Santa Maria-style Grilled Tri-tip

Santa Maria-style Grilled Tri-tip

On California’s Central Coast, this is the most popular way to cook meat—simply seasoned and over aromatic local red oak. There, the grill of choice is the Santa Maria-style barbecue, which has no lid but a cooking grate that raises and lowers, and a bed to hold the red oak logs. Even if you are using a gas or charcoal grill, you can get pretty close to the right flavor by using red oak chips.

  • Yield: 8 servings


  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 1 none beef tri-tip (2 to 2 1/2 lbs.), preferably with some fat on one side
  • 2 cups red oak chips (optional; see Quick Tip below), soaked in water for at least 20 minutes


1. In a small bowl, mix garlic powder, salt, pepper, and parsley together; rub all over and into meat. Let stand at least 1 hour at room temperature and up to several hours if chilled (bring to room temperature before grilling).

2. Meanwhile, prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect medium-high heat and add chips, if using, to grill (if it’s gas, put them in a small disposable aluminum pan and set it on the lit burner; if charcoal, sprinkle them on the coals). Set tri-tip over direct heat, fat side up, and sear until nicely browned (close lid on gas grill), 3 to 5 minutes; turn over and sear other side.

3. Move tri-tip over indirect-heat area and grill, turning every 10 minutes or so, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part registers 125° to 130°, 25 to 35 minutes.

4. Transfer tri-tip to a cutting board and let rest at least 15 minutes. Slice meat across the grain as thin or as thick as you like.



Quick tip: Find red oak chips online from Susy Q's Brand (susieqbrand.com).

Note: Nutritional analysis is per serving.


Nutritional Information

Amount per serving
  • Calories: 290none
  • Calories from fat: 50%
  • Protein: 32g
  • Fat: 16g
  • Saturated fat: 6.1g
  • Carbohydrate: 1.8g
  • Fiber: 0.3g
  • Sodium: 558mg
  • Cholesterol: 72mg

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Santa Maria-style Grilled Tri-tip Recipe