What Is Tri-Tip Steak?

A Guide to Buying and Cooking With Tri-Tip Steak


The Spruce / Lindsay Kreighbaum

Originally called a California cut, the tri-tip steak has become increasingly popular because of its superior flavor. The tri-tip steak is cut from the tri-tip roast, which is part of the bottom sirloin subprimal cut. It is an economic piece of meat that is full of flavor—it is far less expensive than other equally flavorful steaks such as the rib-eye. The tri-tip has excellent marbling (the fat running through the meat) and is very tender as long as you don't overcook it. Tri-tip is built for grilling, but it can also be cooked in a hot skillet on the stovetop.

What Is Tri-Tip Steak?

This steak is simply cut pieces of the triangular tri-tip roast, which is why it is also known as triangle steak. It is also known as Santa Maria steak since this California town made the tri-tip roast famous at its annual barbecue festival. The boneless steaks average around 1-inch thick and are lean and tender, with a decent amount of marbling.

The Spruce / Joshua Seong 

How to Cook Tri-Tip Steak

This cut benefits from quick cooking methods, such as grilling, broiling, and pan-searing. Since it is a lean cut, if you are going to take this steak beyond medium, then you should probably marinate it two to three hours before you plan to cook. You can also season the steaks with a spice rub, such as an herbes de Provence steak rub. Grill 1-inch steaks 15 to 17 minutes and broil for 11 to 12 minutes (flipping once) for medium. If using the stovetop, heat a heavy skillet (cast iron is great) with a little oil until hot; add the steaks and cook, turning over once, for about 12 minutes for medium.

What Does Tri-Tip Steak Taste Like?

Tri-tip is a very flavorful steak, boasting a nice beefy taste and tender chew. Although it is a lean cut of meat, it does have a decent amount of fat, offering a bit of buttery taste. It does take to a marinade nicely, and therefore will adopt the flavors of the ingredients.

Recipes for Tri-Tip Steak

From Southwestern to Asian, a tri-tip steak works well with a variety of flavors. If you choose to grill the steaks, you can keep it simple or marinate in garlic and red wine for a bit more depth. The cooked steak is also ideal for tacos and sandwiches.


Slow Cooker Braised Tri-Tip Roast With Vegetables

Where to Buy Tri-Tip Steak

Unfortunately, in many areas across the country, the tri-tip steak is not available. This is because this part of the cow is typically cut differently by regional butchers. If you cannot find tri-tip in the meat section, talk with your butcher—some may have it, but know it by another name. (Ask for a California or Santa Maria cut and see if that helps, but it can also be called culotte steak, bottom sirloin tip, or Newport steak.) Any good butcher should be able to cut tri-tip steaks for you, and if they don't do that kind of cutting, you need to find a different butcher.

Storing Tri-Tip Steak

If you don't plan on cooking your tri-tip steaks right away, you can store them in the refrigerator for three to five days. To keep longer, rewrap the meat in plastic—making sure there isn't any air between the steak and wrapping—and place in the freezer where they will keep for six to 12 months.