Learn how to cut a tri-tip both before and after cooking (trimming and carving). A tri-tip steak can be tricky to cut since it has grains running in two different directions. We’ll dive into the cut, learn how to trim it, learn how to separate the sections and ultimately, how to slice up a perfectly tender tri-tip steak! 

What is Tri-Tip?

What once was relegated to becoming ground beef, the tri-tip cut is now popular thanks to the Santa Maria area of California.

The tri-tip cut, also known as bottom sirloin steak, triangle roast, California cut, or Santa Maria steak, comes from the very bottom tip of the sirloin. It can be sold as a tri-tip roast or cut down into tri-tip steaks

Tri-tip roasts and steaks are both lean cuts. The roast has a triangle shape to it, while steaks are cut down into a rectangle shape. Both cuts of steak are juicy and flavorful and are best cooked on the grill or roasted. Learn how to cook tri-tip 6 different ways!

Tri-Tip Roast on a white background
Raw Tri-Tip Roast

How to Cut Tri-Tip

Tri-tip has two different grain patterns. So in order to cut against the grain (essential for achieving tender slices of steak) you’ll need to first pinpoint the two different grains and slice them separately.

raw tri-tip steak on a white plate seasoned with salt and pepper. Graphics and words overlayed on the image.

As you can see, a tri-tip steak or “triangle steak” has two different sections. If you look closer, you can see that the meat grain runs in two different directions. 

  1. Pinpoint the center where the two grains meet. 
  2. Cut along that intersecting line where the grains meet to create two sections. 
  3. Cut each piece of tri-tip against the grain (perpendicular so you see the layers of grain in each slice). The thinner tri-tip is sliced, the better! 
cooked steak in a skillet with graphic overlay over top
All steaks are different—some will have a more pronounced difference in grain, some will be trickier to pinpoint.

What You’ll Need for Cutting Tri-Tip

Cutting Tri-Tip Before Cooking

Tri-tip steaks can be sold with a pretty significant fat cap (unless the butcher has already removed it). The meat itself is fairly lean, but that fat cap is present on the exterior. You can either leave it intact and enjoy the juicy beefiness it adds to the final dish, or you can trim it off.  Depending on your preference, you may choose to remove it or leave it on. 

How to Cut Fat Cap Off Tri-Tip

To trim the fat cap on a tri-tip, grab a sharp chef’s knife and gently slice the fat layer away from the meat. 

sliced steak on a cutting board

The Best Kitchen Thermometer 

If you cook steak a lot (or plan to), it’s imperative that you have a good thermometer. I’m never far from my Thermoworks Thermapen ONE. It’s an investment, but so is every steak you buy. Buy once cry once, so you don’t cry over tough steak! 

Ready for More Steak?

Keep the steak coming! Enjoy a your sliced tri-tip steak in our Italian Steak Sandwich. Or explore the handful of steak guides (like How to Cook Skirt Steak or How to Cook Top Sirloin) we’ve got on our site. 

And if you’re in the market for a meat subscription box, check out Butcher Box! They always have a great sign up bonus (like free bacon for a year, or 2 pounds free salmon).

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About The Author

Lauren Grant is a professional culinary food scientist, food writer, recipe developer, and food photographer. Lauren is a previous magazine editor and test kitchen developer and has had work published in major national publications including Diabetic Living Magazine, Midwest Living Magazine, Cuisine at Home Magazine, EatingWell.com, AmericasTestKitchen.com, and more.

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