California Grilling: How to Make the Perfect Tri-Tip Steak

 Alamy

The people of the central California coast like to cook out. A lot. It makes sense considering the weather conditions, which support vibrant local farms, cattle ranches and vineyards while also allowing for eating outside year round. Central Coast barbecues look a little different than those in other parts of the country. Of course, local wine is the libation of choice. There’s the Italian influence in garlic bread and macaroni. Rich Mexican heritage is represented by pinquinto beans and salsa which accompany the most unique part— a specific cut of meat called the Tri-Tip. The somewhat lesser known cut is from the bottom of the sirloin, and it's triangular in shape. What makes it so appealing is the tender meat is the marbling, or fat content, which, if cooked appropriately, brings a mouth-feel and flavor similar to prime rib at a fraction of the cost. In fact, many butchers familiar with the cut call it the “poor man’s prime rib.”

Most cuts of Tri-Tip come in around two pounds. And, outside of the auspices of a Central California, where it's common to be set up with local oak and a retractable grill, it's best prepared on a stovetop and finished in a hot oven. Here’s how..

Season a 2-lb, trimmed Tri-Tip with equal parts salt, black pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Let rest at room temperature for an hour.

Pre-heat the oven to 400.

In a large saute pan, over medium-high heat, add two tablespoons of vegetable or peanut oil until shimmering.

Sear the Tri-Tip on each wide side for four minutes per side.

Using tongs, hold the meat on the long sides and bottom on the heat for two minutes per (the tongs keeping the meat from falling over considering its odd shape). The entire surface of the cut should be seared a dark brown.

Transfer to a roasting dish and put in the oven for 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and let rest for 10-15 minutes (till internal temperature is 125-130).

Slice thin against the grain for sandwiches/sliders, fajitas or tacos.

Slice thick against the grain into slabs for a more traditional steak function.

Some red wine could be used to deglaze the pan and make a sauce (combined with the juices accumulated in the roasting dish).