How to Slice a Tri-Tip

Posted on: January 18, 2023

For you to get savory, tender, and succulent meat on the dinner table, your smoking process should not end at the food smoker. How you allow your meat to rest and how you slice it goes a long way in influencing the quality of your meat. It’s good to scan through available material to learn how to slice the particular cut of meat perfectly.

In this blog, we are going to share with you the easiest way to slice tri-tip.

What Is a Tri-Tip?

Tri-tip is a triangular steak made from cuts of the tri-tip roast. It’s also called Santa Maria steak after the California town’s annual barbecue festival made the tri-tip roast famous. The boneless steaks are lean and succulent with a good degree of marbling, averaging around 1-inch thick.

Tri-tip is a delicious steak with a pleasant meaty flavor and a soft chew. Although it is a leaner cut of beef, it has a significant quantity of fat, which gives it a buttery flavor. It’s also one of the most accessible cuts of meat, but you might have to marinade it two to three hours before smoking it to allow the flavors to absorb well.

Slicing a Tri-Tip

Once you have allowed your well-smoked beef to rest on aluminum foil, the next step will be to slice it to serve. Though it may seem an easy do-it-yourself task, slicing it wrong might affect the meat’s quality. But this should no longer be a hassle as we will share simple steps to follow for the best outcome.

The best way to slice any cut of meat is always against the grain to increase juice retention. The first thing you need to understand is that a tri-tip cut comes from a lean steak that is made up of different grain directions. This unique attribute makes it more difficult to slice tri-tip than any other meat. Tri-tip tenderness is mainly determined by how it is sliced after being smoked. A nicely smoked steak can become tough and chewy if the meat is sliced incorrectly.

A tri-tip’s grain extends radially from the meat’s corner opposite the crook, which means slicing each piece after cutting it in half from edge to crook yields the best results. You could technically start at the thinnest corner and cut crosswise to the grain as you go, but keep in mind that you’ll need to modify the angle of your knife a little each time. After all, we’re cutting a great piece of steak here, not a vegetable. This is why we want it to be sliced into two pieces. It will be easier to get slices parallel to the grain this way.

When to Slice a Tri-Tip

You can do it either way, but most people agree that cutting it after it’s been cooked is easier. Also, keeping the cut’s integrity throughout cooking will keep the moisture inside, making your “steaks” much more succulent than if you sliced them before and smoked them separately. It’s up to you how you cook it, but we recommend smoking it over indirect heat and then wrapping it to allow the chunk of meat to rest. This is an essential food smoking process that allows the juices to reabsorb into the meat. But you can also enhance the juiciness by marinating the tri-tip before smoking it.

A Step-by-Step Approach

  1. Allow your well-smoked steak to rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing. This is essential to ensure all the juices reabsorb.
  2. The next step is to find the point where the two grains cross and cut vertically, roughly halving the roast. In most cases, one side should always be greater in length compared to the other. The idea is to know the exact point to slice the tri-tip into two halves.
  3. Carefully examine the grain of each piece of tri-tip and slice each half perpendicular to the grain as described earlier. We recommend bending your knife at an angle, commonly known as “cutting on a bias.”
  4. You can do thinly sliced tri-tip for optimum tenderness, which is preferred over thick slices.
  5. Serve your well-sliced, tender tri-tip with any preferred side of choice.

These are clear, simple tips that will significantly help you become a fully equipped pitmaster.


You now have the best skills to guide you through your next tri-tip smoking session, increasing your confidence. This is because you can now transfer the tenderness and deliciousness of your meat as it looks on the grill to the plate.

Remember, taking a few moments to examine the grain of the tri-tip before cooking it, and then again when it’s done, can help you understand the grain and plan your cuts ahead of time. It will also save you time, allowing no room for the cut of meat to dry out.

Interested in more articles about smoking meat? Well, you’re in the right place! Check out these articles we have prepared for you:
Expert Advice: Should I Smoke Meat Fat-Side Up or Fat-Side Down?
Top 5 Healthy Fatty Meats You Can Smoke
Dry Rubs: Sprinkle or Rub Smoked Meat?
How to Smoke Multiple Types of Meat Together

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