor Day....we went the red meat route as well and grilled juicy rib-eyes....but this sounds so garlic-y wonderful. I agree with using nothing but the real deal garlic and slathered on like you two like it! I'm saving this recipe for sure! Thanks, Roz

Danielle said...

you're right...there's no such thing as too much garlic!! This looks delish! Us Californians love our Tri-Tip :)

Simple Simon said...

That steak looks mouthwatering. I am a sucker for red meat but I try to limit my intake to one time a week, usually on the weekend. And the garlic rub - YUM!

Kate said...

It would only take me four hours to get there but with ample notice, I could bring dessert! This looks wonderful. I am such a tri tip and bean fan!

Monica H said...

If Kate's coming over, so am I. It might take me a little longer to get there so leave the light on for me.

I love freshly crushed garlic. This steak is cooked perfectly. Delicious!

I might be the only Texan in the world who doesn't own a grill (I know!) Is there another way for me to cook this that wouldn't burn the heck out of the garlic? If not, then I'm seriously coming over.

Debinhawaii said...

Mmm...Steak and garlic--what could be better!?

Stacey Snacks said...

Deb, I looked to see what kind of cut this is, and I see it is at the bottom of the cow, they call it a bottom sirloin, and a muscle.....so is it like flank and skirt steak and needs a lot of marinating?
Interesting how east and west coast cuts of meats differ, when they come from the same cow!

Proud Italian Cook said...

I've had tri-tip and when done right, just like you have it's so delicious! Beautiful photos,I want that sandwich. I'm sure your son will be stopping by for good eats!
When my son first moved out he use to come over and go "shopping" in my pantry!

Pam said...

Perfectly cooked steak with TONS of garlic... it just doesn't get better than this.

Thibeault's Table said...

What could be better than a perfectly cooked piece of beef seasoned with all that garlic. Beautiful.

Leann said...

Great article..moms in the with the bizymoms Santa-maria community will love it & i am sure they too will have some great recipes to share

Anonymous said...

Fantastic recipe, just tried it tonight and my wife was amazed. Just a quick note: you have to be very aware of your grill's flame ups during the searing portion. I was literally seconds away from completely charring the outside of the roast on two separate occasions. I recommend overly babysitting the thing for the first 10 minutes before moving it off to indirect heat

Mother Rimmy said...

I purchase Tri-Tips from the local butcher. Grass fed and very expensive. A rare treat. This looks like the perfect recipe to make the most of it.

Anonymous said...

Garlic, salt, and oil paste followed by a sprinkle of store bought garlic salt? Just curious, but you mentioned that garlic powder "just doesn't cut it." Isn't garlic salt simply garlic powder (or dehydrated granulated garlic) and salt? Hmm... I think I'll stick with just the first round of fresh garlic paste.

Debby Foodiewife said...

Dear Anonymous:
Why the hate? Have I committed a crime, suggesting garlic salt? This is how the Cook's Illustrated recipe was written. There is plenty of garlic, with fresh, and I have begun to eliminate using the garlic powder. Sorry it doesn't cut it for you. The lovely thing is you can choose to eliminate it, and everyone is happy. Sheesh.