Perfect Steak for Father’s Day: Tri-tip


What do you cook for the important man in your life?  For Father’s Day, I’d choose this delicious tri-tip recipe.

Tri-tip is the unsung hero of steak.  It’s not a cut that’s common on the East Coast.  It’s at the bottom of the sirloin, weighing usually only 1-2.5 lbs.  The cut was made famous when a butcher in the 1950’s in Santa Maria, California started to sell it. Tri-tips are still most popular in central California.  They have a very beefy flavor, a lower fat content, and are a less expensive cut of meat.

My first experience eating at tri-tip was at a cousin’s home outside of San Francisco.  I had never heard of the cut but fell in love with it’s meaty flavor. Whenever we’ve come across a tri-tip in a butcher’s case it’s the first item we choose.  Sliced thinly against the grain, this steak is a tender, lean, and delicious. It’s the perfect leftover in a sandwich.  That is if you can save any for leftovers!

Typically only salt, pepper, and garlic is used as a rub.  But I stumbled upon a delicious recipe when reading Meg in Progress last week.  It’s Thomas Keller’s recipe for tri-tip out of the Ad Hoc at Home cookbook. I thought: what?! A tri-tip recipe in a cookbook that’s sitting in my kitchen!?  Why had I not found this recipe before!  Well, it was the perfect thing to cook for dinner.  I guess I had tri-tip on my mind. (and one in the fridge!)

Keller’s recipe uses both sweet paprika and piment d’Espelette. I did make a few changes as I didn’t have any fresh rosemary on hand nor did I read the piment correctly in the recipe. I used smoked spanish paprika instead. I’ll be curious to do this again and use the piment to enjoy the bright spice accenting beefy meat and the bright lemon. The thinly sliced lemon was lovely on the meat.  In the future, I’ll let the meat marinate in the rub for the whole 24 hours.  This time I only had a few hours but nonetheless the flavor was fantastic.  Searing the meat before roasting is essential to seal in the juices. Roasting at 300 degrees slowly cooks the meat and makes it very tender (helping to break down a tougher piece of meat).  The 30 minute rest is crucial to the tri-tip-be patient it’s worth those extra 30 mins. And don’t forget to slice is against the grain-if not you’ll have a tough piece of meat!

Tri-tip steak (slightly adapted from Ad Hoc at Home)


  • 1.5-2.5lb tri-tip (silver skin removed)
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp piment d'Espelette (or be like me who never reads directions correctly and used spanish smoked paprika)
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • kosher salt
  • canola oil
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed, skin left on
  • 5 thin slices of lemon (Meyer preferred)


  1. Combine pepper, paprika, and piment together.
  2. Rub mixture all over meat, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 24 hours.
  3. Set oven to 300 degrees.
  4. Set aside a roasting pan with rack.
  5. Take tri-tip out of refrigerator, pat dry with paper towels.
  6. Put a large frying pan on stove over high heat.
  7. Add in approximately a tbsp of oil.
  8. Sear meat on 1 side for about 1 minute, until it is browned.
  9. Flip over meat and add in lemon slices to the side.
  10. Add in the tablespoon of butter and baste the meat.
  11. Transfer meat to rack in roasting pan.
  12. Arrange lemon slices on top of meat and add crushed garlic clove to the top.
  13. Cook in oven for approximately 30-50 minutes depending on size of tri-tip.
  14. The center of the tri-tip should read 135 degrees on a meat thermometer.
  15. When temperature has been reached take roast out and set on stove for 30 minutes to rest.
  16. Slice meat against the grain.


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