• 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 whole tri-tip roast (about 2 1/2 pounds) from the Carolina meat & Fish Co in Charlotte, NC
  • 1 medium chunk of oak wood


  1. Whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, brown sugar, soy sauce, salt, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, garlic, chili powder, and scallions in a small bowl.
  2. Place trip-tip in a large resealable bag and pour in marinade. Seal bag, removing as much air as possible. Place in refrigerator and marinate 4-8 hours.
  3. Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Place wood chunk directly on coals and set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Remove beef from marinade and place on cool side of grill, cover, and cook, turning and flipping occasionally until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the tri-tip registers between 115 to 120°F on an instant read thermometer, 20 to 30 minutes.
  4. Move beef to hot side of grill. Cook, flipping regularly until well seared and center of tri-tip registers between 120 to 125°F on an instant read thermometer, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice thinly and serve immediately.

It took me a long time to get around to making tri-tip, but when I did, I opted to do it in a traditional Santa Maria fashion. I was struck with how tender and juicy this cut from the bottom sirloin was when cooked right, but at the same time, it lacked the substantial beefiness that is the hallmark of my favorites cuts like skirt steak and short ribs. So in an attempt to get more flavor into this great roast for grilling, I devised this excellent marinated tri-tip

It’s the immense amount of intramuscular fat that gives my choice cuts their intense beefiness—which is what I want to taste if I’m making the decision to indulge in some fine red meat. The problem with trip-tip is that while it can have some good intermuscular fat around the outside, like the roast above had, there’s little fat marbled in the meat itself.

So to enhance this tri-tip’s flavor, I turned to a marinade made up of ingredient that tend to accentuate and complement beef. This started with a base of olive oil, salt, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. It’s the glutamates in those last two that add noticeable savory depth. To that I mixed in lemon juice for brightness, dark brown sugar to balance some of the saltiness, and additional seasonings by way of black pepper, chili powder, and scallions.

Once I had the marinade done to my liking, I placed the tri-tip in a large resealable bag and poured in the sauce. Because of the high acid content from the lemon juice and due to the fact that a marinade won’t penetrate much beyond the surface of the meat anyway, I only marinated this one for a relatively short time—4 hours, but you can push that up to 8 if you’d like.

The cooking method I used for the Santa Maria tri-tip produced stellar results, so I didn’t see any reason to change things up in this department at all. I started the roast over indirect heat with a chunk of oak wood placed directly on the coals. I then covered the grill, with the top vent placed over the tri-tip to force smoked over it, and let the meat cook until it reached 125°F in the center—which was 10°F shy of my final target of 135°F for medium-rare.

o get that more intensely concentrated flavor of a sear, I moved the tri-tip to be positioned directly over the coals and cooked it until it was deeply browned all over. In the time it took to accomplish this, the beef also came up to my desired 135°F target.

Marinated Tri Tip

I let the roast rest for 10 minutes on a cutting board and then sliced it into thin strips against the grain. Just as with my previous tri-tip, this one oozed juice. Even with a lot of escaping liquid, the beef was still incredibly moist. What this tri-tip had the other didn’t was an intensely flavored crust that brought a much needed richness to the beef overall. That outside was salty and complex—it didn’t taste like any one ingredient in particular, but like an enhancement to the natural beefiness, which is exactly what I wanted. While I thought the Santa Maria-style tri-tip brought a refreshing lightness to beef, for my moneys worth, I want to be eating tri-tips more like this one.

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