How to Grill a Tri-Tip on Charcoal?

How to Grill a Tri-Tip on Charcoal?

Grilling a tri-tip on charcoal is a surefire way to achieve juicy, tender meat with a delicious smoky flavor. As a professional copywriting journalist and avid griller, I have developed some expert tips for achieving the best results when grilling tri-tip on charcoal.

Charcoal grilling can be intimidating for beginners, but with the right tools and techniques, anyone can become a grill master. In this article, I will provide a step-by-step guide on how to grill a tri-tip on charcoal, including tips on choosing the right meat, preparing the tri-tip, setting up the charcoal grill, grilling the tri-tip, and resting and slicing the meat.

Key Takeaways:

  • Grilling a tri-tip on charcoal can result in juicy, smoky meat.
  • Follow expert tips to achieve the best results.
  • Steps include choosing the right tri-tip, preparing the meat, setting up the grill, grilling the tri-tip, and resting and slicing the meat.

Choosing the Right Tri-Tip

When it comes to grilling tri-tip on charcoal, selecting the right cut of meat is crucial. Here are some tips for choosing the perfect tri-tip:

  1. Look for a well-marbled cut of meat with good color. The fat is where the flavor comes from, so don’t be afraid of a little marbling.
  2. Choose a tri-tip that is evenly shaped for even cooking. Avoid cuts that are too thin or irregularly shaped.
  3. Consider the grade of the meat. USDA Prime or Choice will be the best options for a tender and flavorful tri-tip.
  4. For beginners, it’s essential to choose a tri-tip that is easy to work with. Ask your butcher for a trimmed tri-tip with minimal fat and silver skin.

By following these tips, you’ll be on your way to grilling a delicious tri-tip on charcoal, regardless of your level of experience.

Preparing the Tri-Tip for Grilling

Proper preparation is key to grilling a perfect tri-tip on charcoal. Follow these simple steps to elevate your next BBQ:

  1. Season your tri-tip generously with your preferred seasoning blend. For a classic Santa Maria-style flavor, try mixing garlic powder, salt, black pepper, and parsley.
  2. Marinate your tri-tip for added flavor. A simple marinade of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce works wonders.
  3. Let your tri-tip sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before grilling to ensure even cooking.

Now that your tri-tip is prepped and ready, it’s time to move onto setting up your charcoal grill.

Setting Up the Charcoal Grill

Before grilling your tri-tip on a charcoal BBQ, it’s important to properly set up your grill. This will ensure even heat distribution and the perfect cooking temperature.

First, make sure your grill is clean and free of debris from previous grilling sessions. Then, fill the charcoal chimney with enough charcoal to cover the bottom. Light the charcoal and let it burn for about 10 minutes or until the coals are glowing red.

Next, carefully pour the hot coals into the grill and spread them evenly. Place the grill grate on top and let it heat up for at least 10 minutes before grilling your tri-tip on charcoal. For a perfectly cooked tri-tip, aim for a grill temperature of around 400-450°F.

Pro tip: To ensure even heat distribution, move the hot coals to one side of the grill and place the tri-tip on the other side. This will create an indirect heat zone, allowing the tri-tip to cook evenly without burning.

Grilling the Tri-Tip

With the charcoal grill set up and preheated, it’s time to start grilling the tri-tip. Here are some of my best tips for achieving a perfectly cooked tri-tip on charcoal:

  1. Place the seasoned tri-tip on the grill with the fat side facing up. This will help to keep the meat moist and flavorful during the cooking process.
  2. Cook the tri-tip over direct heat for about 5-7 minutes on each side, or until grill marks are achieved. Use tongs to flip the meat, being careful not to pierce the meat with a fork as this will release its juices.
  3. Once grill marks are achieved, move the tri-tip to the cooler side of the grill and cover with a lid. This will allow the internal temperature to rise gradually without burning the outside of the meat.
  4. Use a meat thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of the tri-tip. For medium-rare, cook until the internal temperature reaches 135°F (57°C). For medium, cook until 145°F (63°C).
  5. Once the meat has reached the desired temperature, remove it from the grill and place it on a cutting board to rest for at least 10 minutes. This will allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat and make it more tender.
  6. After resting, slice the tri-tip against the grain into thin slices. This will make the meat more tender and easier to chew.

By following these charcoal grilling techniques for tri-tip and tips for grilling tri-tip on charcoal, you’ll end up with a tender and flavorful piece of meat that’s sure to impress your guests.

Resting and Slicing the Tri-Tip

After grilling your tri-tip on charcoal, it’s essential to allow it to rest before slicing. This resting time allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, resulting in a more tender and flavorful end product.

To begin resting the tri-tip, remove it from the grill and place it on a cutting board. Cover the meat with foil or a large bowl and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. This gives the internal temperature time to stabilize and the juices time to be reabsorbed.

Once the tri-tip has rested, it’s time to slice it. It’s crucial to slice the meat against the grain, which shortens the muscle fibers and results in a more tender cut. Look for the lines of muscle fibers running across the meat and slice perpendicular to them.

For optimal presentation, slice the tri-tip into thin slices and fan them out on a platter. Sprinkle coarse sea salt over the meat to enhance the flavor and add a pop of texture.

Using the right slicing technique and allowing the tri-tip to rest before serving are crucial flavor tips for charcoal-grilled tri-tip. By following these techniques, you’ll be able to achieve a perfectly cooked and flavorful end product.


In conclusion, grilling a tri-tip on charcoal can be a rewarding and delicious experience. By following the tips and techniques outlined in this guide, you can achieve a perfectly cooked tri-tip with mouth-watering flavor.

Remember to choose the right tri-tip, properly prepare it for grilling, and set up your charcoal grill for optimal temperature and heat distribution. Use techniques like creating grill marks and monitoring the internal temperature to ensure a perfectly cooked tri-tip.

After grilling, allow the tri-tip to rest before slicing to maximize its flavor. And don’t forget to experiment with different seasonings, marinades, and recipe suggestions to truly make this dish your own.

I hope this guide has helped unleash the grill master in you and provided you with valuable insight into the best tips for grilling tri-tip on charcoal. Happy grilling!


Q: Can I use a gas grill instead of charcoal?

A: While the techniques discussed in this article are specifically for grilling tri-tip on charcoal, you can adapt them for a gas grill. Just ensure you adjust the cooking times and temperatures accordingly.

Q: How long should I let the tri-tip rest after grilling?

A: It is recommended to let the tri-tip rest for about 10-15 minutes before slicing. This allows the juices to redistribute and results in a more flavorful and tender meat.

Q: What temperature should I grill the tri-tip at?

A: Preheat your charcoal grill to medium-high heat, around 375-400°F (190-204°C). This will ensure proper searing and cooking of the tri-tip.

Q: How can I prevent the tri-tip from drying out?

A: To prevent the tri-tip from drying out, avoid overcooking it. Use a meat thermometer to monitor the internal temperature and remove the tri-tip from the grill when it reaches your desired doneness (135-145°F or 57-63°C for medium-rare to medium).

Q: Can I marinate the tri-tip overnight?

A: Yes, marinating the tri-tip overnight can enhance the flavor. However, be sure to refrigerate it while marinating and discard any excess marinade before grilling to avoid flare-ups.

Q: How do I create grill marks on the tri-tip?

A: To create beautiful grill marks, place the tri-tip diagonally on the grill grates and let it sear for a few minutes. Rotate the tri-tip 45 degrees and sear again for a few more minutes. Then, flip the tri-tip and repeat the process on the other side.

Michael Davis
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