The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke
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Tri-Tip Try Again

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Last Monday I made a tri-tip for the first time, as detailed in the blog entry MORE WISH FULFILLMENT. My second attempt at a tri-tip was about as good as it gets. That was due to 3 or possibly 4 simple improvements, which I will discuss in this brief blog entry. There are no new pictures this time around as I was too busy cooking two tri-tips and monitoring the temperatures more closely.

I made my first tri-tip during the week for two reasons: One I wanted to work out the bugs on this new to me, piece of meat. Two I honestly couldn’t wait for the weekend to try it. I never thought I’d find this cut here in New England. Working from home without the 2 hour commute allowed me to start it before work and cook it as soon as I knocked off for the day.

Me, I wasn’t so happy with my first attemp. While I was somewhat pleased with the results, I still felt there was room for improvement. Specifically, there were 3 items I felt could be changed:
  • I didn’t get as good a sear as I might have hoped for.
  • The recipe called for a 135 (57 C) degree ending temperature, which I felt was just a bit to rare. There was a lot of juices left on the cutting board. I doubled checked the roast with an instant read meat thermometer, so I am sure it really was 135 degrees (57 C).
  • The rest time of only 5 minutes may also have contributed to the large amount of runoff juices. Better to let those absorb back into the meat than end up on the platter when you start carving the meat.

In the process of making the marinade I discovered a 4th item that would address a personal feeling I had about the meat. I am not a huge vinegar fan. I don’t mind it in a recipe as long as it is disguised by the other flavors. In my first tri-tip I detected a bit of a vinegar flavor which I wouldn’t have missed if it wasn’t there. The first batch of marinade I made up on Saturday was wrong. I put 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of the balsamic vinegar into it instead of one. This was due to a mistake reading the list of ingredients, and I’d be willing to bet I made the same mistake last Monday too. Moral of the story: read twice measure once.

The sear was easily fixed I thought. When I fired up the grill last Monday,it was 41 degrees (5 C). I didn’t dial up the temperature settings at all like I have been in my cold weather grilling sessions. I set the knobs to medium I didn’t get a great sear, even leaving it on for an extra minute on each side. The other possible contributor is the tank was about 1/3 full, and as I have found with winter grilling: The tank pressure drops off much faster in the cold. So Saturday when I fired up the grill I set the knobs not to Medium, but one notch over Medium. Once the grill had heated for 15 minutes, I held my hand over the burners and fond I was still not getting much actual heat out of the flame. This happens in the summer when the tank is down to the very bottom. I have discovered in the Winter the last third of a tank doesn’t give you much pressure and therefor little heat. So I swapped out the tank for a full one and noticed a big difference in the temps when I held my hand over the grill grate a second time. The higher temps also allowed the meat to finish off indirectly in the exact time the recipe predicted. Last time it ran long.

This time around I took the meat to 140 degrees (60 C) and let it rest for 10 minutes. It was still a nice reddish pink in the middle but more pink than red. Also the meat was still moist and juicy while there was far less juice left behind on the platter. It had absorbed back into the meat where it belongs. The end results were amazing. The sear gave the outside of the meat a taste very much like a well seared steak, while the inside was moist and tender and it had the consistency of a great beef roast. This time around I detected no residual vinegar flavor which is just how I like it. Everybody loved it and I would say if you try this petite cut you should make two or three. Just make sure to have extra because everyone will keep going back for one more slice.

Sometimes a few simple things can make a big difference in the results. The dry run during the week helped the weekend meal for my parents be that much better. So if it isn’t just the way you like it, it does pay to experiment a bit.


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