The roast will be boneless, free of gristle, and have a 1/2 inch (1 cm) layer of fat on one side. (A variation cut without the fat is now available for the anti-fat crowd, but cooking it without the fat is probably a mistake. See Cooking Tips below.) In size, the roasts will be from 1 1/2 to 2 pounds (700 to 900 grams), about 2 inches (5 cm) thick, and feed 4 to 6 people.
The roast can be cut into steaks, though in California, it is usually left whole and barbequed as a roast.
Though this cut started life as a cheap one, it has now become expensive owing to its popularity.
Don’t trim off any fat until the meat is cooked, to let the fat help tenderize the meat.
To barbeque, sear the lean sides of it first for 5 or 10 minutes over the flames. Then, flip over onto its fat side, so that the fat is between the fire and the meat, and cook from 30 to 45 minutes depending on how rare or well-done you want it. When juice starts coming out the top, then flip one more time, so that the fat is now on the top, and cook for a final 30 to 35 minutes. Don’t cook past medium rare, or it will get tough and dry. To serve, slice thinly, across the grain.
Instead of barbequing, you can also cut into thin strips across the grain for Fajitas or stir-fry, or cube for kabobs.
Previously, the Tri-Tip was left on the Round or Sirloin and included as part of other cuts from those areas, or, it was just cut off and tossed into piles to cut up for stewing beef or grind up for Minced Beef. In most of North America, it still is rare as a separate cut (as of 2004).
An enterprising butcher “discovered” it as a separate cut in California in the 1950s. What is certain is that Safeway’s, again in California, was the first grocery store to promote it at a time when there was a glut of stewing beef and Minced Beef. It remains better known on the west coast of North America than it is on the Eastern seaboard.
Literature & Lore
Because it is cut from the end of the Sirloin Bottom, one of its names is “Bottom Sirloin Butt”, “butt” meaning as in “end”.