Tri-tip steak

Beef Cuts
Alternative names "triangle steak"
Type Bottom Sirloin cut of beef
Whole beef tri-tip, roasted medium rare

The tri-tip is a cut of beef from the bottom sirloin subprimal cut.[1] It is a small triangular muscle, usually 1.5 to 2.5 lbs. (675 to 1,150g) per side of beef.

The scientific name of this muscle is m. tensor fasciae latae, inserted in the fascia lata, the connective tissue covering the m. quadriceps femoris, also called quadriceps extensor, a group of four muscles which in turn insert in the patella, or kneecap, of the animal.

United States

Origins controversy

Donna Fang, a competition barbecue pitmaster, claims that her father worked with the man who discovered and marketed tri-tip in Oakland, California.

In the United States, this cut was typically used for ground beef or sliced into steaks until the early 1950s, when Otto Schaefer, Sr., first barbecued it whole on the Schaefer Ranch. He introduced it to market in Oakland, California, and ranchers visiting the Schaefer Ranch from Santa Maria enjoyed it and took the idea home, where it was popularized by the Santa Maria Elks Club.[2]

This is contrary to the historical record by the Santa Maria Elks Club and the first-hand account of Larry Viegas, a butcher at a local Safeway store, who says that the idea to cook the meat from this area as a distinct cut of beef first occurred to his store manager, Bob Schultz, when an excess of hamburger existed in the store (into which meats from this part of the animal were usually ground).[3] Viegas says that that day, Schultz took a piece of the unwanted meat, seasoned it with salt, pepper, and garlic salt, and placed it on a rotisserie for 45 minutes or an hour; the result was well-received, and Schultz began quietly marketing it as "tri-tip".[3]

Regardless of claims to its origin, it became a local specialty in Santa Maria in the late 1950s.[3] Today, it is seasoned with salt, pepper, fresh garlic, and other seasonings, grilled directly over red oak wood to medium-rare doneness. Alternative preparations include roasting whole on a rotisserie, smoking in a pit, baking in an oven, grilling, or braising in a Dutch oven after searing on a grill. After cooking, the meat is normally sliced across the grain before serving.[4]"

Sometimes labeled "Santa Maria steak", the roast is most popular in the Central Coast of California, the Central Valley regions of California[1] and throughout the entire state. It has begun to enjoy increasing favor elsewhere for its full flavor, lower fat content, and comparatively lower cost. Along with top sirloin, tri-tip is considered central to Santa Maria-style barbecue. In central California, the fat is left on the outside of the cut to enhance flavor when grilling, while butchers in many states trim the fat side for aesthetic purposes.

Outside of California

In New York City, the Florence Meat Market has popularized the name "Newport steak" for a steak cut from the tri-tip.[5]

Tri-tip has also become a popular cut of meat for producing chili con carne on the competitive chili-cooking circuit, supplanting ground beef because the low fat content produces little grease, for which judges take off points.[6]

Tri-tip is related to the culotte steak, which is cut from the top sirloin.

In the U.S., the tri-tip has the meat-cutting classification NAMP 185D.[1]

Tri-tip dinner with gravy, served with brown butter, parsley potatoes


In much of Europe, the tri-tip is usually sliced into steaks. In France, it is called aiguillette baronne and is left whole as a roast.[7] In northern Germany, it is called Bürgermeisterstück or Pastorenstück, in Austria Hüferschwanz, and in southern Germany it is called the same name as the traditional and popular Bavarian and Austrian dish Tafelspitz, which serves it boiled with horseradish. In Spain, it is often grilled whole and called the rabillo de cadera. In Central America, this cut is also usually grilled in its entirety, and is known as punta de Solomo; in South America, it is grilled as part of the Argentine asado and is known as colita de cuadril; in Chile, it is a popular roast called punta de picana; in Mexico, it is known as picaña; in Colombian cuisine, it is a popular cut for grilled steaks and is known as punta de anca; and in Venezuela, it is known as punta trasera. In Brazil, it is a common cut for the traditional Brazilian churrasco and is known as maminha (in contrast to picanha, which is from the top sirloin).


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