Smoked Tri Tip on a Pellet Grill {Traeger, Pit Boss, Z Grills}

Today’s recipe shows you how I smoke tri tip on pellet grill.  The technique will pretty much be the same if you are using a Traeger, Pit Boss, Z Grill or other brand of pellet smoker.

Z Grills Tri Tip

I have adapted a lot of my standard techniques for cooking on a Weber kettle to adjust for the differences of cooking on a pellet grill.  My biggest change for smoking roasts like a tri tip on a pellet grill is that I rarely perform a reverse sear on the steak.

Instead, I embrace the smoke, use a hearty brisket rub and let the tri tip cook until it hits 130F.  I find that I was able to get more flavor on the crust by using a bold rub than I could by searing.

It is tough to get a decent reverse sear on a pellet grill.  Besides, you do not want to sear a steak that has a rub with a bold flavor profile as the rub ingredients such as garlic, onion powder, paprika,  etc would burn, scorch and taste bitter.

Prepare the Tri Tip for the Smoker

Start with a tri tip that weighs between two and three pounds.  You can usually find some nice Prime tri tip at Costco.

Sometimes there will be a fat cap on the back of the roast.  I trim the fat cap and underlying membrane off it is present but many people leave it on…it’s not a big deal either way.

Baste each side of the roast with Worcestershire sauce, 1 tbsp per side, for a little flavor and to help the rub adhere.

Mix up your dry rub. You can use a commercial beef rub if you like (Montreal Steak Seasoning is great) or use this recipe:

Tri Tip Dry Rub

  • 2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp turbinado sugar
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp granulated onion
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle powder
  • 1/4 tsp Accent (MSG)

How Much Rub Should You Use?

There are two approaches you can take when it comes to applying the rub.  Both work great but result in different flavor profiles.

Use a Little Rub

For this cook I used a little less than 1 tbsp of rub per side of the tri tip.  I call this a “generous dusting”.

The reason I went light on the rub is that I wanted the smoke to be able to penetrate deeply into the meat.

Use a Lot of Rub

Alternatively, you can use the full batch of rub, about 2 tbsp per side, and really pack it onto the meat.

This approach will lead to less smoke flavor but will really make the crust pop with flavor.

My suggestion is to make up the rub, give it a taste and decide if you would rather have more rub flavor or more smoke flavor.

Smoke the Tri Tip at Low Temperature

Place the tri tip on your pellet grill and put some smoke on it at a low temperature setting.

  • If you are using a Traeger Ironwood then you will be using the Super Smoke mode.
  • If you are using a Traeger Pro 585 or a Silverton 620 that does not have Super Smoke mode then set the grill to 180F.
  • If you are using a Pit Boss or Z Grills then you will be using the Smoke setting.

I like to use either Hickory or Pecan pellets when I smoke beef.  Cherry pellets or any of the manufacturer’s Competition Blends would also be good choices.

Tri Tip with Brisket Rub

If you are using a Pit Boss, Camp Chef, or any other pellet grill with Flame Broiling functionality then make sure the tri tip is not located over the fire pot as that location is usually a hot spot on these grills.

On Traeger and Z Grills that have a heat deflector over the fire pot the temperature distribution is usually better and hit spots are not a major concern.

Let the tri tip smoke at the low temperature setting for an hour.

After an hour, raise the temperature of the grill to 250F and cook the tri tip until an internal temperature of 130F is reached in the thickest part of the roast.  This will take about 30-45 minutes.

Use a digital thermometer to measure the internal temperature.  Don’t guess.

When the steak is finished it will have a beautiful, flavorful crust and will be full of smoke flavor.  That is some great eats!

Tri Tip smoked on Z grills

Slice and Serve the Tri Tip

A big trick to cooking tri tips is to remember that the grain structure changes direction midway through the roast.  Pay attention as you are slicing to make sure that you are always slicing against the grain!  Here is a great tutorial that shows you exactly how to slice tri tip for maximum tenderness.

Sliced Tri Tip

Serve the steak already sliced on a platter swimming in its own juices.  It will get devoured!

On the odd occasions when I happen to have any leftovers I like to add the slices to a green salad to make myself think that I am having a healthy lunch the next day 🙂

Tri Tip Steak Salad

I hope you get to fire up your pellet grill today!

Sliced Tri Tip

Smoked Tri Tip on a Pellet Grill

A 2.5 pound tri tip roast is seasoned with a bold dry rub and smoked to an internal temperature of 135F. The steak should be sliced thinly against the grain.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 30 mins
Total Time 2 hrs
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4
Calories 375 kcal

Equipment

  • Traeger, Pit Boss or Z Grills pellet grill

Ingredients
  

  • 1 Tri Tip Roast 2.5 lbs
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp turbinado sugar
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp granulated onion
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle powder
  • 1/4 tsp Accent (MSG)

Instructions
 

  • Combine the dry rub ingredients and mix well.
  • Baste each side of the tri tip with the Worcestershire sauce.
  • Apply the dry rub to all sides of the tri tip.
  • Set your pellet grill to its "Smoke Setting". Use Hickory or Pecan pellets if possible.
  • Smoke the tri tip on "Smoke" for one hour.
  • Raise the temperature of the pellet grill to 250F.
  • Cook another 30-45 minutes until an internal temperature of 130F is reached.
  • Remove the tri tip from the smoker and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.
  • Slice the tri tip across the grain while watching for the shifting grain structure.

Notes

It is critical to watch the grain structure in a tri tip and always slice against the grain. The grain structure shifts across the roast and you must adjust your slicing accordingly.
Smoking a couple of tri tip roasts is an easy way to feed a crowd.
A single tri tip typically weighs about 2.5 pounds which is enough to generously feed three people. Throw a couple of these on your pit and you will have plenty of steak to go around!
You can use any leftovers for steak sandwiches or to beef up a Caesar salad.
Keyword Smoked Tri Tip