Bring on the Heat of Summer- Spicy Grilled Tri-Tip with a Trio of Salsa

I am going to eke out a bit more summer with this recipe for Spicy Grilled Tri-Tip with a trio of interesting salsa tastes that includes something for every palate. I say “eke out a bit more summer”, but that’s not quite true in two regards. First– technically, there are 6 more days of summer to be had. Secondly– summer never really came to Los Angeles this year. I kept waiting for it to get hot, but the heat never sat its big butt down on this town. So I have decided before the summer ekes away I am going to bring this city a little heat of my own. My brand of heat comes from chili– several kinds. Including cayenne, habanero, and Serrano. Because if Mother Nature hasn’t been able to make this Angelino sweat, then I am going to bring the heat in my own delicious way. A Trio of Salsa.

But just to let you know how sensitive I am to whatever heat may have come your way this summer (I hear it was blazing on the East Coast nearly all summer long) one of the salsas I am featuring is quite mild. It is a grilled corn salsa featuring one of the mildest chilis I know Anaheim chili.

tri-tipBut let’s start with the meat. It’s a cut of meat I had never heard of before I moved to California. Here we call it Tri-Tip. It is most typically seen as a roast about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 pounds each. It comes from the bottom of the sirloin, and has a triangular shape, as you might expect from its name. Not only does it have a great flavor, but it also tends to be lower in fat than most other cuts, so it’s a good lean meat– if that’s important to you.

The main reason I hadn’t heard of Tri-Tp until I moved here is because traditionally most butchers ground it into hamburger. This was (& still remains somewhat) a common practice because there is only one Tri-Tip per side of beef. Most butchers considered it a waste of display space to sell the Tri-Tip all by itself. These days most of the carving is done at packing warehouses and sold in whatever quantity the vendor needs. So the availability of the cut has increased due to the versatility this system offers.

tri-tip on the grillBut as is the case with most things Californian, interest has grown nationwide for this cut of meat. So it’s now possible to find it in many places across the country. Especially in the large shopping club stores like Costco and Sam’s Club. If you are not familiar with it I suggest you seek it out because this often overlooked a piece of meat is not only relatively inexpensive but also very flavorful.

As I said it’s quite lean for beef so be careful not to overcook it, particularly when preparing the full roast. Medium-rare is this cut’s ideal, and it should never be cooked past medium as it dries out easily. So grill it low or over indirect heat, no more than 30 to 40 minutes, depending on size. Another good tip to remember is to fold the small narrow tips in before taking the meat to the grill. This will keep them from overcooking. You can tie the roast into this configuration if it’s easier for you, but I find if I cook it few minutes, with the folded-under side against the rack of the grill, it will hold Foood & Wine Pairing for Durigutti Bonardothat shape nicely throughout the rest of the cooking.

Trio of Salsa

Now let’s turn our attention to the trio of salsa recipes. I deliberately chose a variety of tastes, textures, and colors. You can vary the heat, if you like, to suit your own tastes. But I chose these versions because their varied style and degree of heat is diverse enough to please all palates. CLICK on the titles below for a printable recipe.

Spicy Papaya-Carrot Salsa: This is an unusual salsa from Martha Stewart. Full of sweet notes and spicy habanero flavor. It’s great with beef, but I also serve it with all kinds of fish.

Spicy Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa: This is one of my favorite salsas. I serve it with everything from brined, grilled shrimp to beef. Add an equal measure of cold yogurt and you’ll have a terrific summer soup.

Grilled Corn Salsa: This version gets its glory from sweet summer corn. I used mild Anaheim chilis but you can easily ramp up the volume with either jalapeno or chipotle peppers.

With bold beef flavor and variable heat, this recipe could prove difficult to pair with wines. My brother Grant brilliantly sought out an affordable Argentinian wine, a bonarda– from Durigutti. It may be a new grape to you so read more here.

Spicy Grilled Tri-Tip with a Trio of Salsa serves 6 CLICK here for a printable recipe

Method for cooking meat adapted from Bobby Flay


tri tipHeat a grill til coals are white and faintly glowing.

Prepare Seasoning Mixture:
Mix black pepper, cayenne pepper, onion powder, cumin, granulated garlic and 6 salt together in a small bowl.

Prepare Basting Sauce:
Whisk together vinegar, oil and minced garlic in another small bowl. Set aside to infuse at least 20 minutes.

Prepare the Tri-Tips:
Coat both sides of the tri-tips with half of the seasoning mixture, rubbing it in as you would a dry rub. Let rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. Place the tri-tips over a low-temperature fire, 1 with fat side up, and the other with fat side down. Turn as the first side gets crispy, approximately 6 to 8 minutes. Be careful of flare-ups, as the dripping fat will fuel the fire. Turn the tri-tips before the heat pushes juices out the top, and continue to turn using this timing method throughout the cooking process. After turning, baste with sauce and season lightly, 4 times per side. Continue turning until the tri-tips are cooked to your liking. Remove from fire and let rest for 10 minutes before cutting into 1/2‑inch slices against the grain.

Serve warm or room temperature with the trio of salsas passed at the table.


Greg Henry

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