Can tri tip be smoked like brisket?

Are you tired of the same old BBQ recipes? Ready to spice things up with a new cut of meat to smoke? You’ve probably heard of brisket, but what about tri tip? This lean and flavorful beef cut is a delicious alternative for your next smoking adventure.

But can tri tip be smoked like brisket? The answer is a resounding yes. And the results are heavenly. Unlike brisket, which requires hours upon hours of preparation and cooking time, tri tip can be smoked in just a few hours, making it perfect for those busy weeknights or impromptu backyard gatherings.

What exactly is tri tip, you ask? It’s a triangular-shaped cut that comes from the bottom sirloin of the cow. In recent years, it has gained popularity thanks to its rich flavor and tender texture. And while it may not have the same level of fame as brisket, we believe it’s an underrated gem that deserves more attention.

In this blog post, we’ll dive into the world of smoking tri tip and how it compares to smoking brisket. We’ll cover everything from the best cuts of tri tip to use, to the most effective smoking techniques that will help you achieve that perfect flavor and texture. So get ready to fire up your smoker and take your BBQ game to the next level with this delicious alternative cut of meat.


What is Tri Tip?

Tri Tip: The Versatile and Flavorful Beef Cut

If you’re a meat lover, you may have heard of Tri Tip, the beef cut that hails from the bottom sirloin region of the cow. This triangular-shaped cut weighs between 1.5 and 2.5 pounds and is about 2 inches thick. But what makes Tri Tip stand out from other cuts of meat?

One of the key features that makes Tri Tip unique is its versatility. Whether you prefer to grill, roast, broil, or smoke your meat, Tri Tip can be cooked using a variety of methods. However, due to its lean nature, it requires extra care during cooking to avoid drying out.

To keep Tri Tip moist and flavorful, it’s common to marinate or rub it with spices before cooking. This not only adds flavor but also helps retain moisture during cooking. Another option is to wrap the Tri Tip in bacon before cooking. The bacon adds an additional layer of flavor and helps keep the meat juicy.

When it comes to smoking Tri Tip, there are some key differences to keep in mind compared to smoking brisket. Unlike brisket, which can take up to 16 hours to smoke due to its fatty nature, Tri Tip takes only 2-3 hours due to its smaller size and leaner composition. Despite this shorter cook time, it still requires attention and care during the smoking process to ensure that it doesn’t dry out.

Perhaps one of the most important things to remember when cooking Tri Tip is to slice against the grain for maximum tenderness. This cut has a distinct grain that runs through it, so slicing against it ensures that each bite is tender and flavorful.

Differences between Tri Tip and Brisket

While both cuts are delicious in their own way, they have significant differences that are important to consider before you start cooking.

Firstly, the location of the cuts plays a crucial role in their tenderness and fat content. Tri tip is found in the bottom sirloin region of the cow, while brisket comes from the lower chest. This difference in location results in a variance in the amount of fat marbling between the two cuts. Brisket has a higher amount of fat marbling which gives it a rich, smoky flavor and makes it more tender when cooked low and slow. Conversely, tri tip has less fat marbling and can become tough if not cooked properly.

Another difference between tri tip and brisket is their size and shape. Brisket is a large, rectangular cut that can weigh up to 20 pounds, while tri tip is smaller, typically weighing between 2-3 pounds. The shape of the cuts also affects how they cook, with brisket requiring a longer cooking time due to its size.

In terms of flavor, brisket has a rich taste that comes from its high-fat content, while tri tip has a mild beefy flavor that can be enhanced with seasoning or marinades.

Smoking these cuts is popular among meat enthusiasts, but it requires different cooking times and temperatures due to their differences in size and fat content. Brisket requires a longer cooking time at a lower temperature (around 225-250°F) to break down collagen and connective tissue. On the other hand, tri tip can be cooked at a higher temperature (around 275-300°F) for a shorter amount of time because it doesn’t have as much connective tissue.

Marinating the Tri Tip

As an expert in smoking meats, I can attest that marinating is the key to achieving a mouth-watering, tender, and flavorful tri tip.

The first step in marinating a tri tip is choosing the right marinade. You have plenty of options, from simple salt and pepper rubs to complex blends of herbs, spices, and acids. However, one of my personal favorites is a combination of garlic, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and olive oil. This marinade is not only delicious but also helps to tenderize the meat by breaking down its tough fibers.

Timing is crucial when it comes to marinating your tri tip. Allow your meat to sit in the marinade for at least 4 hours or up to overnight in the fridge. This gives enough time for the flavors to fully penetrate and tenderize the meat. It’s essential to keep the meat fully coated in the marinade and store it in an airtight container or plastic bag while marinating.

Now that your tri tip is perfectly marinated, it’s time to smoke it low and slow. Maintaining an ideal temperature range between 225°F and 250°F is crucial to achieving optimal results. Using wood chips or chunks that complement the flavors of your marinade adds an extra layer of smoky aroma to your meat.

In summary, marinating your tri tip before smoking it is a vital step in producing a tender and flavorful end result. Here are some additional tips to help you perfect your smoked tri tip:

  • Experiment with different marinades until you find one that suits your taste.
  • Don’t skimp on marinating time; it’s worth the wait.
  • Choose wood chips or chunks that complement your marinade for an added layer of flavor.
  • Can tri tip be smoked like brisket-2

  • Remember to maintain a consistent temperature throughout the smoking process.

Wrapping the Tri Tip in Bacon

Wrapping the Tri Tip in Bacon adds both flavor and moisture to the meat, resulting in a tender and juicy tri tip that will impress your guests.

Can tri tip be smoked like brisket-3

To start, lay out several bacon slices on a cutting board, slightly overlapping each other. Place your tri tip on top of the bacon slices and wrap them around the meat, securing them with toothpicks or kitchen twine. The bacon not only adds a delicious taste but also acts as a protective layer for the meat, preventing it from drying out during the smoking process.

Now it’s time to get smoking. Keep an eye on the temperature to ensure that it cooks evenly throughout. The ideal temperature for smoking a tri tip is 225-250 degrees Fahrenheit, and it should take approximately 1.5-2 hours to cook fully, depending on the size of your tri tip.

Once your tri tip has reached an internal temperature of 135-140 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s time to remove it from the smoker and let it rest for at least 10-15 minutes before slicing. This resting period allows for the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, resulting in ultimate tenderness.

But let’s talk about the real star of this show: the flavor. The smoky aroma of the bacon infuses into the tri tip, creating an irresistible taste and aroma that will leave your guests raving. The bacon not only adds flavor but also keeps the meat moist and juicy throughout the cooking process.

Can tri tip be smoked like brisket-4

Cooking Time for Tri Tip vs Brisket

Let’s start with the smaller, leaner tri tip. Weighing in at around 2-3 pounds, this cut of beef is perfect for those who want a quick and easy smoke. It takes about 1.5-2 hours to smoke a tri tip at 225°F to reach medium-rare doneness. However, it’s important to note that the exact cooking time can vary depending on the size and thickness of the tri tip, as well as the temperature of your smoker.

On the other hand, the larger and fattier brisket requires more patience and time. Smoking a brisket can take anywhere from 10-14 hours at 225°F to achieve that tender, juicy texture we all crave. Cooking it low and slow is key here, allowing the fat to render and the collagen to break down over an extended period.

But wait, there’s more. The cooking time for both tri tip and brisket can vary depending on several factors, including the size and thickness of the meat, the temperature of your smoker, and even the humidity levels in your environment. To ensure that your meat is cooked to perfection every time, use a meat thermometer to monitor the internal temperature as you smoke it.

In summary, whether you’re smoking a quick and easy tri tip or a more demanding brisket, size matters. Tri tip is perfect for those who want a fast smoke that’s ready in just a couple of hours. In contrast, brisket requires more time and patience for that tender result we all crave. Don’t forget to use a meat thermometer to get the perfect level of doneness every time.

Monitoring Internal Temperature of the Tri Tip

When it comes to smoking tri tip, monitoring the internal temperature is just as vital as it is with brisket.

To achieve that succulent flavor and texture, you need to aim for an ideal internal temperature of between 130°F to 135°F for medium-rare, or 140°F to 145°F for medium. But how do you get there? It all begins with using a reliable meat thermometer.

As you smoke your tri tip, take note of the thickness of the meat. Thicker cuts will require more time to cook and may need a slightly lower temperature to avoid burning or overcooking. Thinner cuts, however, will cook faster and may require a higher temperature.

Can tri tip be smoked like brisket-5

To ensure your tri tip is cooked to perfection, accurately monitor its internal temperature by inserting the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat. Be careful not to touch any bones or fat as this can give an inaccurate reading. Check the temperature at least twice during the cooking process – once after an hour of smoking and again near the end of the cooking time.

Can tri tip be smoked like brisket-6

But your job isn’t done just yet. Once you’ve hit that ideal internal temperature range, allow your tri tip to rest for at least 10-15 minutes before slicing into it. This will give the juices time to redistribute throughout the meat, allowing for a more tender and flavorful final product.

In summary, monitoring the internal temperature of tri tip is crucial when smoking it like brisket. Here’s what you need to keep in mind:

  • Aim for an ideal internal temperature range of 130°F to 135°F for medium-rare or 140°F to 145°F for medium.
  • Take into account the thickness of the meat when determining cooking time and temperature.
  • Use a reliable meat thermometer and check the temperature at least twice during the cooking process.
  • Let your tri tip rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing into it for optimal results.

Tips for Smoking a Perfect Tri Tip

Can tri tip be smoked like brisket-7

This flavorful and tender cut of beef is perfect for smoking, as long as you follow these tips.

Choose the Right Wood

The wood you use for smoking can make a big difference in the final flavor of your tri tip. Oak, hickory, mesquite, or fruitwoods like apple or cherry are all great options that can infuse delicious smoky notes into the meat.


While tri tip is already packed with flavor, a simple seasoning blend of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder can enhance its natural taste. Don’t overdo it with heavy seasoning that can overpower the meat’s flavor.

Temperature Control

To get that perfectly smoked tri tip, you need to maintain a consistent temperature range of 225-250°F throughout the cooking process. This slow and low approach will ensure that the meat is juicy and tender.

Proper Internal Temperature

Using a meat thermometer is essential to ensure that your tri tip reaches an internal temperature of 135-140°F for medium-rare doneness. Once it’s done, let it rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing.


When it’s time to slice your tri tip, remember to always go against the grain. This will help maximize tenderness and ensure that each bite is bursting with flavor. For best results, slice thin pieces that will allow you to savor every aspect of the meat.

aeE8LO1AGKk” >


In summary, tri tip is a scrumptious and versatile cut of meat that can be smoked to perfection with the right approach. Despite not having the same level of notoriety as brisket, this underappreciated gem has a lot to offer. Tri tip is a triangular-shaped slice that hails from the bottom sirloin of the cow and weighs between 1.5 and 2.5 pounds.

When smoking tri tip, it’s crucial to remember its lean nature and smaller size in comparison to brisket. It necessitates extra caution during cooking to prevent drying out, but marinating or wrapping it in bacon can help preserve moisture and enhance flavor. Unlike brisket, which may take up to 16 hours to smoke due to its fatty composition, tri tip only requires 2-3 hours due to its smaller size and leaner makeup.

To achieve that ideal flavor and texture when smoking tri tip, choose the proper wood for smoking, sustain a constant temperature range of 225-250°F throughout the cooking process, use a meat thermometer to monitor internal temperature precisely, and slice against the grain for maximum tenderness.

By adhering to these tips and techniques, you’ll be able to smoke a delectable tri tip that will wow your guests at your next BBQ gathering.

Scroll to Top