Yeah, tri-tip can be done straight on the grill, but I really like cooking it over a high-heat, quick smoke. It is a lean meat, so I cook it quickly to medium-rare and then take it off the pit and let it carry over to medium. I also like to marinate my tri-tip for at least 2 hours but preferably for 24 hours.
And please, please cook your damn corn tortillas in some kind of fat. They need hot grease and a quick cook done right before you eat them. You should be eating tri-tip on a warm tortilla, not one that’s been sitting out. Have your pico de gallo and your guacamole ready, so when your tri-tip is done, you can just fry up the tortillas and have your tacos ready to go.
This is the pico de gallo that Noah made for me one time for some brisket tacos, and I knew we had to have it in the book. We both like it very spicy, so use less serrano if you want it to have less heat.
Make it just after you make the guacamole and leave it at room temperature until you are ready to make the tacos.
- Temperature: 250°F to start; 275° to 300°F
- Rough Cook Time: 1 1⁄2 to 1 3⁄4 hours
- Cooking Equipment: Smoker, instant-read thermometer, medium skillet
- Dry off your tri-tip with a paper or kitchen towel. Spread the mustard in a thin, even layer all over the tri-tip, then sprinkle generously with the steak rub and pat gently to set it in place. Put the tri-tip into a large, resealable plastic bag or container. In a small bowl, stir together the orange juice, onion, cilantro, garlic, and oregano. Pour this marinade over the tri-tip, making sure the meat is evenly coated, and seal the bag or tightly cover the container. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.
- Follow the instructions in How to Light Your Pit (page 39), aiming for a temperature of 250°F. When the charcoal is ready, add some pecan or whatever wood is prevalent in your area. Let the wood burn off for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Remove the tri-tip from its marinade, allowing the marinade to drain off, then discard the marinade. Load the tri-tip into your pit and smoke at 250°F for 1 hour.
- After 1 hour, check the internal temperature of your tri-tip with a thermometer; it should be around 100°F. Flip the tri-tip upside down, then use charcoal to raise the temperature of your smoker to 300°F, adding more wood only if the temperature drops to 275° F. Continue cooking until the tri-tip is cooked to your desired temperature. I like mine pulled off when the internal temperature is between 135° and 140°F, 30 to 40 minutes more. Let rest for about 15 minutes; while it rests, the residual heat will increase the temperature to medium (140° to 150°F).
- While the meat is resting, place a medium skillet over medium-high Heat and add enough vegetable oil to heavily coat the bottom of the pan. When the oil is shimmering, add the tortillas, one at a time, and fry, turning once, for about 20 seconds on each side. They should be tender and just starting to crisp around the edges. As the tortillas are ready, stack them on one end of a clean kitchen towel and cover with the other end of the towel to keep warm.
- Using a sharp knife, slice the tri-tip against the grain about ¼ inch thick. Season the slices with a sprinkle of salt. Lay a long tri-tip slice across the center of each tortilla. Top with a spoonful each of pico de gallo and guacamole, fold in half, and serve immediately.
- Leftover tri-tip will keep, well wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix thoroughly. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.