What is Tri-Tip?
For anyone outside of the state of California, where tri-tip roasts first became popular, this kind of roast may be unfamiliar. It's a fairly lean cut with a texture that looks similar to a flat cut of brisket, according to Serious Eats. The roast comes from the muscle group at the bottom of the sirloin, and it contains the muscles that control the back legs of the steer. This cut of meat is known for its leanness, tenderness and full flavor. Season it with your favorite dry rub or marinate it for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator before cooking it in the oven.
This cut of meat isn't like a chuck roast, which benefits from low, slow cooking methods. Conversely, tri-tip roasts work best in high heat environments. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. While the oven heats up, place a rack inside a shallow roasting pan. Spray the rack with cooking spray or lightly coat it with olive oil before placing the roast on top. Because the roast is relatively thin, the best way to avoid overcooking it is to insert a meat thermometer in the center so you can watch the internal temperature as it roasts, as Better Homes and Gardens recommends.
Roast the tri-tip uncovered for 30 to 45 minutes depending on the level of doneness you prefer. Remove the roast from the oven when the thermometer reads 135 degrees Fahrenheit for medium rare or 150 degrees for medium. Once you remove the roast, cover it loosely with foil and let the meat rest for 15 minutes. The internal temperature will rise about 10 degrees while the meat rests. To carve the tri-tip, slice it thinly against the grain.
Braising gives you big, bold flavors and tender meat. Start by searing the meat in a Dutch oven or a heavy-bottomed pot with a lid. Sear it on all sides over medium heat. Set the roast aside and saute any vegetables you're cooking with it, such as celery, carrots and onions, in the drippings. Once the vegetables are golden, add a braising liquid such as stock or wine and add the meat back to the pot. Bring the mixture to a simmer, cover it and place it in a 400-degree oven for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours, or until the meat is fork tender. Let it rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Just as you can grill tri-tips, you can also broil them in the oven. Cutting the roast into steaks is a popular way to broil them, and it speeds up the cooking time. But you can also experiment with broiling the whole roast. Start by arranging the oven rack so the meat will be about four inches from the heat source. Then, preheat the broiler and spray a broiler pan with cooking spray. Place the tri-top steaks or roast on the pan and broil for nine to 15 minutes for steaks or about 20 to 25 minutes for a whole roast, turning the meat halfway through the cooking time to get a good sear on both sides. Watch the meat thermometer carefully to avoid overcooking this lean cut of meat.