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BEST Tri Tip Rub for Smoking Recipe

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Tri tip is a triangular cut of meat, also known as triangle steak or triangle roast, that comes from the bottom of the sirloin. It’s generally a lean cut of beef, but with the right preparation and cooking process (like smoking), it can turn into a super delicious meat that makes for a great protein base for various meals. Here’s the best tri tip rub recipe that works really well in smoking!

Get ready, because the legendary West Coast specialty, aka the Santa Maria steak, is about to get an even deeper flavor profile with this rub!

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What You Need to Make the Best Tri Tip Rub for Smoking

Here are the ingredients to make the BEST tri-tip rub for smoking. You can find most, if not all, of these at your local grocery store. This recipe serves approximately 6 people, but feel free to adjust accordingly.

  • Kosher Salt: Enhances the natural flavors of the meat and aids in forming a nice crust.
  • Brown Sugar: Adds a touch of sweetness and promotes a beautiful, crusty bark when smoked.
  • Garlic Powder and Onion Powder: Provide an aromatic depth to the rub, contributing to a savory taste profile.
  • Chili Powder: Introduces a hint of heat, adding complexity to the rub.
  • Black Pepper: Offers a piquant kick, complementing the other spices perfectly.
  • Olive Oil: Helps the rub adhere to the meat and aids in forming a flavorful crust during smoking.

BEST Tri Tip Rub for Smoking Recipe

This is the best tri-tip rub recipe that works really well in smoking! This dry rub features a carefully crafted blend of crowd-pleasing spices and herbs that guarantees a mouthwatering crust and tender, flavorful meat. Give it a try!
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Seasoning
Cuisine American
Servings 2 servings
Calories 87 kcal


For the rub:


  • In a small bowl, combine kosher salt, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, and black pepper. Mix it well. Use on your favorite smoked tri tip recipe. ENJOY!


Calories: 87kcal
Keyword spices
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

How to Smoke Tri Tip Using the Dry Rub

Ingredients You Need


  1. Preparation: Prep your tri-tip roast by trimming off any remaining silver skin and excess fat. Leave a thin layer of fat on the fat side of the roast for a great flavor. This also ensures that the meat doesn’t dry out during the smoking process.
  2. Applying the Rub: Drizzle your tri-tip with olive oil and then generously apply the rub all over the roast. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or even better, overnight. This dry brine method will ensure the best results.
  3. Preparation: Remove your tri-tip from the fridge and let it come to room temperature, which should take about 30 minutes. Preheat your smoker to 225 degrees F. 
  4. Smoking: Place the tri-tip on your smoker fat side up and smoke until the internal temperature reads 130 degrees F for medium-rare, or to your preferred level of doneness. This could take anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 hours, but remember, every smoker is different. A digital thermometer is a great way to ensure accuracy.
  5. Resting and Slicing: Once done, remove the tri-tip from the smoker and let it rest on a cutting board, covered in aluminum foil or butcher paper, for about 15-20 minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the roast, leading to a moister end result.
  6. Optional Reverse Sear: If you’re a fan of a nice crust, try the reverse sear method. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, and once hot, sear your smoked tri-tip on all sides until a flavorful crust forms. This step is optional but adds a fantastic layer of flavor.
  7. Slicing: Use a sharp knife to cut thin slices against the grain of the meat. Due to the way the muscle fibers run in different directions in a tri-tip, the best way to do this is to cut the roast in half at the point where the muscle fibers change direction, then slice each half separately.

Serving Your Smoked Tri Tip

Serve your smoked tri-tip with your favorite sides. Think classic BBQ sides like coleslaw, baked beans, or grilled vegetables. The great thing about this tri-tip recipe is that it pairs well with a variety of flavors. You could even use the leftovers (if there are any!) in sandwiches or salads the next day.

The best results from your tri tip rub for smoking come from patience and attention to detail. Remember to monitor the internal temperature throughout the cooking process and allow the meat to rest before slicing for maximum juiciness. With this guide, you can achieve a smoked tri-tip that is not just good, but great!

Tips and Tricks for Tri Tip Rub for Smoking

  1. Choosing the Cut: Your first time choosing a tri-tip roast at the grocery store can be a little intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Look for a tri-tip with a large fat cap and minimal silver skin and excess fat. This cut of meat is also known as a triangle tip due to its triangular shape. Remember, different cuts of beef will yield different results. 
  2. Don’t rush the brine: A dry brine can be a great way to add flavor to this lean cut of beef, and it only takes a fraction of the time of a traditional wet brine. For best results, let the tri-tip sit in the rub in an airtight container in the fridge overnight.
  3. Wood Choice: While red oak is traditional for West Coast Santa Maria-style tri-tip, feel free to experiment with different wood types for different smoke flavors.
  4. Resting Time: Allowing the tri-tip to rest after smoking is crucial. The rest period allows the juices to redistribute, ensuring a juicy and flavorful end result.
  5. Serving: The smoked tri-tip can be served as is or with your favorite BBQ sauce. The smoky flavor of the meat pairs well with a variety of sauces, so feel free to experiment!

Now that you’ve got the low-down on tri-tip rub for smoking, you’re ready to impress at your next BBQ. This smoked tri-tip is sure to be a hit. Happy smoking!

If you make this tri tip rub for smoking recipe, please drop a comment below! I’d LOVE to know what you think! Or take a picture and share it on Instagram by tagging @dwellbymichelle so I can repost it on my stories!

More Dry Rub Recipes

Frequently Asked Questions

Should you rub tri-tip the night before?

Yes, applying your favorite dry rub on the tri-tip steak the night before and allowing it to dry brine in the refrigerator is a great technique to enhance flavor. This process allows the seasoning from the tri tip rub for smoking to penetrate deeply into the beef cut, yielding a more flavorful result.

How long does it take to smoke tri tip at 225?

Smoking a tri-tip at 225 degrees on a pellet smoker, or any smoker really, usually takes about 1.5 to 2.5 hours. However, it’s important to remember that the best indicator of when your tri-tip is ready is its internal temperature. Aim for an internal temp of 130-135 degrees Fahrenheit for medium-rare.

How do you keep tri-tip moist in a smoker?

Keeping a tri-tip moist in a smoker is all about managing the heat and time. Smoking at a lower temperature allows for the meat to cook more evenly, reducing the chances of it drying out. Additionally, leaving some fat on the bottom sirloin can help keep it juicy. Finally, allowing the tri-tip to rest after smoking helps redistribute the juices, contributing to a moister end result.

What is the best way to smoke a tri-tip?

The best way to smoke a tri-tip involves a few key steps: selecting a quality cut of meat from your local grocery store, applying a flavorful dry rub, and smoking it on indirect heat in your smoker (a pellet smoker is a great choice). Remember, monitoring the internal temperature is the only way to ensure your tri-tip is cooked to your desired level of doneness.

Are you supposed to flip meat when smoking?

In traditional smoking, there’s usually no need to flip the meat. The indirect heat of the smoker should cook the meat evenly. However, if you notice one side of your tri-tip cooking faster than the other, you may choose to flip it for a more even cook.

Should you marinate or dry rub a tri-tip?

Both methods can yield delicious results, but for smoking, a dry rub is often preferred. Dry rubs – like our tri tip rub for smoking – work well with the low and slow cooking process of smoking and can contribute to a beautiful, flavorful crust on the meat.

Do pellet smokers dry out meat?

Not if used correctly. Pellet smokers, like other smokers, can actually help keep meat moist because they cook at lower temperatures for longer periods. Remember to keep an eye on the internal temperature to prevent overcooking, which can result in dry meat.

Should you put olive oil on meat before smoking?

Yes, a light coating of olive oil before applying your dry rub can help the spices adhere to the meat better. Plus, it can contribute to forming a nice crust on the meat during the smoking process.

How do I apply dry rub to tri tip?

Applying dry rub to a tri-tip is simple. First, pat the meat dry. Then, if desired, lightly coat it with olive oil. Sprinkle the dry rub generously over all sides of the tri-tip, pressing it onto the surface. Remember, letting the rubbed tri-tip rest in the fridge for a few hours, or better yet overnight, can help intensify the flavors.

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