Tri-tip is something I would typically reverse-sear using my smoker, but with the cold weather I wanted to experiment with sous vide tri-tip. And I have to say, the results were amazing. The meat was evenly pink from edge to edge and amazingly juicy! If you’re looking for an alternative cooking method, definitely give sous vide a try.
Sous vide is a very gentle cooking process achieved by submerging your meat (or fruit, vegetables, etc.) in a water bath. By using an immersion circulator, you can choose the exact temperature you want your meat to be cooked at, and you can be sure it won’t be a degree hotter.
For steak, that means your meat will be perfectly cooked through rather than having a temperature gradient – where the outside edges are overdone and the inside is below your target doneness. Lastly, since your food is tightly sealed and slowly brought up to temperature, it will be extremely juicy!
What Is Tri-Tip Exactly?
Tri-tip is a lean cut of meat that comes from the bottom sirloin. It is a somewhat odd-looking triangular piece of beef that usually weighs about two pounds.
Many people appreciate the shape because it typically means the smaller end is cooked more than the thicker side, making it easy to serve a group of people with varied doneness preferences. However, as mentioned above, sous vide minimizes the differences in temperature compared to other cooking methods.
Since tri-tip is lean, you’ll want to take extra care to carefully cut against the grain. This can be a bit tricky, so check out a video tutorial like this one if you have any doubts.
Where to Buy Tri-Tip
It can be tricky to find tri-tip, especially if you’re not on the west coast, where demand is highest. If you can’t find it at the grocery store, try asking for it at your local butcher shop. If all else fails and you really want to give tri-tip a try, several online meat vendors carry it – check out this American Wagyu black grade tri-tip from Snake River Farms if you really want to go all out! For a more modest, but still super high quality option, go with Porter Road, which dry ages all of their meat for at least 14 days.
Like most steaks, tri-tip has a nice beefy flavor that stands well on its own. For that reason I recommend simply seasoning with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Since tri-tip is a fairly large cut, you can be generous with seasoning.
If you’re looking for more complex flavor, any beef rub will work great. This Oakridge ‘Black Ops’ brisket seasoning has been one of my favorites lately.
Tri-Tip Temperature and Cooking Time
Most people recommend medium rare for tri-tip, and you definitely don’t want to go much higher since it’s a lean cut. However, because sous vide ensures that you definitely won’t overcook your meat, I opted for medium. So if you want your meat to look exactly like the photo at the top of this page, set your immersion circulator to 135° Fahrenheit. If you’re looking for medium rare, 130° will be perfect.
For cooking time, I found that 6 hours is perfect. That’s a little bit longer than what’s typically recommended for sous vide steaks, but tri-tip is larger than other cuts of steak like ribeye, strip, etc. It’s also leaner, so a little extra time to break down the meat is helpful in creating a tender piece of beef.
Sous Vide Tri-Tip Recipe
So long as you have an immersion circulator, then this recipe is really simple. It really focuses more on technique than any special combination of ingredients.
- Whole tri-tip (~2 pounds)
- Salt, pepper, garlic powder OR beef rub of your choice
- Following the directions of your specific immersion circulator, set your temperature anywhere from 130° to 135° F, based on if you prefer medium rare or medium. As noted above, I used 135° for the tri-tip pictured on this page.
- Vacuum seal your meat, or use the displacement method with an everyday freezer bag.
- Let your meat cook in the water bath for 6 hours.
- When that 6 hours has almost passed, get your charcoal going so your grill will be ready to go.
- Remove your meat from its bag and season liberally. This can also be done before sous vide cooking. I haven’t noticed a difference either way.
- Finish your tri-tip by searing it directly over the hottest part of your grill, about a minute or two on each side. You may need to use tongs to hold your tri-tip on its side.
- Slice against the grain when serving.
Summing Things Up
I hope you’ll give sous vide tri-tip recipe a try. If it’s your first experience with sous vide, I promise you won’t be disappointed. Like slow-smoked barbecue, it’s totally worth the extra time and effort. And if you’ve got leftovers, thinly sliced tri-tip makes absolutely amazing sandwiches!
Let me know in the comments below if you’ve got any special sous vide tips and tricks! And I couldn’t finish this post without including our awesome sous vide infographic – check it out if you’re new to the technique!
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