What Part of Cow is Tri-Tip?


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California cut or Tri-Tip is an increasingly popular beef cut due to its superior flavor. If you want to avoid the complications of cooking brisket then Tri-Tip can be your new best friend. The name of this beef cut says all about its shape. It is a triangular meat cut that has a delicious flavor when cooked to pure perfection.

It is originally called California cut as this beef cut is quite popular in Southern California.

It is commonly confused for brisket or picanha and often referred to as a “poor man’s brisket”.

It was not the most wanted beef cut in the early 19th century and this beef cut was first popularized in the 1950s.

Tri-Trip has a rich history just like its flavor profile.

As this cut is quite affordable, therefore, cooked frequently by many beef lovers. Tri-Trip can be cooked in several ways and used in different recipes.

However, it is still an underrated steak not as popular as other beef cuts. It comes from a specific part of the cow, wants to know which? Read on.

What Part of Cow is Tri-Tip?

As the name implies, Tri-Tip is a unique triangular meat cut that got its name from its shape.

Tri-Tip comes from the bottom sirloin, the part where the sirloin meets the round and flank primal.

The bottom sirloin is cut from the low on the hindquarter right in front of the hind legs.

This hefty roast bottom sirloin subprimal cut has tensor fasciae latae muscle, found at the bottom end of the sirloin.

It is cut from the tip of the sirloin primal and has a triangular shape, hence the name, Tri-Tip.

It is known by many names such as triangle steak, Santa Maria Steak, and the most popular one, Tri-Tip roast.

Tri-Tip is often misunderstood for brisket or picanha and this cut is most popular in Southern California.

It is also called California cut and Newport steak. Tri-Tip roast and steak are famous and indispensable parts of the annual barbecue festival in California.

The small, triangular muscle weighs more or less 1 ½ to 2 ½ pounds per side of beef and is about 1-inch thick.

The Tri-Tip cut is lean, tender, nicely marbled, and rich in beefy flavor. Another thing that will make all the health-conscious people happy is the low-fat content.

It can be a juicy slice of roast and super flavorful when cooked right, however, it is tough when left undercooked.

It is not the most desirable or demanded beef cut, therefore, you will get a full flavor for a low cost.

What Does Tri-Tip Steak Taste Like?

It may be a lesser-known and not so desirable beef cut, that does not mean it lacks flavor.

Tri-Tip is a lean, flavorful steak, and a bargain as compared to other beef cuts. It offers good flavor at a reasonable price, that’s why it is called ” Poor Man’s Brisket”.

This lean cut of meat boasts a nice beefy taste and tender chew. Tri-Tip has low-fat content offering a buttery taste.

It marinades nicely and adopts the flavor of different ingredients and spices efficiently. This cut is versatile which can be cooked in a variety of ways and in several recipes.

Nutritional Content of Tri-Tip

This flavorful cut with a bold, beefy taste packs a lot of essential nutrients. For instance, an average 4oz Tri-Tip serving has 175 calories, 19 grams of protein, and less than 5 grams of fat.

Tri-Tip cut is rich in B vitamins such as niacin and riboflavin and is a good source of zinc and selenium.

Preparing Tri-Tip

Tri-Tip cut is either sold trimmed or untrimmed, the latter is cheaper to buy if you know how to trim it yourself with a sharp enough knife.

Cut off ragged ends, silver skin to trim down as much fat as possible. Trim thick chunks of fats and you will be left with a lean, boneless, triangular-shaped meat cut.

It is incredibly versatile when it comes to seasoning and handles both dry and wet rubs.

This thick piece of meat needs to be aggressively seasoned with salt, pepper, and other spices. Rub the cut with a neutral oil first and then put the spice mix.

Cooking Tri-Tip

This versatile cut can be cooked by grilling, broiling, and pan-searing. If you are planning to cook it beyond medium, marinate it for 2-3 hours before cooking.

The 1-inch Tri-Tip steaks need to be grilled for 15 to 17 minutes and broiled for 11 to 12 minutes.

Where to Buy Tri-Tip Cut?

Unfortunately, it is not readily available since regional butchers cut this part of the cow differently.

If it is not available in the meat section, ask the butcher for this cut specifically. Professional butchers can arrange or cut tri-tip steaks, if not, find a different butcher.

History of Tri-Tip Cut

This triangular cut was not popular until the 1950s, as per the historians, the credit goes to Bob Schutz, the then-owner of Santa Maria Market on North Broadway, who introduced Tri-Tip to the taste buds of locals.

The Tri-Tip was being used as ground beef or stew meat and not as a steak. It was somewhat of a rejected meat cut reserved for hamburgers and not for the cuisine. Compare other parts Flap Meat vs Skirt Steak.

As Schutz began preparing it as a steak, the locals and passersby fell in love with the taste of this unbelievably juicy and tender cut.

That’s why Santa Maria and California are credited for the rise in popularity of Tri-Tip. Today, this cut is incorporated into the many restaurant menus.

Ever since it became popular, Tri-Tip is being used in a variety of recipes, either as a main ingredient or plays a supporting role.

Some of the popular recipes of this cut are Tri-Tip Steak Tacos, Southwestern Tri-Tip Steaks, and Tri-Tip Caramelized Onion Sandwiches.


No matter what you call it, the triangular-shaped meat cut from the bottom sirloin is tender, lean, and flavorful. The relatively inexpensive piece of meat offers a bold beefy taste at an affordable price.