I decided to barbecue some tri-tip for Memorial Day. I have done this roast many different ways—California Fusion, Sichuan, Salt and Pepper with Green Pepper Sauce, Moroccan, Santa Maria style, Teriyaki, Cajun, and just plain Barbequed. What could I do that was new and different? I looked at some recipes marinating beef in red wine, but they seemed mundane.
Tri-tip is a very odd shaped piece of beef—triangular and usually thicker in the middle than at the pointed ends—that makes it a challenge to cook evenly. On the up side if you have some diners who like their meat rare and others that like it well done this is the roast for you.
I was planning to use some port—that I had left over from another dinner—and looked up port recipes. I came across recipes for mulled port. While this drink might seem a bit Christmas-y to anyone who is English, I thought it would make for a fine marinade for the first barbecue of the Summer.
Note: Another oddity of tri-tip is that the grain of the meat runs along the short side of the triangle. When you are slicing up the roast, it would seem that the obvious thing to do is to start at one of the thin points and slice towards the middle. This ends up cutting along the grain of the muscles, giving you slices that are tough to chew. The solution is to cut the triangle down the middle from the point to the long side. Rotate the meat 90º and slice each half from the cut to the remaining points.
Karl’s Barbecued Mulled Port Tri-tip
1½ cups ruby port, separate uses
1 orange, juiced (about ½ cup)
2 Tbs. vegetable oil (neutral oil)
1 Tbs. orange zest
½ Tbs. lemon zest
1 Tbs. light Muscovado sugar (sub. light brown sugar)
2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 inch cinnamon stick, unbroken
1 tsp. black pepper, coarsely ground
½ tsp. ginger, ground
5 cloves, whole
4 allspice berries, cracked
1 star anise, whole
3-4 lb. beef tri-tip
¼ tsp. nutmeg, fresh grated
1. Put one cup of port and the rest of the marinade ingredients into a non reactive pot and bring it to a boil.
Tip: Do not put strongly acidic fruit juice in your anodized aluminum cookware. I ruined my best pot and a batch of marmalade pre-mix this way.
2. Reduce the heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes, until the marinade has reduced to about a half a cup.
Tip: The sauce will be almost a thick paste at this point.
3. Add the remaining half cup of pot and remove the marinade from the heat.
4. Let the marinade cool to room temperature.
5. Trim all but a ¼ inch of the fat cap from the tri-tip.
6. Cut the fat cap with an ½ inch crosshatch.
Tip: You want to cut all the way through the fat, but you do not want to cut deeply into the meat.
Note: Beef tri-tips are sold either “trimmed” of “untrimmed,” meaning that the thick fat cap that covers one side of the roast has be completely or partially trimmed away—some cooks think that this is a heresy. With Jan’s fat restrictions I prefer mine mostly trimmed—an eighth inch cap is OK, but not a three eighths inch slab of dense fat. Other cooks prefer to remove the entirely fat cap.
7. Put the tri-tip in a sealable gallon plastic bag and pour the marinade over the meat.
8. Marinate the meat in the refrigerator overnight, turning occasionally.
Tip: Best to marinate the meat for 2-3 days.
Note: Do not poke holes in the meat with a fork to speed up the marinating process! Holes only give the meat juices avenues to escape.
9. One hour before you plan to start barbecuing remove the meat from the refrigerator and set it on the counter.
Tip: A cold roast will not cook as evenly as one that is at room temperature.
For a gas grill
10a. Oil the grill and start the gas five minutes before cooking.
11a. Turn all the burners on high, When you move the meat away from the high heat turn off the burners under the meat.
If using a charcoal grill
10b. Start the coals about two hours before dinner.
11b. Spread the coals against the back of the barbecue and place an aluminum pan on the front side. Replace the grill, oil it and heat for 5 minutes.
12. Remove the tri-tip from the plastic bag, brushing most of the marinade back into the bag.
Tip: Reserve as much of the marinade as you can. You will be brushing it on as you barbecue the meat.
13. Transfer the marinade to a small bowl.
Tip: Discard the large chunks of spices.
14. Blot the meat dry with paper towels and let the tri-tip air dry for a few minutes.
Tip: you are not trying to wipe off the marinade, just to soak up any excess liquid. A dry roast will sear better than a wet roast.
15. Place the meat on the hot side of the grill, fat cap down, and close the grill for 10 minutes.
16. Turn the meat over, still on the hot side of the grill, and close the grill for 8 minutes to sear the second side.
17. Turn the meat over and brush the lean side with the marinade.
18. Place the thickest part of the roast, fat side up, at the edge of the heat with the thinner end slanted toward the cool side of the grill.
19. Brush the fat side with the marinade.
20. Insert a constant-read meat thermometer and close the grill again.
Tip: If you have a tri-tip that is thick on one end and thin at the other use this technique. If you have a tri-tip that is thick in the middle and thin at both ends lay it just off the edge of the heat toward the cool side of the grill.
21. As the meat is roasting, baste the top with the marinade until you have used it up.
22. Then the meat reaches 135º F, about another 20-30 minutes, remove it from the grill and wrap it in tin foil to rest for 10 minutes.
Tip: How long your meat will take to reach this temperature depends on how close to the heat you have put the meat. With the extra basting it will probably be near the high end of this time.
Note: Grilled beef cooked to 135º F and then wrapped in foil to rest continues to cook to 140 º F, which is medium rare. I actually cooked this roast to 132º and the center of the roast came out very rare. This was fine for Miriam and Chris, but this was an tri-tip of unusually even thickness. Jan and Eilene were hard pressed to have enough that was done well enough for their liking.
23. Grate some nutmeg over the tri-tip and slice the beef across the grain.
24. Serve warm.