How to Slice Tri Tip: All You Need to Know!

June 29, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton

The best way to slice a tri tip is to cut the meat against the grain. This piece of beef does have two grains so you first need to identify each one before slicing it.

As a professional chef, learning how to cut beef properly was just as important as knowing how to cook it. This has made me quite the expert over the years.

In this post I will show you how to slice tri tip and provide all the tips to make sure that you get it right too! Let’s get started!

How to slice tri tip

What is the Correct Way to Slice Tri Tip?

The correct way to cut tri tip is to slice the meat against the grain.

The grain refers to the direction of the muscle fibers in the trip – or any cut of meat.

When you look at a tri tip roast, you will be able to see the grain in the form of long fibers running across the surface of the meat. This should be easier to spot in a cooked tri tip as the fat cap has already been trimmed down.

slices of sirloin beef Tri Tip

So, what does it mean to cut tri tip against the grain?

Well, it means that you cut in a direction that is perpendicular to the grain. In doing so, you cut through the muscle fibers, shortening them.

What is tricky about cutting tri tip, though, is that it has two grain directions. This means that when you slice a tri tip, you first have to cut perpendicular to one grain first before then moving onto cutting the other grain, also in a perpendicular fashion.

So, in case you wondering:

Do you cut tri tip with or against the grain?

You now have your answer!

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A Step by Step Guide to Slicing a Tri Tip Roast

Here are the directions that you should follow if you want to slice a tri tip cut the right way:

Step 1: Identify the Direction of the Grain

The first thing you need to do is to figure out the direction of each of the grains.

Place the tri tip on the cutting board. Take a close look to see if you can see the grain lines.

If you can’t, grasp the tri tip at each end and then gently pull apart. This should reveal the two grains.

Step 2: Cut the Tri Tip in Half

Once you have figured out where the two grains intersect, you need to dissect the roast at that point.

Cut through this area until the two pieces are separated.

Always use a sharp knife for this job so that you can cut through the meat smoothly.

Step 3: Slice Against the One Grain

It is best to start with the section that has the narrowest corner. Slice perpendicular to the grain.

Make sure to cut thin slices with each downward stroke. Thinner slices yields a better texture.

It is important to keep pausing to check that the grain is still in the same direction as when you first started slicing the tri tip.

Step 4: Slice Against the Other Grain

To make this easier to do, flip the second section of the tri tip over on the cutting board.

Then, begin to cut tri tip against the grain. Start from the narrower end.

Once again, make sure that the slices are fairly thin.

Why Should You Cut Tri Tip Against the Grain?

Now, you are probably wondering why there is so much fuss about slicing meat in such a particular way.

Well, this is so that you can guarantee that you will end up with a more tender tri tip.

grilled Tri Tip steak

On its own, tri tip isn’t what you would call a tender cut. This is because it is largely made up of lean meat – there is very little fat here. So, even when you cook the meat down, it can be still pretty chewy.

See, the muscle fibers are fairly tough. When you cut through them and shorten them, then you make it easier to chew through the meat. Therefore, you get a more tender bite.

Should You Cut Tri Tip Before or After Cooking?

As mentioned, once you cook the tri tip, it is not as easy to see the grain. So, it is only natural to wonder if you should cut tri tip before or after you cook it.

Well, if you want to prepare and cook tri tip steak, then you should absolutely cut tri tip before you grill it.

First, though, you will need to trim the fat cap before you cut the tri tip steak. Don’t remove the entire fat cap – instead, trim it down so that it is about 1/4th of an inch thick.

Once you have trimmed the fat cap, you can begin slicing the tri tip.

When cutting tri tip steak, make sure to pay attention to the directions of the grain and slice against them.

If you want a roast instead of a tri tip steak, then keep the cut of beef whole and wait until it has finished cooking.

Does the Method of Cooking Matter?

As you are probably aware, a tri tip can be cooked in a myriad of ways. It can be smoked, roasted, cooked sous vide, and even prepared in a slow cooker.

So, considering this, should you cut the beef in the same manner regardless of how it is cooked?

Yes! It doesn’t matter how you cook or prepare your meat, it still has to be sliced against the grain. This is one thing that doesn’t change.

The Importance of Resting the Tri Tip

Never slice the tri tip directly after it has finished cooking or smoking. Instead, always place the meat on the cutting board to rest first.

When the tri tip is cooked, the muscle fibers contract, expelling moisture from their tissues. However, when the tri tip is allowed to rest, the internal temperature of the meat begins to drop.

When this takes place, the tissues relax and are able to reabsorb the liquid. This makes for a much juicier and tastier tri tip.

Don’t worry, this process doesn’t take too long. You will only need to let the tri tip rest for about 15 minutes before slicing into it.

Some people like to tent the meat in foil during this time but I don’t think it is really necessary. In fact, I find that it can make the beef rather mushy so it is best to just leave the cut on the board.

Whatever you do, though, don’t skip this step!

Should You Slice the Whole Tri Tip All at Once?

It can be tricky to know just how much of the tri tip that you will need for any one meal. Despite this, don’t slice the entire tri tip all at once.

If you are going to have leftover tri tip, it is best for it to be left whole. This is because when you store a whole tri tip, the cut will retain most of its moisture.

slicing Tri Tip

As you start slicing the tri tip, the meat begins to lose its moisture. Store the slices in the refrigerator or even freeze them and you are likely to lose even more of the juiciness.

The same advice should be followed when serving guests. Only cut as much as you are planning on serving at one time and serve with steak sauce.

Only if you start running out of slices should you cut into the whole tri tip again. This guarantees that each serving will be as delicious as the last.

Tips for Slicing the Tri Tip Correctly

Here are some guidelines that you should follow to make sure that you get this task right.

Use a Sharp Knife

I have already mentioned this guideline before but it bears repeating. When you use a sharp knife, you can cut through each slice swiftly.

Otherwise, you risk ragged cuts of meat that can impact the texture of the tri tip.

When your knife is sharp, it is also easier to cut thin, consistent slices.

Remove the Fat Cap

Once you have finished cooking your tri tip, the fat cap doesn’t serve much purpose. And, if you are making sandwiches or something similar, the fat can add unnecessary chew to the meat.

Therefore, feel free to get rid of this layer.

In doing so, you will be able to see the grains below more clearly. In turn, it will be easier to cut in a smore specific manner.

Keep Checking the Direction of the Grain

This is especially important if you are cutting the roast into steaks. In general, though, if you aren’t dissecting the roast first, it is important to pay attention to how you are slicing the meat.

The direction of the grain can change with very little warning so check the direction after every couple of slices.

Keep the Slices Thin

A lot of people get quite confused about why you need to slice the tri tip so thinly. You may think that thicker slices would make a better mouthful, particularly if you are serving the slices as is.

Well, thinner slices help to make the tri tip feel more tender with each bite. If you slice it too thickly, then it is going to feel rather chewy.

So, I know that it can be pretty frustrating but still try to cut the meat as thinly as you can manage. It will be worth the effort.

Wrapping It Up

There you have it – all that you need to know about slicing this delicious cut! Follow this guide and you will be a pro in no time at all!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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