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Santa Maria Style California BBQ Tri-tip


We live about 3 hours north of Santa Maria, California. One day, we saw a BBQ trailer that was selling a tri-tip dinner plate, so we stopped to enjoy a roadside lunch. It was the tastiest tri-tip we've ever had!

I found this recipe in Cook's Country Magazine, and it is our favorite way to enjoy tri-tip. I also made the Santa Maria style pinquito beans, and I always make my own salsa.

The best way to enjoy tri-tip is to grill it.

If you can't find tri-tip, bottom round is an acceptable alternative. The traditional accompaniments to tri-tip are Santa Maria Salsa and California Barbecued Beans.

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  • 1 tri-tip roast (about 2 pounds) , trimmed
  • 6 garlic cloves , minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups wood chips , preferably oak
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic salt


Adapted from


Step 1

Pat roast dry with paper towels. Using fork, prick roast about 20 times on each side. Combine garlic, oil, and salt and rub over roast. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

Soak wood chips in bowl of water to cover for 15 minutes.

Open bottom vents on grill.

Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (about 100 coals) and burn until charcoal is covered with fine gray ash.

Pour hot coals in even layer over one half of grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, open lid vents completely, and let grill heat for 5 minutes. Scrape cooking grate clean.

Using paper towels, wipe garlic paste off roast.

Rub pepper and garlic salt all over meat.

Grill directly over coals until well browned, about 5 minutes per side.

Carefully remove roast and cooking grate from grill and scatter wood chips over coals.

Replace cooking grate and arrange roast on cooler side of grill.

Cover, positioning lid vents directly over meat, and cook until roast registers about 130 degrees (for medium-rare), about 20 minutes.

Transfer meat to cutting board, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 20 minutes. Slice thinly across the grain. Serve.


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