How to Cut Tri Tip


Tri tip is a cut of beef that’s popular for grilling, smoking, and oven roasting. And if cut properly will yield a nice tender and tasty outcome. Follow along for how to cut tri tip steak.

cooked tri tip beef steak

What is Tri Tip?

The tri tip beef steak is a 1.5 to 2 pound cut of meat that is triangular in shape. It is boneless and fairly tender as well as being full of flavor. It comes from the bottom tip of the sirloin in the hindquarter.

Understanding Meat Grain

The grain of meat refers to the direction that the muscle fibers run in a cut of meat. Visually, you should be able to see lines running across the cut of meat, this is the grain.

As is true with any cut of beef, you should always cut against the grain.

Why It’s Important to Cut Tri Tip Against the Grain

Cutting against the grain allows you to serve the most tender meat possible. Whereas cutting with the grain can make for some extra tough chewing.

When it comes to tri tip tenderness, it’s all about how you slice it. Look for the grain, which runs in two directions for this cut, then cut against the grain.

Tri Tip Cut Diagram

Following is a diagram that shows how the meat grains might appear in your tri tip steak. Remember to cut against the grain. Our diagram also shows cut marks for how to slice a tri tip steak.

tri tip steak cut diagram

How to Slice Meat

The best way to slice meat is always against the grain for the most tender outcome. The same is true for a tri tip.

Knowing how to slice it against the grain is the key for the best experience.

Do You Have to Cut Tri Tip Steak Before Cooking it? 

No, in fact we recommend waiting to cut it after it has rested and is ready to be served. This will provide the juiciest outcome.

Cutting the steak before cooking it can cause it to dry out too much and it will be tough and undesirable.

What You Need to Cut Tri Tip

The two things you need to cut a tri tip steak are a sharp knife and a cutting board.

Sharp knife. Use a good sharp knife for the job. One that’s considered a chef quality or a butcher’s knife work best. This will give you a nice clean cut that will also lend itself to visual appeal.

Cutting board. Use a cutting board that is suitable for cutting meat. A good wooden cutting board is ideal.

How to Cut Fat Cap off Tri Tip

Generally speaking, your tri tip steak will come with a fat cap attached to it unless it has been previously removed by your butcher or meat processor.

To remove the fat cap from a tri tip steak, use a sharp knife, carefully pulling up the fat as you go, until it is completely removed.

tri tip steak with fat cap

How to Cook Tri Tip

There are many ways to cook a tri tip steak, and the preferred method depends on personal preference. Your steak can be cooked in the oven, on the grill, in the air fryer, or by using a smoker.

Oven. Brown in a cast iron pan on the stovetop with butter or olive oil. Finish in the oven at 425F degrees for about 12 minutes per pound until the desired doneness is achieved. Use the chart below to determine the desired internal temperature for your beef steak.

Grilled. In our opinion, tri tip steak is made for grilling and the outcome is just that much better. It is possible to achieve a tender and flavorful tri tip using other cooking methods, but by cooking it on the grill or by smoking it, you can achieve that desired crispy black exterior.

Air fryer. Roasting a tri tip in an air fryer can be delicious. Preheat your air fryer to 400F degrees and place your steak into the cooking basket. Fry for approximately 8 minutes per pound until the desired doneness is achieved.

Smoker. To cook your tri tip on a smoker, preheat the smoker to 225F degrees. Close the lid and let cook the meat until it reaches an internal temperature of 10 degrees less than the final outcome of the meat.

For example, for medium done, the final temperature is 140F degrees, so the steak should be pulled off the smoker when it reaches 130F degrees. Let rest for 15 minutes before slicing.

grilled tri tip steak

Beef Temperatures According to Doneness

Following is a list of tri tip beef temperatures according to doneness. For the best results, pull the meat from the heat when it reaches an internal temperature of 10 degrees less than the final desired outcome of the meat.

Rare: 125F degrees
Medium Rare: 130F degrees
Medium: 140F degrees
Medium Well: 150F degrees
Well Done: 160F degrees

How to Cut Tri-Tip — Step-by-Step Instructions

tri tip steaks
tri tip steaks

Following are our step-by-step instructions for how to cut a tri tip steak.

1. If desired, trim off the fat cap before moving forward with the cooking process. Some desire to leave the fat cap in place to provide extra moisture and flavor to the meat. And in some cases, the fat cap might have been removed for you before the meat was purchased.

2. After cooking, allow to rest, then place the steak on a cutting board with the top point of the tri tip being the closest to you.

3. Using a sharp knife, cut the steak in half from the top point along the large seam of fat to the opposite side, leaving two portions.

4. Working with the long half of the divided steak, rotate it about 30° towards yourself.

5. Starting from the uncut end, begin cutting thin slices across the grain until the side is complete.

6. Working with the remaining section, rotate the meat until the point is pointing to your left and cut thin slices across the grain until the section is complete. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Following are frequently asked questions that relate to how to cut tri tip. If you have a question that’s not answered here, feel free to drop it to us in the comments box below and we’ll be happy to answer it.

tri tip steak in pan

How thick should I slice a tri tip?

We recommend slicing your tri tip at 1/4″ thick.

Does the fat cap have to be removed before cooking?

You can remove the fat cap if desired. However, some prefer to leave the fat cap intact while the meat is cooked because this adds to the juiciness and tenderness of the meat.

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Sarah is known for her extra fancy yeast breads, melt in your mouth pies, and everything salads. She has won awards as a home cook, and is passionate about helping others feel smarter in the kitchen. Sarah is the cooking genius of the sister duo.

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