Tri-tip steak is cut from a tri-tip roast, which is a small, triangular cut from the sirloin. It is also known as a triangle steak, bottom sirloin steak, or Santa Maria steak. Each steak is boneless, about 3/4 to 1 inch thick, and should be nicely marbled. Tri-tip is a good cut of meat because of its rich beef flavor, tender texture, as well as a cheaper price tag than similar steak cuts. It’s also a lean cut of meat, making it a healthier red meat option. The tri-tip was popularized in California and while it is now more widely marketed, you may need to request it from your butcher. Because tri-tip steaks are leaner than most cuts, consider marinating them.

So How did America discover this cut of beef? According to Steven Raichlen’s BBQ Bible, the story goes like this:

The year was 1952. The scene? An old Safeway store, long since razed, in this agricultural town of Santa Maria on California’s Central Coast. A one-armed butcher (really!) named Bob Schutz had the idea to spit-roast a crescent-shaped cut from the bottom of the sirloin that was normally ground into hamburger or cubed and sold as stew meat. “Are you nuts?’ a co-worker scoffed. “It’ll be tough as hell.”

But Schutz persevered, seasoning the meat with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, then threading it onto the spit. What later slid off the rotisserie blew the Santa Marians away. Carved across the grain, it was moist, tender, and satisfying—with the rich sanguine flavor of costlier beef.

I wish I could say tri-tip was an overnight success. But this cut might be the most popular cut of beef you’ve never heard of.

Here is my recipe:

Ingredients

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon water
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2-pound beef tri-tip steak

Directions

In a large, plastic ziplock bag, blend the soy sauce, brown sugar, olive oil, water, garlic, and pepper. Place the beef tri-tip in the marinade. Seal the bag, and marinate in the refrigerator overnight.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush a heavy ovenproof pan with olive oil and heat.on high until pan is very hot, then add the tri-tip, fat side down. Turn heat to medium and sear the beef on all sides, about 4 minutes.

Put the pan with the beef in the oven and cook it for about 10 minutes a pound, checking with an instant-read thermometer until it reaches 125 degrees F for medium-rare. Let rest 5 minutes before slicing.

Serve the steak with your favorite sides. Mine are onion rings and a salad with blue cheese dressing.

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