Reverse Sear Tri Tip Steak {Cast Iron}

Cooking a Reverse Sear Tri Tip is extremely easy and only requires a little patience and doing a few simple steps correctly.   The reverse sear is a great technique for this roast as it let’s you:

  • Build amazing layers of flavor
  • Keep the meat tender
  • Prevent overcooking

My technique covers what I like to call the “5-S Method”.  The 5-S Method covers how to do the following with the Tri Tip.

  • Season
  • Smoke 
  • Sear 
  • Slice
  • Serve 

Let’s get started!

Slices of Reverse Seared Tri Tip Roast

Season the Tri Tip Before Smoking

The first simple step that you need to get right is how to season the tri tip.  There is a time and place for fancy beef rubs but this is not it. All you want to put on your meat is a simple mix of salt and black pepper.

You want to season the tri tip with about a tablespoon of salt and a tablespoon of pepper per pound of meat.  Let the salt and pepper work into the meat for 30-45 minutes at room temperature before putting it on your smoker.

There are two reasons why you want to use a simple salt and pepper rub for this cook:

  • You want there to be plenty of exposed meat to soak up the smoke.
  • Any complex aromatics such as garlic, onion, etc are going to scorch and turn bitter during the high heat searing step.

Tri Tip Seasoned with Salt and Pepper

Smoke the Tri Tip at 180F

Once the tri tip has been seasoned it is time to get your smoker set up for low temperature cooking.

I like to use my Z grills pellet grill set to 180F burning hickory pellets when smoking beef.  I also throw a six inch smoke tube filled with smoldering pellets into the cooking chamber for more smoke flavor.

The 180F temperature is not critical and you can go as high as 250F if you like.  I prefer to smoke at 180F because it gives the meat more time in the smoke and I believe it stays more tender when cooked at lower temperatures.

Let the tri tip smoke for about two hours until an internal temperature of 120-125F is reached.  I was working with a two pound tri tip and it took right at two hours to reach 124F.  Use a digital thermometer to keep track of the internal temperature of your tri tip as they come in different sizes and cook at different rates.

Smoke the Tri Tip to 125F

Sear the Tri Tip in a Cast Iron Skillet

After the roast has smoked for about 90 minutes I get a cast iron skillet and start heating it up on my Weber Traveler gas grill.  You can do this step inside on your stovetop if desired but I prefer to do it outside to help manage the smoke and splatter.

I like to get the cast iron up to over 550F for a really great sear.

Get Cast Iron Ready for Searing

Once the tri tip hits 120-125F on the smoker I add two tablespoons or peanut oil to the cast iron skillet. If you wanted to really jack up the flavor then you could replace the peanut oil with rendered brisket fat made from your saved up brisket trimmings.

Once the oil starts smoking I add the tri tip to the cast iron and let it sear for two minutes per side.  Use a pair of tongs to press the meat onto the cast iron to get an amazing sear.

You will get a beautiful crust as the steak sears and the smell will be incredible.

Sear the Tri Tip on Both Sides

How long you sear the meat will influence the final doneness of the steak.  If you are shooting for Medium Rare (internal temp of 130F) then you should only sear the meat for about one minute per side.

Slice the Tri Tip Across the Grain

After the tri tip has seared for two minutes per side remove it from the grill, place in a dish and tent in foil as it rests for 20-30 minutes.

Once the tri tip has rested slice it thinly against the grain (Here is a tutorial for How to Slice Tri Tip) and reserve any juices.  I find it is easiest to slice the meat across the grain by first cutting it into two sections to account for the shifting grain pattern.

Slice the Tri Tip Against the Grain

Serving Ideas for the Reverse Seared Tri Tip

You can serve the slices of tri tip in a traditional manner with a side of beans, potato salad and slaw.

More and more, I am finding that I enjoy cutting the meat into a smaller dice and serving it as a topping on a salad, in massive steak sandwiches, breakfast burritos and especially in bowls of Tri Tip Chili.  I like using the finer dice because it stretches the meat into more servings and  makes it even more tender.

Of course, if you just want to eat the meat straight off the carving board with a dab of steak sauce nobody would ever blame you!

Smoked Tri Tip Salad

Slice the Tri Tip Against the Grain

Reverse Sear Tri Tip

A tri tip roast is seasoned, smoked low and slow and then seared in a cast iron skillet for serious flavor.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Calories 305 kcal


  • 1 large Tri Tip Roast About two pounds
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp peanut oil


  • Season both sides of the tri tip roast with salt and pepper and allow the roast to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • Set your smoker to 180-200F using hickory for smoke.
  • Smoke the tri tip for two hors or until an internal temperature of 120-125F is reached.
  • Heat a cast iron skillet on a gas grill or on your stovetop for 15-20 minutes until it reaches at least 550F.
  • Add two tablespoons of oil to the skillet.
  • As soon as the oil starts to smoke add the tri tip to the cast iron pan.
  • Sear the tri tip for two minutes per side.
  • Remove the tri tip from the cast iron pan and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes.
  • Slice the tri tip thinly across the grain and serve.
Keyword Reverse Sear Tri Tip