Learn step by step how to make a Smoked Tri-Tip roast on a Pit Boss pellet grill and why this is such a great way to prepare this flavorful cut of beef.
Tri-Tip roasts, and the Tri-Tip steaks that are cut from the roast, were first popularized in California Wine country where they were often marinated with or braised in the local wines.
The Tri-Tip roast comes from the bottom sirloin (not to be confused with the bottom round) of the steer and is triangular in shape, hence the descriptive name.
A full, untrimmed Tri-Tip roast will weigh about 5 lbs and can be smoked and seared on a Pit Boss, or any other pellet grill, similar to a sirloin tip roast, beef tenderloin, or rump roast. This is the method we will be discussing today.
Alternatively, you can get the Tri-Tip roast cut down into Tri-Tip steaks as either individual or larger 1-2 lb portions similar to a large London broil.
- Prepare the Tri-Tip
- Seasonings the Tri-Tip
- The Best Wood Pellets for Tri-Tip Roast
- More Smoke Flavor
- Start the Pit Boss
- Smoking Temperature
- Target Internal Temperature
- Cooking Time
- Reverse Searing with Direct Heat
- Reverse Searing with Indirect Heat
- Resting and Carving the Tri-Tip Roast
- Serving Suggestions
- 📖 Recipe
Prepare the Tri-Tip
Tri-Tip steaks usually benefit from an overnight marinade similar to a flank steak before smoking.
However, with our Pit Boss Smoked Tri-Tip Roast, we are going to opt instead for a good overnight dry brine of salt, pepper and garlic uncovered in the refrigerator before we smoke it.
First, we need to trim it up a little bit.
Trim the Fat
There isn't usually too much exterior fat to trim off a Tri-Tip roast, but if there is, you can certainly cut off the excess so that the seasoning penetrates the meat a little better.
Also make sure to remove any silverskin on the tri-tip roast as well.
Make sure to always use a good boning knife like this one from imarku so you don't tear up your beautiful beef roast while trying to trim the fat.
Dry Brine Overnight
If you have the time we highly recommend dry brining your Pit Boss Smoked Tri-Tip roast overnight.
The best way to do it is to set up a wire rack on a baking tray.
It works great for dry brining all sorts of things including your Thanksgiving turkey.
Use good KOSHER salt and sprinkle on all sides. No need to go overboard, just enough for a light sprinkling on all sides.
If you want to use a quality beef rub for dry brining your smoked tri-tip, we are big fans of Bad Byron's Butt Rub Seasoning on smoked beef because it is heavy on flavor, and has no sugar.
It also works great anytime you are reverse searing, like we plan to do later, and you don't want a sugary rub to burn at those higher smoking temperatures.
We also like Meat Church's Holy Cow Rub for beef. It has no sugar so works well for searing later.
Once you've applied your seasoning, place the tri-tip on the wire rack so you have airflow all around the meat and then place it in the refrigerator overnight.
Seasonings the Tri-Tip
The day of the cook, you can season the exterior of your meat, again staying away from sugar due to our searing step later.
For our recipe below, we are going to use fresh minced garlic and coarse fresh cracked pepper.
Ideally use a HIGH smoke point oil to help the garlic and pepper adhere to the meat such as avocado or grapeseed oil, especially if you plan to reverse sear at the end of the cook as we go into detail on below.
When it comes to a nice cut of meat like a tri-tip roast, you want to keep the seasonings fairly simple and let the meat shine through.
The Best Wood Pellets for Tri-Tip Roast
You have a lot of freedom when it comes to choosing the right wood pellets to smoke your Pit Boss Tri-Tip.
Mesquite and hickory will give a very aggressive smoke flavor and can be used but make sure you like those flavors before you go 100% with them.
Better to mix in with some other types of Pit Boss pellets the first time until you see how much you actually like the flavor they impart.
Alternatively, you can also go for a milder smoke flavor by choosing oak or fruitwood pellets.
Pecan, apple, beech, alder, and cherry all give great results on smoked tri-tip.
For a straightforward smoke at a mid-price point, we are big fans of Bear Mountain Gourmet Blend Pellets.
For the best results, store your unused pellets in a sealed room temperature container like this 20 lb pellet container rather than in the Pit Boss hopper outside.
Pellets do not last forever, but will definitely last a LOT longer if stored indoors in a quality airtight container.
More Smoke Flavor
To save money, you can use a premium pellet in your smoker tube and a less expensive brand in the hopper for heat.
Our favorite way to add more smoke flavor on a pellet grill is to add charcoal briquettes and real wood chunks to a smoker box. We show exactly how to do this in our video on How to Light a Pellet Grill Firebox.
Start the Pit Boss
We have previously covered how to season a Pit Boss, how to start a Pit Boss, as well as how to troubleshoot the smoke level of your pellet grill.
If you need a more in-depth review on how to use your Pit Boss for the first time, check those articles out first!
Add the pellets to the hopper, plug in the Pit Boss and allow it to go through the start up cycle.
Meanwhile, clean the Pit Boss grates if you did not do this after your last cook. We use the BBQ Daddy as a great bristle free option.
After preheating, we recommend initially setting up the Pit Boss to cook at 250°F.
This seems to be the sweet spot where its low enough that the outside doesn't overcook but also high enough that the smoked tri-tip roast doesn't cook for so long that it dries out.
Place the beef in the cooking chamber with the thickest part facing towards the hotter right side.
Target Internal Temperature
You HAVE to use a good instant read meat thermometer to know where the internal temperature is of your smoked tri-tip while it's cooking on the Pit Boss.
Ideally you want a good leave in probe thermometer like the Thermopro as well as a second instant read to spot check different points of thickness along the roast.
Place the leave in temperature probe into the deepest center part of the roast.
While we have used and recommended ThermoPro for years, lately we have also become big fans of the MEATER leave in thermometer.
It is extremely accurate and has an incredible 165 foot Bluetooth range and works right with your smartphone so you don't need to carry a separate controller around with you like many other remote thermometers require.
In fact, the thermometer itself is COMPLETELY WIRELESS, so no more awkward wires running out of the side of your smoker!
It's got a great free app that is constantly being updated and even has an algorithm to predict how much longer your type of meat will take to cook based on cooking temperature, target temperature, and current internal temperature.
It's like a GPS for your meat!
We are going to slowly bring the internal temperature up to about 105-110°F, then crank the heat as hot as we can to reverse sear the smoked tri-tip until the internal temperature hits about 120°F and then remove it from the Pit Boss.
Perfect medium rare in the center means a FINAL internal temperature of about 130-135°F, and a good rule of thumb is to pull off big roasts like this when they are 10°F shy of your target temperature.
Once you switch over to the reverse searing phase, (more on that below), and are searing the smoked tri-tip over a hot grill it's much easier to use an instant read thermometer rather than the leave in probe kind.
We are particular fans of this one from ThermoPro because of its durability and affordable price.
A general guide is that it will take about 20-30 minutes per pound to smoke a tri-tip roast at 250°F up to 110°F.
So plan on a 4 lb tri-tip roast to take about 80-120 minutes to initially smoke during the "Low" portion of the cook.
What matters most is how thick the tri-tip roast is to the very center, not just how much it weighs.
So keep that in mind when choosing between thicker and rounder vs thinner but flatter shaped tri-tip roasts in the butcher's case.
After the smoked tri-tip hits 110*F, we will crank the heat on the Pit Boss for another 3-5 minutes or however long it takes to raise the internal temperature the rest of the way up to 120-125°F.
Then you will need to let the meat rest for about 15-20 minutes after cooking it before carving.
Unless you want those delicious juices running all over your cutting board instead of staying in the meat where you want them, you need to set aside time for the meat to rest.
Reverse Searing with Direct Heat
"Reverse Searing" is just a fancy term for searing your meat at the very end, once it is pretty much all the way cooked through, in order to get a nice crispy exterior crust that you sometimes just can't get from low and slow smoking alone.
To reverse sear, smoke the meat at 250°F only until it reaches an internal temperature of about 110°F. At this point it will still be very, very rare in the center.
Next, you will turn up the temperature setting on your Pit Boss to "High", or the highest temperature setting it has available, depending on your model.
If your Pit Boss has a DIRECT HEAT option, then you can open the flame broiler plate and move your tri-tip roast over the firepot like you might do on a roaring gas propane burner.
Make sure you have plenty of pellets in your hopper for this part as it will burn through them quickly at these high temps.
You will need to watch your tri-tip VERY closely at this point as it may only need 3-5 minutes total once the Pit Boss comes fully up to the new high temperature.
Watch for the color to turn from grayish to medium-dark brown, and whatever you do, do not leave it unattended to burn or over cook!
Make sure to turn frequently and continuously spot check with your instant read thermometer.
Once the internal temperature has reached 120-125°F, remove the tri-tip roast from the Pit Boss and place it on a cutting board.
Remember, it will continue to rise another 10°F as it rests after you remove it.
DO NOT cover or wrap in aluminum foil or it will overcook beyond this level from its own residual heat.
Reverse Searing with Indirect Heat
If you are using an older model Pit Boss pellet grill that doesn't have a direct grilling option, and finding it hard to get that high heat needed for searing, try laying a couple of Grill Grates over a section of the RIGHT side of grill.
These work great for creating a hot searing station on a pellet grill using the ambient heat the pellet grill is already creating.
You can then move your smoked tri-tip over to the Grill Grates, with the flat side of the Grill Grates up, and sear it like you would on a hot flat top griddle!
Resting and Carving the Tri-Tip Roast
You will then remove the smoked tri-tip from the hot Pit Boss and let it rest.
Let the roast rest for 20-30 minutes before carving.
Although we mostly slow smoked the tri-tip for ideal even cooking, the portions closer to the ends will still be more done than the very center, as will the thinner end if there is one.
This is nice because as you slice you can give the more done pieces on that end to those that prefer them.
Then give the more medium rare slices from the center to those that prefer their meat less done.
Use a good meat slicing knife and cut the smoked tri-tip into nice thick slices so they do not dry out on the plate.
We particularly like this meat slicing knife from Mairico.
A smoked tri-tip roast can be sliced thick and served like a prime rib or beef tenderloin with a horseradish cream sauce.
Or, you can slice it more thinly and serve with a red wine au jus to keep the meat moist and hot.
Either way, make sure to only slice what you plan to serve that night and keep the rest of the tri-tip roast intact so that it does not lose its juiciness.
For a more elegant affair, try serving with some delicately smoked honey balsamic carrots or asparagus. You can even do a surf and turf on the Pit Boss with one of our recipes for smoked lobster tails, crab legs, or scallops!
Tightly wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a day or two, but we know your smoked tri-tip probably won't last that long in reality.
Pit Boss Smoked Tri-Tip Roast
- Pit Boss Pellet Grill
- Pellets for smoking, preferably hickory and oak.
- Boning or Fillet Knife
- Wire Rack and Baking Tray
- Dual Probe Thermometer
- Instant Read Thermometer
- Cutting Board
- Meat Slicing Knife
- Small Bowl
- 1 Tri-Tip Roast may be up to 5 lbs if untrimmed
- 2 tablespoon Kosher Salt
- Cooking Oil High smoke point oil like avocado or grapeseed oil
- 2 tablespoon Fresh minced garlic about 4 cloves fresh
- 2 tablespoon Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
Horseradish Cream (optional)
- ½ cup Sour cream
- 3 tablespoon Prepared Horseradish drained
- 2 tablespoon Mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon Stone ground or dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Chives finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon Kosher Salt
- Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Trim and Salt the Tri-Tip (Day Before)
- Use a good boning or filet knife first remove any excess exterior fat on the tr-tip roast.1 Tri-Tip Roast
- Place the trimmed roast on a wire rack placed on top of the baking sheet.
- Apply the kosher salt, or your favorite beef rub with salt in it, to the tri-tip on all sides.2 tablespoon Kosher Salt
- Keep the tri-tip on the wire rack so you have airflow around all sides and then place it in the refrigerator overnight, or at least a minimum of 4-6 hours.
Season the Tri-Tip Roast (Day of)
- The next day, take the tri-tip out of the refrigerator and keep it on the wire rack so you keep a good amount of air circulating around the meat.
- Rub the tri-tip with a thin layer of the cooking oil on all sides.Cooking Oil
- Mix the minced garlic and fresh cracked pepper together and rub generously all over the beef on all sides.2 tablespoon Fresh minced garlic, 2 tablespoon Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
- Leave on the wire rack on the counter for up to 2 hours to rise to room temperature while you start up the Pit Boss.
Start the Pit Boss Pellet Grill
- Remove the fire pot from the bottom of the Pit Boss and clean out any ashes left over from the last cook. Replace it and make sure it is secured in place with the clips on either side. Also, wrap the drip tray in aluminum foil to limit cleanup needed later.
- Add your chosen pellets to the hopper, start the Pit Boss pellet grill and put it on the "Smoke" setting.
- If there are no pellets in the auger, hold the "Prime" button until you hear pellets begin falling in the fire pot. This will speed up the auger to prime it full of pellets before you start preheating.
- Once the Pit boss begins to produce thick white smoke, let it run for about 5-7 minutes until the smoke turns more of a clearish blue color. This means the fire rod has fully heated up to burn the pellets more cleanly.
- Next, set the temperature to preheat the Pit Boss pellet grill to 350°F. We will drop this temperature before we start cooking.
- Fill an aluminum pan with water pan if you want to add extra moisture, and place it on the far left side of the Pit Boss pellet grill. Place a disposable bucket liner in the grease bucket as well if you want to limit cleanup later.
- Once the Pit Boss has come up to 350°F, drop the temperature on the control panel to 250° and clean the grill grates with a good grill brush and close the lid.
Smoke the Tri-Tip on the Pit Boss
- Once the temperature of the Pit Boss hits 250°F, place the beef in the cooking chamber with the thickest part facing towards the hotter right side. Place a temperature probe into the deepest center part of the roast.
- Cook at this temperature until the internal temperature of the beef reaches about 105-110°F. This may take 1.5 to 2 hours.
Prepare the Horseradish Cream Sauce (optional)
- While the tri-tip is smoking on the Pit Boss, you can also prepare the horseradish cream sauce if you wish.
- Combine all the horseradish cream sauce ingredients in a small bowl and mix well to incorporate. Add extra salt and pepper as needed.½ cup Sour cream, 3 tablespoon Prepared Horseradish, 2 tablespoon Mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon Stone ground or dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar, 1 tablespoon Chives, ½ teaspoon Kosher Salt, Fresh cracked black pepper
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to serve with the smoked tri-tip later.
Reverse Sear the Smoked Tri-Tip Roast on the Pit Boss
- Once the internal temperature of the smoked tri-tip reaches 105-110°F, turn the temperature of the Pit Boss as high as it will go, preferably to 500°F.
- If your Pit Boss has the option, open up baffle for direct heating. Frequently rotate and flip the smoked tri-tip making sure to sear evenly on all sides.
- Watch closely to make sure it does not burn and cook until the internal temperature rises to about 120°F then remove it from the Pit Boss.
Remove, Rest, and Slice the Smoked Tri-Tip
- Let the smoked tri-tip rest on a cutting board, uncovered for 30 minutes.
- Slice the tri-tip in thick 1 inch slices for each guest starting at the thinnest end and working your way to the center. Only slice what you plan to serve immediately so that the pieces do not dry out.
- Serve immediately with the horseradish cream sauce on the side.