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Beef tri-tip

Other Names: Whole: Bottom sirloin butt, corner cut, knuckle cap, punta en triángulo (Spanish), Santa Maria barbecue, sirloin triangle muscle, triangle roast, triangle tip. Steaks: Coulotte steak, triangle steak.

General Description: The tri-tip is a curved triangular muscle cut from the bottom sirloin that is just about the tastiest beef one can purchase at a reasonable price. In the late 1950s, a butcher in Santa Maria, California, chose to rotisserie-roast this neglected cut rather than grind it. Tasters found it a perfect balance of taste and tenderness. Tri-tip’s popularity quickly spread throughout the central coast of California. Because many American meat packers still ship their tri-tip to California, this cut is less easily found elsewhere. Tri-tip makes great roast beef sandwiches, takes well to dry-rubs and marinades, and adapts beautifully to bold flavors. Tri-tip is also sold cut into steaks known as triangle steaks or coulotte, although coulotte generally refers to the top sirloin cap.

Part of Animal: The tri-tip is the butt portion of the bottom sirloin.

Characteristics: This 1 1/2- to 2 1/2-pound roast is lean and tender, with pronounced grain that runs in a curve through its length. There is visible fat running through the muscle, which is shaped like a triangle. When slicing, follow the grain as it changes, and always cut against the grain for tenderness.

How to Choose: The whole tri-tip has little waste and is a perfect roast to feed four to five people. Tri-tip makes an excellent steak if it’s cut at least 3/4 inch thick. Choose the largest tri-tip with moderate marbling.

Amount to Buy: Buy 6 to 12 ounces per person. This cut won’t shrink much because it’s cooked quickly.

Storage: Refrigerate tri-tip for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before cooking.


  1. Trim off excess surface fat, if necessary. Marinate or dry-rub with spices and refrigerate up to 24 hours.
  2. Leave whole to roast or cook in a covered grill. (To make steaks, cut across the grain into steaks 1 inch thick.)
  3. Oven-roast at 400°F for 20 to 30 minutes, or pan-sear over high heat and finish in a hot oven (400°F) until it reaches the desired temperature.
  4. Remove from the heat, cover with foil, and let rest 5 to 10 minutes before carving. The temperature will rise about 5°F as it rests.

Flavor Affinities: Allspice, chile peppers, Chinese black bean sauce, Chinese five-spice powder, cumin, Dijon mustard, garlic, horseradish, oregano, paprika, salsa.

from Quirk Books: