Grilled Spice-Rubbed Tri-Tip

From Geoff Last

2012 Nov/Dec

Tri-tip is a cut of beef from the bottom of the sirloin, a small triangular muscle usually 1.5 to 2.5 lbs. per side of beef. It’s a relatively inexpensive cut that was popularized in Santa Maria, California. In recent years it has become available here and it’s one of my favourite cuts to grill. Because the cut doesn’t have much fat, don’t cook it beyond medium rare. Always slice it about 1/4” thick across the grain, which runs from end to end from the pointy tip to the wide end.


  • 1 T. smoked paprika
  • 1 t. kosher salt
  • 1/2 t. ground black pepper
  • 1/2 t. dry mustard
  • 1/2 t. ground cumin
  • 2 T. brown sugar (omit the sugar if you are cooking the meat over very hot coals)
  • 1 tri-tip roast, about 2 lbs.
  • 1 small bag of arugula, picked over, large stems discarded (optional)


Mix the spice rub ingredients – the first 6 – in a small bowl. Trim the beef of fat (there’s not much) and rub the entire cut with the mixture to coat. Wrap it in plastic and chill for at least 2 hours and up to a day ahead.

Bring the meat to room temperature before grilling, about an hour outside the fridge. Preheat the grill to high. Because the rub has sugar in it, it will burn if cooked over direct heat so I cook it on the top grill of the barbecue. Grill the beef to medium rare, about 10 minutes a side, then remove it from heat and let it rest 20 minutes before serving.

Allowing the meat to rest is a crucial step with virtually all roasted/grilled meats. It allows the grain to close up and retain the natural juices. The meat will still be warm even after 20 minutes as it is still cooking internally when it comes off the grill. Slice the tri-tip and serve it on a bed of arugula on a serving platter. Drizzle it with the accumulated juices just before serving. I typically serve this with coconut rice and seasonal vegetables.

Serves 4 to 6.

Wine: A California zinfandel is a good match with this dish; try Ridge’s 2009 East Bench Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley.