Things You'll Need
Tri-tip roast, 2 1/2 pounds to 3 pounds or larger
Charcoal, gas or electric smoker
Wood chips for smoking
Instant read thermometer
Kosher salt to taste
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. cayenne powder (optional)
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. oregano
Tri-tip is a triangular cut of beef from the bottom sirloin. It is popular and readily available in California, but somewhat hard to find in the rest of the country. You can order it from your butcher; it is also known as a bottom sirloin tip or a triangle roast. It is a tender cut of meat well-suited to a barbecue grill or smoker. For smoking, select a well-marbled roast that has not had the fat cap trimmed off; the fat adds flavor and juiciness to the final product.
Salt the tri-tip roast over its entire surface. Combine the dry rub ingredients (or you can substitute your favorite dry rub recipe.) Liberally dust the surface of the tri-tip and pat or rub it into the meat. Allow the meat to marinate in the dry rub for at least one hour; you can refrigerate it overnight if you like. Take the meat out of the refrigerator one hour before cooking to allow it to come to room temperature.
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Soak the wood chips in water for 30 minutes before using them. Oak is a popular choice for smoking tri-tip; hickory and mesquite also work well.
Start the fire in your charcoal smoker at least 30 minutes before you start cooking or start your gas or electric smoker a few minutes before. If your smoker is equipped with a water pan, add water to the recommended level. Adjust the vents or burners to reach a temperature between 225 degrees Fahrenheit and 250 degrees Fahrenheit. When the smoker is warmed up and ready, place the tri-tip on the rack. Add wood chips to the charcoal (or the smoker box for a gas or electric model) and close the smoker.
Smoke the tri-tip for about two hours. Begin checking the meat's temperature with an instant read thermometer after about one-and-one-half hours. Remove the roast when the meat reaches the desired doneness: about 125 degrees Fahrenheit for rare, 135 degrees Fahrenheit for medium rare, 145 degrees Fahrenheit for medium. Allow the meat to rest for 15 to 20 minutes; the temperature will continue to rise another five degrees or so. Slice the meat across the grain and serve.
Never use your smoker indoors. It can release carbon monoxide, which can cause asphyxiation.