With Christmas and New Year’s Day around the corner—and potentially a bit less traditional than normal—you may be thinking about cooking something that isn’t a holiday standard. We love the holiday ham, a perfectly roasted beef tenderloin, or a Christmas turkey, but if you’re looking for something new to serve at home to make the holidays even more special, we have the perfect dish to try.
One tradition that seems to be growing in popularity on the West Coast, the tri-tip roast, is a perfect cut for sharing with loved ones, especially smaller groups. It’s a triangular cut from the bottom sirloin that is bursting with flavor, and its versatility allows you to create a dish that will satisfy even the most particular palate.
More and more, we are seeing the popularity of the tri-tip roast featured as part of holiday dinners for Christmas and New Year’s, especially in California. So ditch the oven and grill your holiday centerpiece this year.
One key tip for those cooking tri-tip for the first time: Before you do anything to your tri-tip roast, check its grain. Often, tri-tip roasts have grains that run in two directions, so determining this before you prepare your meat will make it easier to slice and serve later on.
Start with a Steak Rub or Marinade
While tri-tip roasts are traditionally seasoned with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic, take your dish up a notch this holiday by building upon the cut’s flavor profile with a steak rub or marinade.
Try a Smoked Chili Rub to match the warmth and coziness of the season or a Coffee-Bourbon BBQ Sauce Marinade to wake up your guests’ tastebuds. If you’re able to plan ahead, refrigerate your seasoned meat for 24 hours to maximize its flavor, and if you’re strapped for time, let it sit in the mixture for at least an hour before you cook it.
Grill or Roast Your Tri-Tip
The tri-tip roast can be cooked on the grill or in an oven. In either case, the roast should be cooked to medium-rare and is ready when it reaches an internal temperature of 120–130°F.
Grilling is the fastest way to prepare the meat, and, is perfect if the weather allows for it. Traditionally, tri-tip roasts are smoked and grilled over red oak, but you can use other wood chips, charcoal, or gas to cook your tri-tip roast. Grill the cut Santa Maria-style for a smokey, nutty flavor.
If you’d rather roast the tri-tip, preheat the oven to 425°F. Place the meat in a heavy-bottomed pan on medium heat with your favorite high-temperature cooking oil. Sear the tri-tip for three minutes per side, or until browned. Transfer the tri-tip roast to a wire rack on top of a sheet pan and cook it for 12 minutes, or until its internal temperature reaches 120°F.
Dress up Your Tri-Tip
It may be tempting to dig right into your roast once it’s cooked, but let it rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing it.
Since tri-tip roasts are so versatile, the dish will complement any of your favorite holiday sides. You can also pair the roast with a creamy Zucchini and Leek Gratin or Polenta Cake with Crispy Bacon to add another layer of sophistication and create a meal that will leave your guests coming back for more.