By Lehni Lester
Tri Tip Done Two Ways
What’s up Saturday morning readers? (Rhetorical question.) This week I am going to dive into yet another topic I am not an expert on. Cooking!
I will admit that I know at least enough about cooking to keep from starving, however, I am well aware of the fact that there is much for me to learn. This has become particularly evident in my recent leisure reading. (Haha I can’t believe that I just said that I read for leisure. Remember my post from last week about starting hobbies? Yeah, me too.)
Anyway, one of the books that I have been checking out lately is the ever-famous Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. Even if you have zero interest in cooking or fine dining it is still definitely worth reading purely for the entertainment factor. While I have thoroughly enjoyed the book it is a constant reminder of how little I know, largely due to the fact that I can’t pronounce 78% of the dishes that he talks about.
Another book that I have been referencing lately is On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee. This was actually a Bourdain recommendation from one of his shows (obsessed much?) and it is awesome but not for the faint of heart. I’m talking DETAIL. If you don’t give two shits about how the different types of protein in milk behave when boiled then you might not be interested in this read. However, if you want to learn about animal muscle fibers, how their textures change with cooking, and why, then you might have some fun with this one. This book is just one more reason it is apparent that I have much to learn about cooking.
I mentioned in my first post that I have been trying to do a new recipe every week (I realize that this is completely violating my hobby rules, but I don’t care) so this week you get to hear about tri tip! We wanted to go hog wild (or beef wild) since it was Labor Day weekend so we got two and tried both of the recipes we were interested in. Let’s start with a few tips about tri tip!
Tri tip is a relatively lean hunk of beef that has a layer of fat on one side. When baking / grilling / etc. you want to be mindful of that fat layer. It is best to cook the meat with the fat layer on top so that it helps drip down and keep the rest of the meat moist. Speaking of juicy meat, another thing to keep in mind is that this particular roast is somewhat triangle shaped (tri tip, get it?), so you don’t want to overdo the cooking time or the smaller ends will get dried out. We used a baking method that really helped cut down on the drying problem. I’ll explain later.
Another tip that is not specific to tri tip is reading the recipe well in advance (possibly even the day before). This is the hard part for me because I usually don’t plan my new meals in advance. I just pick a recipe at the beginning of the day so I have enough time to shop and prep. The downside is that slow cooker recipes or recipes with a long marinade time are hard to do spontaneously. One of the recipes that we tried out this weekend recommended applying the rub and refrigerating over night (which for me translated to refrigerating for about 4 hours, it still tasted super bomb).
The first recipe I found on Pinterest and it did not disappoint! It was a rub that consisted of brown sugar, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, paprika, chili powder, cayenne pepper, dry mustard, and cumin. (See link below.) This recipe did call for smoked paprika as well (whatever that is) but I just used regular paprika in its place. Put your tri tip in a zip lock bag with a ¼ cup of olive oil, dump in your seasoning mix and stick it in the frig. Presto. Easy enough for all rookie cooks to handle.
Pro tip: Inspect your meat before putting the rub on. This is a lot of spices and once your entire tri tip is covered it becomes difficult to see the fat layer. It also becomes difficult to see which direction the grain runs. Tri tip can have multiple grain directions and you always want to carve against the grain so that the slices of meat are tender. Take a look before you apply rub so that you know which way to cook the roast and which way to carve it.
The second recipe came from a book that a friend has. I don’t remember the specifics on the marinade but it had equal parts soy sauce, canola oil, and lime juice along with some chopped garlic, cayenne pepper, cumin and possibly some other spices. Put your tri tip in a zip lock bag with the marinade and refrigerate. I don’t know if it makes a difference or not but I tried to turn the meat every 30 to 60 minutes just to even out the flavor.
Once your tri tip has soaked in all the flavor of your rub or marinade, it comes time for the oven or the grill. Unfortunately I live in an apartment complex with a crappy, unreliable grill and we can’t use our own so we went with the oven method. There are plenty of different theories on this but I was really happy with the results of the method we used. I got two disposable roasting pans from the store and put each tri tip in its own pan (fat side up, remember?). Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F and once ready put the meat in for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes is up, turn the oven down to 350 and continue baking for another 15-25 minutes depending on how you like your meat. (This is appropriate cook time for a tri tip that is about 2 lbs.) I was shooting for medium rare so we pulled the meat out once the internal temp hit 125 (this may seem low but keep in mind that the meat will continue cooking for a little while after it is out of the oven).
After it’s out of the oven put some foil over top and let the tri tip rest for about 15 minutes. I will admit that I don’t completely understand the significance of allowing the meat to rest, but I will read more on it in the meat chapter of On Food and Cooking and get back to you…
The result was some super awesome meat. We served it with Caesar salad and rosemary red potatoes. And since we had left overs, the tri tip with rub went really well with eggs and hash browns the next morning. Booya!