Cooking a tri-tip really well is just step one in delivering a delicious, tender cut of beef. How you cut it makes a big difference in the finished meat. Learn how to cut tri tip steak like a pro using my simple guide to perfectly sliced tri tip.
What is a Tri-Tip?
The tri-tip cut is named for its triangular shape and is cut from the bottom sirloin roast. This beef cut is lean and ranges in size from 1.5-3 pounds. It is sometimes called Triangle Roast, Bottom Sirloin Tip, California Cut, Newport steak, or Santa Maria steak. It goes by many names and is great for grilling or oven roasting.
Tri-tip roast is a high quality cut of beef at a more affordable price. When cooked correctly it offers a nice tender cut that is easy for chefs and home cooks alike.
What is the Trick to Perfectly sliced Tri-tip?
The trick to cutting a tri-tip is not so secret. The best way to cut it is against the grain and you will have nice tender slices. Cut this sirloin roast in the direction of the muscle fibers and you will have stringy difficult to chew pieces of steak.
Sounds simple enough, however, this triangle steak doesn't like to make life easy by having one direction. A tri-tip has two different grain directions and needs to be sliced part of the way one direction and part of the way another.
How to Cut a Tri Tip
You will need a good cutting board. It is nice to have a meat cutting board that has a groove around the edge to catch runaway juices.
You will also need a sharp knife to get clean, thin slices of beef from your roast.
Rest the tri-tip roast at room temperature covered with foil for 10 minutes before carving.
- Identify the Grain
Identify the different grain directions.
Your tri-tip roast should have a nice crust on the top from being hit with high heat and some portion of the fat cap still intact. It can be hard to see the grain on the top of the meat. Turn the roast over and look at the underside to see the muscle fiber really clearly.
- Slice the Meat
Start at the top point of the tri tip, using your carving knife, cut against (perpendicular to) the grain until you reach the end of that grain pattern. Then turn the roast so that you can again line up your cuts against the grain and finish cutting the remainder of the meat.
If you are cutting with the grain, the long lines of the muscle fiber will be visible in each slice. These long fibers are strong and hard to chew.
If you are cutting against the grain, the muscle fiber will be very short and look a little like a series of squares across the slice. These short fibers will be much more tender and easier to chew.
The picture below shows improper cutting (with the grain) on the left and correct cutting (against the grain) on the right.
Tri tip pieces are typically served fairly thin. An ideal slice is around ¼ of an inch. You can have great results with thicker and thinner slices. It is a matter of personal preference.
If you want to use the meat for sandwiches, the thinner the better. It can be difficult to cut really thin pieces from a hot roast without a meat slicer. Chilling the roast and slicing it cold makes it much easier to get really thin slices by hand. Reheat tri-tip sliced for sandwiches in hot beef broth.
Perfect medium is 140° at the thickest part of the meat. The thinner ends will be a bit more done. Because of the varied thickness, a tri-tip can accommodate different tastes in doneness. See temperature chart below to find the perfect temperature for you.
How to Cook Tri-Tip
Tri-Tip Temperature Guide
Use the guide below to get the right level of doneness for your hungry crew.
Use a meat thermometer to monitor the internal temperature. The temperature of the meat will rise a few degrees while resting. It is best to pull the meat when it is approximately five degrees from the desired temperature.
Remember that the thinner end pieces will be a full 5-10° higher than the thick center.
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