Tri Tip: California Beef Cut

Tri Tip: California Beef Cut
Tri Tip

Tri Tip


What is Tri Tip?

Tri Tip is one of three cuts from the bottom sirloin subprimal cut. The other two are the ball tip and the boneless flap.  All are separated by a natural seam in the meat. The tri tip cut is a boneless and triangular-shaped cut of meat consisting of the tensor fasciae latae muscle. There are only two cuts of tri tip per animal. It is given a NAMP item number 185C or 185D, the difference being in the amount of fat on the beef: the 185D has nearly all of the surface fat and membranous tissue removed. The tri tip is also known as bottom sirloin or triangle roast.  This cut is an important part of traditional Santa Maria Style Barbecue.


History of the Tri Tip: Uniquely Californian Beef Cut

The tri tip wasn’t always as popular as it is today. Its history dates back to the 1950s when a butcher named Bob Shutz from Santa Maria, California, used the piece of meat on a rotisserie rather than using it up for ground beef or stew meat, as was the general use for it back then. It was called ‘tri tip’ due to the shape of the meat cut, and it eventually became a signature West Coast cut of beef.

Tri Tip: Lean Cut of Beef

Because of its odd shape, the ends are sometimes cut off, against the grain, to square up the roast. The cut the ends may be cut into strips or cubes for simmered dishes or stews. The tri tip whole roast can also be cut into steaks, but if they are to be grilled, it is best to cut them at least an inch thick. Tri tip roasts take to dry rubs really well. Just rub on the seasoning, and grill or keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 hours in advance.

While the tri tip is considered a lean cut of beef, it is tender and boneless which makes it suitable for barbecuing on the grill or roasting in the oven.

Santa Maria Style BBQ

The tri tip is one of three California components for the traditional Santa Maria Style BBQ: the tri tip (sirloin beef), red oak wook, and pinquito beans.


Renee’s love for tri tip almost surpasses her love for cake. Almost. Really, it’s a tough call here. When she’s not tasting BBQ and dipping in the sauce, Renee can be found at