Santa Maria tri tip is hands down one of our favorite things to cook sous vide. This meat is delicious in any preparation style, but cooking it sous vide takes it to the next level.
The meat becomes incredibly tender and juicy, while having sporting an edge to edge rosy color. For this cook, we took the tri tip to the next level by seasoning it with Santa Maria inspired spices. And boy, it is amazing.
We hope you obsess over sous vide tri tip as much as we do.
To Trim or Not to Trim
Tri tip is a nicely marbled, tender cut of beef that can come with a fat cap up to ½ inch thick. Determining whether or not to trim the fat cap prior to cooking sous vide can be a tough decision.
Note: cooking the tri tip at 131F for 6 hours does not allow a thick fat cap to render all the way, leaving a "rubbery" fat layer that some cooks find unappetizing. Due to this, if your fat cap is between ¼ - ½ inch thick we recommend trimming it down to a thin layer.
Besides this, additional trimming is based on your preference depending how much fat you enjoy. If you like your beef more lean, go ahead and trim off a large majority of the fat and silver skin. Just remember that the fat adds great flavor to the tri tip, so we recommend keeping some of it on.
An essential part of cooking sous vide is putting ingredients in an air-tight bag or container. The two most common techniques to package your ingredients are vacuum sealing and using the water displacement method.
A vacuum sealer removes all the air and seals the contents of a plastic bag through a vacuum. Ensuring the food is airtight and properly sealed prevents the bag from floating, which can result in uneven cooking. If you are in the market for a vacuum sealer, I’d recommend the Anova sealer.
The displacement method is a technique where you first place your food and marinades in a sous vide bag, submerge the bag in a container of water, and allow the pressure to force all the air out of the bag.
Either method works for this recipe. Note that if you are adding a marinade in the bag, please make sure your vacuum sealer is capable of sealing liquids. If not, please use the displacement method.
Tri Tip Time and Temperature
Through loads of experimentation, we've found that cooking the tri tip roast at 131F for 6 hours is the perfect combo. Leaving the tri tip in for 6 hours breaks down the connective tissue (collagen), which results in an extremely tender steak. Also, cooking them at a temperature of 131F is the sweet spot for that perfect edge to edge rosy color.
Just make sure you have a reliable sous vide that accurately regulates the temperature of the bath or your results may vary (check out the Anova or Joule). For other time and temperature options, check out our cooking guide here.
Best Way to Sear Beef After Sous Vide
Searing is the most critical step in the sous vide process. Getting a deep, rich sear can make your food look like it is Michelin star quality. Failing to do so will make your dinner guests wonder why they let you cook again.
If you want to get an amazing sear on your roast, you’ve got to:
1. Pat the meat completely dry with a paper towel
2. Season generously with salt or seasoning of your choice
3. Sear at extremely high temperatures.
First, pat the meat completely dry using paper towels. After the meat is dry, lightly brush the roast with olive oil then season generously with salt and pepper or a seasoning of choice. Note that brushing with olive oil is optional, but will allow the seasoning to stick to the meat better and results in a deeper sear.
At this point you want to determine the best searing method. For tri tip, we suggest pan searing, grilling or using a searing torch. The trick is getting the pan, grill or torch extremely hot, then searing for 1 to 2 minutes on each side. This results in a quick, high-quality sear without overcooking the steak.
Carving the Tri Tip
Slicing tri tip can be a bit tricky since the grain can change direction on the roast. So make sure to take a look at the raw meat and determine which direction the strands of muscle fiber are running on each section of the beef.
After the trip tip is pulled from the sous vide bath, you want to cut the roast in two separate parts where the grain changes direction. At this point, make sure your knife is real sharp so you can effortlessly carve this heavenly piece of meat. I recommend the E5 electric knife sharpener for the job. Then slice each part separately against the grain.
Sous Vide Machine – This one is obvious. To cook sous vide, you’re going to need a device to precisely regulate the temperature of the bath water. The two best sous vide machines in the game right now are the Anova Precision Cooker and the Breville Joule.
The main difference between the two is that with the Anova you can control the device both manually and with a mobile device, and with the Joule you can only control the device by using your mobile device. Either way, both sous vide machines are top class and you can’t go wrong with either choice.
12-quart Container – Although you can use a basic stockpot for your sous vide cooking needs, I highly recommend buying a large plastic container. They are inexpensive and spacious, so you won’t have to worry about cooking a big roast in a small pot. I recommend a 12 quart Rubbermaid container, as it is BPA free, sturdy, and large enough for just about anything you will be cooking.
Container Lid – If you are going to buy a plastic container, I highly suggest buying a compatible lid for it. When you sous vide for a long duration, the heat of the water causes evaporation. With a lid, it eliminates a majority of the evaporation so you can cook for hours care-free.
Cast Iron Skillet – If you are looking to take your searing game to the next level, we recommend investing in a cast iron skillet. By using a cast iron in this recipe, you’ll achieve a deep sear on the protein. Cast irons are also extremely handy for searing just about any and all sous vide meat. Lodge offers the best quality and price, which is why it is our favorite cast iron brand.
Next Level Sous Vide –Looking to take your sous vide skills to the next level? The Next Level Sous Vide eCookbook will push your culinary boundaries with 65 delicious recipes that are equally approachable and tasty. With pro tips and a detailed explanation of the sous vide process, you will be on your way to maximize your sous vide skills.
Interested in more sous vide essentials? Check out our full list of recommended gear.
Sous Vide Tri Tip - Santa Maria Style
- 3 - 4 lb Tri Tip Roast
- 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon Ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon Garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon Onion powder
- 1 tablespoon Dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon Dried rosemary
- ½ teaspoon Dried sage
Set sous vide machine to 55C/131F.
Place the tri tip in a freezer bag, and remove the air through a vacuum sealer or the displacement method. Drop tri tip in the bath for 6 hours.
In a small bowl, mix together salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion, powder, oregano, cayenne pepper, rosemary and sage to create spice blend.
Remove bag from bath. Take tri tip out of the bag, pat dry and season with spice blend. Heat pan on high and add oil. Sear for 1 to 2 minutes on each side.
Slice and serve tri tip with your favorite BBQ sauce or topping and enjoy!