California Santa Maria Style Tri-Tip

READY IN: 4hrs 25mins
Recipe by FoodieWife

California Grill masters pride themselves in cooking tri-tip with oak wood. This takes a lot of time, and I don't have oak wood readily available. It's not cheap! When I found this recipe in an issue of Cook's Country Magazine (part of the Cook's Illustrated family) I knew I had to make this. Forget BBQ sauce... this is an amazing recipe! Cook's Illustrated adapted this recipe where you used wood chips, soaked in water. You grill the tri-tip, seasoned only with salt & pepper (the Santa Maria way) and-- towards the end-- you add the wet chips to the coals to give a smoky flavor to the meat. I'm telling you, if you love to eat red meat-- this is to die for! Seriously, it's worth trying.

Top Review by BecR2400

Great recipe! This is the tri-tip of my childhood in Monterey CA (near Santa Maria). Hearty tender beef that's full of smoky flavor from the wood, cooked the cowboy way. If you can't find tri-tip, use sirloin or tenderloin. Leave the fat cap on until after cooking as it helps seal in the juices (and flavor!). Be sure to let the meat rest 10-20 minutes before cutting into it, or the juices will run out. Great served with fresh salsa (see my recipe #117811) and cowboy beans. Thank you for sharing, FoodieWife.

Ingredients Nutrition


  1. Pat roast dry with paper towels. Using fork, prick roast about 20 times on each side. Combine garlic, oil, and salt and rub over roast. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
  2. Soak wood chips in bowl of water to cover for 15 minutes.
  3. Open bottom vents on grill.
  4. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (about 100 coals) and burn until charcoal is covered with fine gray ash.
  5. Pour hot coals in even layer over one half of grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, open lid vents completely, and let grill heat for 5 minutes. Scrape cooking grate clean.
  6. Using paper towels, wipe garlic paste off roast.
  7. Rub pepper and garlic salt all over meat.
  8. Grill directly over coals until well browned, about 5 minutes per side.
  9. Carefully remove roast and cooking grate from grill and scatter wood chips over coals.
  10. Replace cooking grate and arrange roast on cooler side of grill.
  11. Cover, positioning lid vents directly over meat, and cook until roast registers about 130 degrees (for medium-rare), about 20 minutes.
  12. Transfer meat to cutting board, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 20 minutes. Slice thinly across the grain. Serve.

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