Karl & Miriam’s Sous-Vide Santa Maria Tri-tip

Son-in-law Chris has requested tri-tip for his birthday meal. My daughter, Miriam, has been experimenting with her new sous-vide device and we decided to make a joint effort and give it a try. We settled on Santa Maria tri-tip as the seasoning—Myr would sous-vide the meat and I would grill it.

Karl & Miriam’s Sous-Vide Santa Maria Tri-tip

Karl & Miriam’s Sous-Vide Santa Maria Tri-tip

Sous-vide is the exact opposite of a hot fast technique—like a Chinese stir-fry. The meat or vegetables are put into a plastic bag—preferably, but not necessarily, vacuum sealed—and placed in water that has been heated to an exact, but very low temperature. Whatever is being cooked is then left for an extended period of time, until the food is heated through to that temperature—up to 48 hours. With sous-vide it is impossible to overcook the item, because it never gets hotter than the set temperature.

Miriam learned about this technique from Shark Tankthe Nomiku pitch. While you can buy a dedicated sous-vide pot—if your kitchen is anything like mine—you are running out of counter and shelf space for another big-footed appliance. The alternative is a device that will convert any large pot into a sous-vide. While the dedicated devices work on convection to distribute the heat, the inserted devices use a gentle circulation pump to evenly maintain the heat evenly throughout the liquid.

Miriam spiced the tri-tip with my Santa Maria spice blend and put the plastic bag wrapped meat in the sous-vide pot for two and a half hours at 126º F. What she brought me was a rather gray   and unappealing slab of meat—in professional kitchens, they would vacuum seal the meat to prevent this oxidation of the outer layer of the meat. This problematic appearance was to be a temporary difficulty, searing the tri-tip should give it a luscious browned surface

My original plan was to throw the meat on the grill to sear the outside. Unfortunately, I had not checked the fuel tank on my grill and I was out of gas. I ended up putting it under the broiler and, fortunately, it browned up nicely.  The tri-tip came out extremely tender, juicy and perfectly crusted.

Note: To go with the beef, I made a variation of Santa Maria-style beans and what I’m calling Santa Maria coleslaw.

Karl & Miriam’s Sous-Vide Santa Maria Tri-tip


1 Tbs. Kosher salt

½ Tbs. black pepper, ground

1 tsp. paprika

1 tsp. onion power

1 tsp. garlic powder


1. Put the dry ingredients into a small bowl and mix thoroughly.

2. If the tri-tip has a thick fat cap trim much of it off. Leave about a ¼ inch over the side and score cross hatches through the remaining fat cap about an inch apart.

3. Spread the dry rub all over the meat and let it marinate in a gallon plastic bag for at least 4 hours.

Tip: This should be done the night before and the meat should marinate for 18 hours.

Note: Fill a large pot with water and submerge the meat in the plastic bag. This will press all of the air out of the bag. Carefully seal the bag tightly. Do not get the water into the bag, while you are doing this.

4. Set up and heat your sous-vide  pot.

Note: Fill the pot about ¾ full—for the inserted type—clip the sous-vide device to the side of the pot. Dial in 126º F. Bring the water up to your cooking temperature—one of the advantages of the Nomiku device is that it is linked to your phone and it will tell you when the water is ready—no watched pot never boiling. Actually, with sous-vide it never boils ever.

5. Place the meat in the tightly sealed bag into the water and let it cook in the sous-vide pot for at least two hours.

Tip: You want the meat to reach 126º F all the way through the meat.

Note: You may actually put the meat into the pot up to 48 hours ahead of time. The meat will never overcook because in cannot be heated over the set temperature. If the power does not go out, once it reaches that temperature it will not drop below that temperature either.

6. Preheat your grill.

Tip: If using charcoal, start the coals at least an hour before dinner. If gas or a broiler, preheat for 15 minutes on high.

Note: In traditional cooking methods, you are try to push the heat into the middle to cook the meat through to the center. With sous-vide the meat is already cooked through and you are merely making a cosmetic and flavor enhancing sear to the surface of the roast.  Very high heat for the shortest possible time.

7. Remove the tri-tip from the bag and pat it dry with paper towels.

Tip: If there are any spices still clinging to the surface try not to rub them off while you are removing the excess moisture.

8. If you are using charcoal, start the coals at least an hour before dinner.

Tip: If you are cooking outside, Santa Maria tri-tip should properly be smoked. If you have a source for red oak wood chips, by all means soak then for 20 minutes place them in the grill.

Note: Check my original recipe for setting up a charcoal grill for BBQing this tri-tip.

9. If using a gas grill or broiler, preheat for 15 minutes.

Tip: With meat that has been sous-vided, you are not trying to cook the meat through. You only want to sear the surface—high heat for the minimum amount of time.

10.  Place the meat on the hot side of the grill—or broiler—fat cap towards the heat source for 10-15 minutes.

11. When the first side is browned enough flip the meat and brown the second side for another 10-25 minutes.

12. Slice thickly across the grain and serve.

Tip: Since the meat has already been cooked through, there is no need to “rest” the meat to redistribute the juices.

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Filed under Beef, California Fusion, Main Dishes, Sauces and Spices

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