It can be tough to make a decision about what type of meat to buy. Even if you’ve decided on steak, there are plenty of options available. Since most of them are delicious, it’s hard to go wrong, but which one you choose depends on the type of dish you have in mind. Let’s break down the differences between sirloin tip vs tri tip as an example.
Sirloin Tip vs Tri Tip
Despite the name, sirloin tip is actually cut from the round portion of the steer, while tri tip comes from the bottom half of the sirloin. Whereas tri tip is a triangle-shaped roast with a decent amount of marbling, the sirloin tip is leaner and benefits from more robust seasoning.
About Sirloin Tip
The sirloin tip, on the other hand, is cut from the top of the round—the front portion of the rear leg, to be precise. Because it’s so low in fat, it doesn’t have a great deal of flavor, but it lends itself well to marinades. This also helps to improve the texture, which can be on the tough side.
Sirloin tip steak is a cut that benefits from a long marinating period. It’s best to use a combination of tangy and sweet ingredients in the marinade. Ketchup, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lemon and lime juice, and balsamic vinegar are all good options.
About Tri Tip
While the sirloin tip is cut from the round primal, the tri tip is taken from the lower portion of the sirloin. It has a distinctive triangular shape and a bold, beefy flavor. Since it contains a number of thigh muscles and a high concentration of fat, tri tip can also be quite chewy.
Although this cut is available in many different regions, it’s more prevalent on the West Coast. If you visit the butcher counter in California and ask for steak tips, they’ll probably think you’re referring to tri tip steak.
In other areas, the tri tip might masquerade under a different name. For example, in the Northeast, you could find it labeled as “Newport steak.” Other aliases include “triangle tip,” “triangle steak,” and “Santa Maria steak.”
You can use various marinade ingredients for tri tip, but the traditional preparation is simple: olive oil, garlic, and plenty of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. In California, chefs like to prepare it over an open fire or in a cast-iron skillet in order to get a good char on the exterior.
Tri tip should be cooked whole, then sliced against the grain to help it maintain the right flavor and texture. It’s fine to cut it into smaller steaks before cooking it, but be careful not to overcook them.
The Flap Steak Alternative
The flap steak is located on the bottom sirloin, in the same region as the tri tip. Like many other cuts, it goes by more than one name. The favored term for flap steak is “bavette steak,” and it’s a chewy cut that requires special care.
Bavette steak has a fat cap that should be removed before cooking. Since the meat benefits from high-heat cooking methods, the fat won’t have a chance to melt away the way it would with a cut like brisket. Trim away as much of the fat as possible, removing the silverskin in the process.
If you’d like, soak the bavette in a marinade for several hours before cooking. The meat’s natural fibers are loosely distributed, meaning it will readily absorb the flavor and moisture of the marinade. As an alternative, you can season it with your favorite steak rub, or keep it simple with kosher salt and black pepper.
Since the bavette is thicker in the center than around the edges, try to flip the ends up during the latter half of the cooking process. Otherwise, they’ll be tough and overcooked before the middle has reached the desired temperature. For optimum results, try not to cook bavette steak past medium-rare.
Recipe for Grilled Sirloin Tip Steak
- 1-1/2 pounds sirloin tip steak
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons clover honey
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the marinade.
2. Pat the steak dry with paper towels and place it in a shallow bowl. Add the marinade and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
3. Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to medium-high. A pellet grill should be set to 450 degrees Fahrenheit for this recipe.
4. Remove the steak from the marinade and wipe off any excess liquid. Oil the grilling grates.
5. Put the steak on the grill. Cover and grill for 2-3 minutes, then remove the lid and flip the steak to the other side, then replace the cover. Grill for an additional 2-3 minutes, or until the meat has reached the desired temperature.
6. Remove the meat from the grill and tent with foil. Let rest for at least 5 minutes.
7. Slice the meat against the grain and serve.
Recipe for Grilled Tri Tip Steak
- 1 well-marbled tri tip roast (3 to 4 pounds)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1-1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1-1/2 teaspoons onion powder
- 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely minced
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1. Mix together seasoning rub ingredients in a small bowl.
2. Set the tri tip in a roasting pan and pat dry with paper towels. Season the roast with the rub, massaging it into every inch of the surface.
3. Cover the meat and let it sit for an hour at room temperature.
4. Build a multi-level fire in your grill so that you have a direct (hot) zone and an indirect (cooler) zone. If you’re using wood chips or pellets, oak is the traditional flavor for Santa Maria tri tip.
5. Sear the tri tip over direct heat for 4 to 5 minutes per side. Watch it carefully and readjust as needed if any flare-ups occur.
6. After searing the roast on all sides, move it to the cooler side of the grill with the fat side facing up. Cover the grill and roast until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 130 for medium-rare and 140 for medium.
Keep an eye on the grill temperature to ensure that it remains between 250 and 300. If it stays within this range, the tri tip should be done in 20 to 40 minutes.
7. Remove the meat from the grill and tent it with foil. Let rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
8. Slice the tri tip across the grain and serve.
Is tri tip better than sirloin tip? It’s a matter of personal taste. The tri tip is juicier and more flavorful, but sirloin tip can be excellent when it’s grilled over an open flame. It’s also a bit leaner than the tri tip, which could come in handy for health-conscious shoppers.