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Unread 03-22-2011, 08:54 PM   #1
caseydog
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Default Someone tell me what's up with tri-tip?

I hear about tri-tip all the time, and I hear it is awesome.

But, every time I go to middle or Nothern California, someone hands me tri-tip in some form, and it is tasty, moist, but tough as leather.

I look at tri-tip the way I look at ANY steak at Outback Steakhouse -- people lure me into a trap. It is like Lucy with a football an I am Charlie Brown. Try this, you'll love it. Then the plate comes, and I hate it.

I ate one of "the best tri-tip sandwhiches" you can get once' and I bit into it, and half the damned meat slid out of the bun. I had this six inch beef tongue hanging down my chin and an empty bun in my hand.

So, is tri-tip like other delicacies, where most of the commercial stuff is crap, but if you do it right, it is really good?

What have I missed?

CD
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Unread 03-22-2011, 09:09 PM   #2
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Now CD... I'm no expert at all... I just did my first one and I asked for a lot of advice. I smoked it last night, and we had a VERY nice dinner with it. And today, I've just had a roll with tri-tip leftovers and it was so tender I could have pulled it, even though it was not smoked to pulling temp.

So, what I'm thinking is this.
1. If you treat any cut of meat badly, it won't forgive you
2. If you don't rest it, it will be tough.
3. If you cut it wrong, it will be tough.

Commercially, those above 3 things happen in combination, or by themselves almost every time and that's why you've always been disappointed. I can only recommend getting a tri-tip and following the advice that made me try and BBQ one. I'm a convert. Tri Tip is AMAZING!

Cheers!

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Unread 03-22-2011, 09:13 PM   #3
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Sounds like they have been overcooked, not sliced correctly, or both.
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Unread 03-22-2011, 09:18 PM   #4
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The grain in a tritip is a little weird. It's possible that whoever is slicing it isn't paying attention to the direction if the grain.


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Unread 03-22-2011, 09:21 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by caseydog View Post
I hear about tri-tip all the time, and I hear it is awesome.

But, every time I go to middle or Nothern California, someone hands me tri-tip in some form, and it is tasty, moist, but tough as leather.

I look at tri-tip the way I look at ANY steak at Outback Steakhouse -- people lure me into a trap. It is like Lucy with a football an I am Charlie Brown. Try this, you'll love it. Then the plate comes, and I hate it.

I ate one of "the best tri-tip sandwhiches" you can get once' and I bit into it, and half the damned meat slid out of the bun. I had this six inch beef tongue hanging down my chin and an empty bun in my hand.

So, is tri-tip like other delicacies, where most of the commercial stuff is crap, but if you do it right, it is really good?

What have I missed?

CD
It's very difficult to make it tender. Most of my experience has been like yours and I hang with the pros. Slicing it thin will help.
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Unread 03-22-2011, 09:24 PM   #6
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Locally I can usually find a deal on strip steak for less than tri tip. So far I'd always take the steak. If I could get tri-tip at brisket prices then I might see more of the fuss
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Unread 03-22-2011, 09:48 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Soybomb View Post
Locally I can usually find a deal on strip steak for less than tri tip. So far I'd always take the steak. If I could get tri-tip at brisket prices then I might see more of the fuss
No one should ever pay strip prices for tri-tip. I do exactly what you're doing when tip prices shoot up (they seem to be volatile): buy the better cut.

It used to be that, on the central coast of CA at least, tri-tip was cheaper than brisket and far more widely available. Not anymore.
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Unread 03-22-2011, 09:51 PM   #8
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Tri-tip is one cut of meat that is nearly impossible to hold in a restaurant for normal service. It does not react at all well to being in a cambro or being held for long in a smoker. Also, when done hot and direct, it has a tendency to have the grain loosen over heat then contract once removed.

Further complicating it, is the fact that most restaurants slice it wrong. In order to make it easier for service, they either slice it early, or have someone who does not really understand how to slice it properly.

Finally, it is most often served at a medium, even if you ask for rare, it rarely is served as anything but medium. Now, if you are actually in Santa Maria and surrounds, and can get with some of the old timers, they will show you some good tri-tip. I actually do one catering event a year, which is a tri-tip cook and quite frankly, without bragging, if you were to come to that, you would find the tri-tip to be tender, flavorful and beefy. But, I only serve once the meat comes off the grill for about 15 minutes per tri-tip, then it goes to the fridge and a new one is pulled. It just will not hold for long.
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Unread 03-22-2011, 09:52 PM   #9
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Considering all the raves I read on this forum for tri-tip, I just have to think I have never had it done right. Since most of the the big "steakhouse" chains can't cook a good steak, I guess it is possible that most vendors selling tri-tip just don't know how to cook it, either.

Tri-tip is not popular in Texas, and it is not easy to find to cook it myself. I'd like to cook some myself, but I'd have to find a good cut of meat, and study up on how to cook it.

CD
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Unread 03-22-2011, 09:54 PM   #10
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landarc hit it right on the money.
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Unread 03-22-2011, 09:56 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by caseydog View Post
So, is tri-tip like other delicacies, where most of the commercial stuff is crap, but if you do it right, it is really good?
Pretty much. Even on the central coast, where people get lots of tri-tip practice in, there's still people over cooking it and cutting it wrong.

Usually it's "BBQ" places that try to cook their tip like it's brisket, but sadly poorly-prepared tip isn't limited to those places.

If you're ever in San Luis Obispo, my benchmark restaurant tri-tip is at Firestone Grill. They have a good method going (slow cooked over oak, kept warm in an oven, then reverse sear, at least as far as I can tell) which allows them to sling a heck of a lot of tri-tip, and they are very consistent.

Cook it like the good piece of meat that it is instead of trying to beat it into submission like some people do and it will turn out great.
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Unread 03-22-2011, 09:57 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by landarc View Post
Tri-tip is one cut of meat that is nearly impossible to hold in a restaurant for normal service. It does not react at all well to being in a cambro or being held for long in a smoker. Also, when done hot and direct, it has a tendency to have the grain loosen over heat then contract once removed.

Further complicating it, is the fact that most restaurants slice it wrong. In order to make it easier for service, they either slice it early, or have someone who does not really understand how to slice it properly.

Finally, it is most often served at a medium, even if you ask for rare, it rarely is served as anything but medium. Now, if you are actually in Santa Maria and surrounds, and can get with some of the old timers, they will show you some good tri-tip. I actually do one catering event a year, which is a tri-tip cook and quite frankly, without bragging, if you were to come to that, you would find the tri-tip to be tender, flavorful and beefy. But, I only serve once the meat comes off the grill for about 15 minutes per tri-tip, then it goes to the fridge and a new one is pulled. It just will not hold for long.
Thank you! This is the kind of answer I was hoping for. It is not the meat, but how you cook it.

It sounds like another one of those cheap cuts of meat that CAN be awesome, but only if you know how to cook it.

I still want to give it a try, just to take on a challenge, but it sounds like I need to do my homework before I light up the grill.

CD
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Unread 03-22-2011, 10:01 PM   #13
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CD, basically it is just the end piece of the lower loin primal, if you can find a place that cuts t own meat, not whole animal, but one that gets primals, then you can get a tri-tip. The Ball Tip comes off the rump primal, it also works. These often end up being cut up by the butcher and sold as sirloin tips, stew meat or ground into ground sirloin and ground round. I would have to say, that a good tri-tip is right there with brisket for me in terms of meat off the BBQ.

Cook and cut, cutting is so important, to cut across the grain is key. I have to say, I can't think of many times I have seen it cut properly in a restaurant.
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Unread 03-22-2011, 10:10 PM   #14
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CD I have had luck finding tri-tip at sams. The only downfall is that I have to buy a bag full of em. So I wind up like 4-5 tri tips. My wife doesnt like em. Like you I have yet to be overjoyed with the cut. I have cooked probably 10 or so. I do the reverse sear, and pull at med-rare. Let em sit for 15 min or so under some foil, then slice across the grain. They are ok, but I can think of better cuts to spend my money on lol.
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Unread 03-22-2011, 10:18 PM   #15
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I agree with most of the previous posts. I actually didn't realize until I joined the Bretheren that tri-tip wasn't always available everywhere (I guess it's one of the few advantages to being in Southern California). I've been cooking it for years, especially at work since it's usually a fairly inexpensive way to feed a lot of guys. Over cooking will affect the tenderness more than "better" cuts of meat and slicing is key. The grain actually runs two different directions which needs to be taken into account. If it's not sliced across the grain it will be tough, even if it's not over cooked. Don't give up, it's a nice cut of beef.
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