Santa Maria-style barbecue is technically a fast-cooking method--that is, the meat is cooked over an open pit burning with red oak and cooked just until medium-rare. No low-and-slow smoking, no breakdown of connective tissue (which, luckily, tri-tip is very low in), no fancy barbecue sauces. Just seasoned beef, grilled, sliced, and served with a bowl of pinquito beans, a tomato salsa, and buttery garlic bread.
This is a classic Santa Maria style barbecue tri tip with a simple garlic, salt, and pepper rub, cooked over an open fire to medium rare. It's best served with Santa Maria-style Salsa.
- 4 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 4 teaspoons)
- 1 whole tri-tip roast, (about 2 1/2 pounds) or 1 top sirloin roast (about 2 1/2 pounds)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 recipe Santa Maria-Style Salsa
Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Alternatively, set half the burners on a gas grill to the highest heat setting, cover, and preheat for 10 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. If desired, add a few chunks of oak that have been soaked in water for 30 minutes directly to the coals.
Rub steak with garlic and season well with salt and pepper. Place over cooler side of grill, cover, and cook, turning and flipping occasionally until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the steak registers 115 to 120°F for medium rare, 20 to 30 minutes
If coals are not hot, remove steak from grill, add another quart of coals, and wait five minutes for them to heat up. Return steak to hot side of grill. Cook, flipping regularly until well-charred on exterior and center of steak registers 120 to 125°F on an instant-read thermometer, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice thinly and serve with Santa Maria-Style Salsa.