How to Cook Tri-Tip in the Oven

How to Cook Tri-Tip in the Oven

I have a confession. The truth is that the oven is not the best way to cook tri-tip. But keep reading anyway. I have a very good reason for sharing my techniques on how to cook tri-tip in the oven.

I think it’s fair to say, and perhaps you agree– the best way to cook tri-tip is to BBQ it over the smoky embers of red oak logs in Santa Maria, California… in an earthen pit dug into the ground… while drinking Santa Barbara Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah or even a rich, oaky SB County Chardonnay… with a group of friends… at sunset.

But I can see how these ideals might prove difficult to attain on any given Sunday. So I’m here to humbly present how I cook tri-tip in the oven… at home… without a shovel.

It’s easy too. Almost too easy. That’s partly because a good tri-tip is consistently the same piece of meat. It’s not big and it’s not too thick. So with proper handling it’s easy to cook. In fact I don’t even use my trusty thermometer when I cook 2‑pound tri-tip in the oven.

That’s because I tie my tri-tip like a classic roast. I’ve never seen this done when I’ve witnessed tri-tip cooked over live fire. To me however, it just makes sense. Tri-tip is a wedge-shaped triangle (hence the name). It’s thicker on one end and tapers to a narrow point. Which means it won’t cook evenly if left as is. This can be a good thing when lots of people are gathered around the BBQ demanding meat anywhere between rare and (dare I say it?) overdone.

However, at my house we don’t serve meat past medium-rare except in the rarest of circumstances. So I use cotton butcher’s string to tie my tri-tip into a neat and consistently-sized bundle.

Wine Pairing

2010 Zaca Mesa Estate Syrah 

Zaca Mesa Estate Syrah
Greg’s Santa Maria Style oven-barbecued tri-tip demands a Santa Maria Valley wine, right? Yes, and I’ll get to that in a minute. However, I’m selecting the 2010 Zaca Mesa Estate Syrah, from the nearby Santa Ynez Valley. This fruit-forward wine, with flavors of ripe red and black berries, is a very accessible wine.  Smokey oak and a hint of mocha, sage and […]
Grant Henry

Price $16

Pairs well with barbecue, cheese, duck, mushrooms, steak, pork, sausage.

Which means that a properly tied 2‑pound tri-tip cooked in the oven, reaches the perfect pink after 30 minutes at 425 degrees– pretty much every single time.

How to Cook Tri-Tip in the Oven

Still, I realize this leaves a few questions unanswered. So let me elaborate. When you cook tri-tip in the oven you can use all those little tricks that make any roast taste better.

The first rule I swear by is to season my meat well with salt and pepper before I tie it into a bundle. I try to do this several days in advance. Then wrap it in plastic and refrigerate. It really works.

Second, I use salt and pepper, and only salt and pepper (well, maybe garlic). Rubs are fine and can certainly add flavor. But it just doesn’t feel authentic to the Santa Maria style tri-tip I first encountered in college. To me (traditional beans and relish aside) true tri-tip gets properly flavored by the red oak smoke. It’s true that there’s no red oak smoke when you cook tri-tip in the oven, but still I resist too many strong flavors on the meat itself.

Lastly, I rarely bother to sear the meat before I cook it. If you’ve got a big wine with lots of tannins to serve with your tri-tip, a little pre-searing will help achieve a bitter char that will work well with the wine. However, for me, 30 minutes at 425 degrees produces a nice brown crust that doesn’t overwhelm the meat.

Oh, and go ahead and use a thermometer if you want to. I’m just showing off. GREG

Tied Tri-Tip for roastingTri-Tip

Tri-Tip Roast

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6Published

This recipe is timed for a 2 pound tri-tip that has been tied into a compact bundle. A larger piece of meat will take longer to cook. Use a thermometer if you are unsure. For medium-rare the interior temperature should be 125 to 130 degrees when the meat is ready to remove from the oven.

Tri-Tip Roast


  • 1 (2‑lb) tri-tip roast
  • salt and pepper (as needed for seasoning)


Lay the tri-tip flat onto a clean surface, you’ll notice that it’s wedge shaped. Liberally season all over with salt and pepper. Tuck the thinnest point under, then roll the roast into a neat and consistent sized rounded bundle. 

Using butcher’s twine tie the roast in several places to assure that it maintains this shape throughout cooking. Wrap the tied roast in plastic and refrigerate at least 12 hours and up to 3 days.

When ready to cook, remove the roast from the refrigerator, unwrap and bring to room temperature. Season once again lightly with salt and pepper.

Place the oven rack in the center position and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Set the tied tri-tip roast on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Place in the oven and roast, uncovered, for 25 to 30 minutes or until an insta-read thermometer registers about 125 (rare) to 135 (medium) degrees F, or according to taste. Remove from the oven and loosely cover with foil. Let the meat stand for 15 minutes.

Slice and serve warm or at room temperature.