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Smoked tri tip failure

bbq dreams

Joined May 30, 2017
Hi everyone, I smoked a couple of TT this weekend, I cut the fat cap off and used Jeff's original rub, added some salt since the rub is low on salt, set my offset smoker to 225-250 and expected to be done in a couple hours. For some reason I could not control my heat, it was 340 degrees near the firebox and 180 at the other end, I could not equalize the heat even with a water pan. I figured the middle of my smoker would prob be about 190-210, and since I had plenty of time, I decided to cook them at that temp. At 3 hours they were barely 140, pull them out and wrapped in aluminum for 20 minutes.
The result was disappointing , it was not tender, a little dry and lacked flavor. Only positive was the smoke rings.

Should I have injected with flavor? Or does cooking a TT at a lower temp and longer time makes it dry. What about the fat cap? On or off?

I cook TT all the time, fat cap on, over indirect heat in a gas grill with montereal steak rub for about an hour and a half, perfect every time.

Btw I use a cheap offset smoker which I have modified, i.e. oven bricks, heat deflector, silicone sealer, door sealer, water pan. I have cooked successfully a couple times before including 3 pork butts that came out amazing after 12 hours (one of them is on the avatar pic).

Any advice is greatly appreciated and am ready to keep trying till I get a perfect smoked TT on my cheap offset.
Last edited:


Smoking Fanatic
Joined Dec 23, 2016
set my offset smoker to 225-250 and expected to be done in a couple hours. For some reason I could not control my heat, it was 340 degrees near the firebox and 180 at the other end, I could not equalize the heat even with a water pan.
I would say the problem is somewhere in here.

If your TT comes out good on the gasser consistantly then you know what your doing. Smoker just didn't cooperate.


Smoke Blower
Joined Aug 18, 2013
Tri-tip shouldn't need an injection and, depending on how strictly you adhere to food safety recommendations, you may not want to anyways. You don't cook tri-tip to a high enough internal temperature to kill food-borne bacteria. This only becomes a potential issue if you force bacteria to the inner portion of the meat by sticking it with an injector.

Just something worth considering.

Pulled at 140*, then wrapped likely means a finishing temp, after carryover cooking, of about 143-145*, I'm guessing? That puts it in the medium range. The thinner areas might have been more towards medium-well.

It's possible that contributed to some of the dryness.

Just spitballing some stuff, here. I cook on low heat to about 117* internal, rest a few minutes, then high heat sear to about 125*. Carryover brings it to 130*, perhaps. Can't say I've had a need for adding more flavor than what I'm getting out of it.

Good luck in tracking down the issue and getting a better result next time!

Jeff Wright

Smoking Fanatic
Joined Jul 12, 2018
I think you may have over cooked it. In a lot of ways they are like a fat steak. Mine generally rest and carryover about 10% more. I cannot say I honestly had a mightily, fork cutting tender tri tip. They are a lot like a sirloin, but overcooking can definitely cause unwanted dryness and toughness.

Also, not sure how you cut it, but try cutting against the grain when slicing.

Flavor wise, should not need injecting. I generally put a very heavy coating of rub, sit over night. Seems flavor does get into the meat pretty well.

Keep at it. Good cuts of meat.


Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
★ Lifetime Premier ★
Joined Aug 16, 2016
Tri-tip has an unruly fat cap on it I've noticed. There is a beautiful fat cap layer with a layer of tough silver skin sandwiched underneath that is next to the muscle. You have to cut off most of the fat to get to the sinew off. So its a conundrum to trim it or not. Sacrifice the fat to loose the sinew? Or leave it untrimmed to help it stay moist and trim at the cutting board or plate? I lean more toward the latter with the exception of choice grade or above. I pull them and wrap at 132' for our liking.

When I buy the multi-packs, I do any trimming (if desired) and (pre)season them before vacuum sealing them and going in the freezer. They brine/marinate perfectly as they thaw and make a quick meal week nights as needed.

Keep at it. I think it was a combination of getting used to your offset and going too high of an internal IT was your issue. As mentioned the slicing direction is important too.


Smoking Fanatic
Joined May 24, 2016
I've never seen a TT with a fat cap on it. I don't see them all the time but when I do, it's usually nicely marbled.


Smoking Guru
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
Joined Sep 7, 2013
At 3 hours they were barely 140, pull them out and wrapped in aluminum for 20 minutes.
The result was disappointing , it was not tender, a little dry and lacked flavor. Only positive was the smoke rings.
Not tender: Did you slice across the grain? TT sliced with the grain at an IT of 140F, or any temp for that matter, will be chewy and tough. TTs can have three different grain directions so it is important to know where to slice across the grain. Also, a 20 minute rest is pretty short. I usually rest my TTs between 60-120 minutes. I can notice a tenderness difference between a TT rested 30 minutes and one rested 60 or longer. TT is a big muscle that needs to relax.

A little dry: I've smoked and grilled TTs to final internal temps between 120 and 195F. 140-150F is my least favorite final range, and I've usually ended up there by mistake. The sweet spots seem to be 120-135F, 155-165F, and 190F. The lower temp tastes like a juicy, tender, thick sirloin. The mid range tastes like a tender roast beef, and the high end tastes like a tender, juicy brisket flat. Cutting across the grain is essential.

Lacked flavor: Seasoning is important. I've grilled/smoked/roasted well into a thousand TTs over the last 35 years. Montreal Steak Seasoning if my favorite, but I've used a lot of different rubs, all with salt (and you did that). Rubbing and going right to the grill/smoker requires more rub for flavor than doing a 12-72 hour dry brine with very light rub. I spray with oil, then barely dust with MSS, wrap in plastic, and dry brine for 12-72 hours. Always great flavor without overpowering the meat. Also, nose blindness can play a part the day of the grill/smoke, but TT is one of those meats that doesn't necessarily taste better the second day.

I used to trim the fat and silver skin, no longer. Now I'll trim the hard fat, but leave a 1/4" fat cap. I don't bother with the silver skin any longer. It melts, and as far as I'm concerned helps keep the meat juicy, but I have absolutely no scientific evidence to support that claim. I could just be lazy.

Untrimmed TTs go on sale in my area for $2.98/lb. Trimmed are always $6.98/lb or higher. I usually trim about 6-8 oz of fat from the untrimmed, so it doesn't make sense to buy the trimmed ones.

When I do TTs on my Weber grill, I have no idea of the chamber temp (older, no gauge lid). I might check vent temp a time or two, but generally I'm just going by the meat's IT. I've done them direct, direct/indirect, all indirect. Didn't notice any difference.

When I do TTs on my WSM, I'll set my vents and let the smoker decide where it's going to run. Sometimes it will run 225F, other times 275F because small vent differences can make big changes. I almost always open my vents and finish with a high heat, over 300F. I still get the results I mentioned in the second paragraph. This year I tried wrapping in butcher paper and REALLY like the results.

Give it a shot again and shoot for that 120-135F IT, closer to the lower one if you're going to do a reverse sear. If searing first, 135F IT is the max you want to go.

Tri Tip is California's BBQ, so it is an important meat to master for someone living in California.


Smoking Fanatic
SMF Premier Member
Joined Jan 13, 2015
Classic rub, 2 TBS garlic, 1 TBS salt, 1 tsp black pepper. Smoked and reverse seared can provide great results. We smoke at 225º until IT of 120º, pull and rest for 5-10 min while grill gets to high temp, then sear 3-4 min per side followed by a rest of 15-20 min before slicing.

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