On as many occasions as the weather or his schedule will allow, Owner/Winemaker Gary Eberle of Eberle Winery in Paso Robles can be found out in front of the winery barbecuing his infamous Tri-Tip steak for his visitors. So just what is Tri-Tip steak? Most popular in the Central Coast region of California, this relatively inexpensive, yet tender and tasty triangular shaped steak is cut from the bottom half of the sirloin. Unfortunately in a lot of areas of the country this cut of meat is near impossible to find, while some have access to it year round. You can speak to your local butcher and he/she should be able to help you get your hands on this amazing piece of meat.
Tri Tip is reminiscent of a good Rib Eye Steak in that it is nicely marbled making it very tender. It is also one of the more flavorful cuts of meat available. In most cases a whole Tri Tip will weigh in at about 5lbs or slightly less, and about 2-3 inches thick.
Gary's ritual is a tradtion that originated in California's Central Coast during cattle round-ups at ranches surrounding the Santa Maria Valley. The ranch owner would treat his helpers (usually his neighbors, friends and family) to a barbecue dinner as a sign of his gratitude for a hard day's work. Today the Santa Maria Style Barbecue is a tradition that lives on in both the ranching community and the neighborhoods of the Central Coast. So much of a tradition that the Santa Maria Chamber of Commerce has their own copywritten recipe! The only condiment for this tender and flavorful meat is fresh salsa. Grilled French bread dipped in sweet melted butter is perfect for soaking up every last bit of the flavorful meat juices. Served on the side is a tossed green salad and slow-cooked pinquito beans, the perfect Santa Maria BBQ!
Here is the recipe from the Santa Maria Chamber of Commerce for the meat and the salsa. And if you'd like the pinquito beans recipe as well, click here: Santa Maria Barbecue
Santa Maria Style Tri-Tip
1 tbsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1 prime top sirloin steak (3” thick), or tri-tip
Red oak logs, or charcoal and oak chips
-First, oak wood logs are placed in a pit with a movable grate and burned until red-hot. Backyard chefs can also use charcoal mixed with oak wood chips and bark available at local markets. Once lit, the fire should be hot but not blazing.
-Season the meat with salt, pepper and garlic salt to your desire.
-Do not trim off the fat before putting the meat on the grill. By placing the fat side over the fire first, the juice will come up through the meat and make it tender.
-Sear the lean part of the meat over the fire for 5-10 minutes to seal the juices, then flip over to the fat side for 30-45 minutes, depending on the side of the cut and the desired degree of doneness. When juice appears at the top of the meat, it is time to flip for another 30-45 minutes.
-The fat can easily be trimmed after cooking. It is important to slice tri-tip against the grain the long way, not across the triangle. It won’t be a uniform cut, but it will be more tender.
Santa Maria Style Salsa
3 medium fresh tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup finely chopped California green chiles
2 tbs. snipped cilantro
1 tsp. vinegar
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Pinch of garlic salt
Pinch of dried oregano, crushed
Few drops of hot pepper sauce
(Yields 3 1/2 cups)
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Cover and let stand for one hour to blend flavors.
Serve with Eberle VS Cabernet for an incredible Central Coast style dining experience!