Steak is a treat to eat, but cooking it can be intimidating, and some cuts seem more daunting to cook than others.
One of the most flavorful cuts of beef is the tri-tip. It’s filled with flavor, but many rookie cooks avoid it since its shape may confuse those who don’t know the proper way of slicing it.
However, a set of simple instructions is the only thing separating you from properly cut, tender pieces of this steak. Read on to learn how to cut a tri-tip steak the proper way.
What Is a Tri-Tip Steak?
The Tri-Tip is easily recognizable thanks to its unique shape. It’s a triangular cut of beef taken from the bottom sirloin near the cow’s rear.
This cut can weigh between 3 to 5 pounds depending on how big the cow is. It’s also usually around 2 to 3 inches thick.
This cut of beef is one of the most flavorful ones you can get, and when cooked properly, offers a tender chew. It is lean, but it also has a decent amount of fat that gives it a buttery taste.
You can cook tri-tip with the usual steak seasoning of salt, pepper, and herbs or even do a tri-tip roast which will be just as flavorful. This cut of beef is also known to absorb the flavors of a marinade well.
How to Cut a Tri Tip Steak
While it seems intimidating and easy to screw up, the proper way to cut tri-tip steak isn’t difficult. All you need are a sharp, high-quality knife, a chopping board, and the know-how.
1. Find the Direction of the Grain
Knowing how the grain runs through your tri-tip is needed to get tender slices of this steak. This is where most rookies go wrong, but it is crucial in cutting tri-tip steaks.
The meat’s grain is the direction in which the muscle fibers run. Tri-tip has two different grain directions converging in the middle.
Some say the grain of this cut of meat starts at the top point and fans out toward the ends. Thanks to the tri-tip’s shape, they are easy to identify.
Now that you’ve identified the direction where the tri-tip’s muscle fibers are running, knowing how to slice a tri-tip steak would be a simple task.
2. Slice the Tri-Tip Into Two Parts
Slice the tri-tip in half, particularly where the two grains meet. An easy tell is the top point of your meat.
From the top point, slice right down toward the steak’s inner corner. You should have two pieces of steak, one usually longer than the other.
3. Cut the Steak Across the Grain
Look at the grain running across each half. Cut perpendicular to the grain on both pieces of steak. This is known as cutting or slicing “against the grain.”
When you slice tri-tip steak, aim to cut each piece a quarter of an inch in thickness. This hits the sweet spot for a tender bite instead of a chewy one.
If you intend to serve the steak slices individually, you can make half-inch slices. However, the general rule is that thinner slices are easier to chew than thicker ones.
Try to cut tri-tip steaks “on a bias,” which you can do by holding your sharp knife at an angle while making a slice perpendicular to the grain.
Should You Cut or Slice a Tri-Tip?
The consensus on this is: yes. Tri-tip is a flavorful cut, but if you serve it as a thick piece, it’s one tough piece of meat to chew on.
For serving tri-tip, the best thickness is usually 1/4 inch. This gives you enough meat on every bite while maintaining great texture and a tender bite. Thinner slices are better.
Additionally, as previously established, slicing against the grain is a must-do when serving this meat cut.
When Is the Best Time to Cut Tri-Tip?
Technically, you can cut or slice tri-tip before or after cooking. However, most people consider it better to cut after slicing the meat.
If you wait until the tri-tip is cooked before slicing it, you keep the meat’s integrity. This lets the steak hold on to the moisture inside, resulting in a juicy, delicious cut.
Why Should You Cut Tri-Tip Against the Grain?
Slicing against the grain is crucial to get the most tender tri-tip or any other cuts of beef and pork. This goes the same for carving a tri-tip roast. Doing the opposite results in a rubbery, chewy bite.
When you slice tri-tip against the grain, you pull against the muscle fibers. This results in a tender cut of meat, making it easier to chew through.
The opposite retains the muscle’s strength, making it tougher to eat. For best results, remember to cut the tri tip with your knife at a slight angle.
Should You Remove the Fat Cap of a Tri-Tip?
While it’s not necessary, it’s best practice to have the fat cap of your tri-tip trimmed.
You don’t have to get rid of all the fat on your tri-tip. You can leave a bit of it for added moisture. However, large and thick chunks of fat need to be removed.
Despite being a thick cut, tri-tip cooks quickly. This gives the fat cap on your meat to render down, leaving chewy pieces on your steak.
Another reason is that if you don’t trim the fat cap, it can hide the silverskin on your meat.
Like brisket, this type of meat has silverskin that you also want to get rid of. If you leave it on, you’ll also end up with tougher, chewier pieces.
Luckily, when you go to the butcher to get your tri-tip, you can purchase it trimmed or untrimmed. However, you can save a few dollars by trimming it yourself.
What Are the Best Ways to Cook Tri-Tip?
The tri-tip cut is versatile, and you can cook it in numerous ways. Since it’s a lean piece of meat, it’s best to use quick cooking methods when preparing it.
A popular way of doing so is by grilling or smoking the tri-tip for a nice outdoor barbecue.
Alternatively, you can sear it on a pan on your range and let the cooking finish in the oven.
If you want your tri-tip to maintain its tenderness, avoid cooking it beyond medium. However, if you want to do so, marinating can help.
Preparing Tri-Tip Before Cooking
If you’re going for flavor, tri-tip works well with both wet and dry rubs before setting it on the grill, pan-searing, or roasting it.
Another popular way to get flavor into your tri-tip is by marinating it before cooking.
How Long Should You Let Tri Tip Rest Before Cutting?
For best results, let it rest for anywhere between five to ten minutes before slicing the tri tip into thin slices.
When slicing a tri-tip steak, it is vital to wait for the meat to rest after cooking. Doing so gives the juices in your tri-tip enough time to redistribute.
Resting your steak before slicing it results in juicy and more flavorful bites.
You can cook tri-tip in numerous ways, but it’s crucial to know how to cut the steak when serving it.
Luckily, the principle involved here can be used to cook other meat cuts. Level up your cooking game, try this out for yourself, and start cutting the right way!