The Oklahoman

Santa Maria barbecue is California gold on the tri-tip

- Food Dude Dave Cathey The Oklahoman USA TODAY NETWORK

As football season nears, the lure of the grill is strong no matter how hot it is outside. h Summer acted like it missed the starting gun in 2021 but made up for lost time by turning up the heat all August long. That didn’t stop me from leaning into the heat fueled by inspiratio­n from California’s Santa Maria Valley.

The Central Coast has long been a hot bed for a distinctiv­e style of cooking over hot coals, but in the 1950s more than 100 years of tradition for cooking a style of barbecue reminiscen­t of Spanish and South American styles emerged in local restaurant­s.

It was about that time a California butcher introduced the tri-tip roast into the tradition. Tri-tip is now synonymous with what’s known as Santa Maria Style barbecue.

Unlike barbecue renowned in these parts, low and slow isn’t the standard for cooking over an open flame. When cooking a tri-tip roast, the most common approach is a mix of direct and indirect heat. Start with a fire strong enough to sear a two and a half pound hunk of beef, but once that sear is delivered move the beef across the grill and away from direct flame.

The other staple of Santa Maria barbecue is oak wood. As it turns out, oak happens to be my favorite smoking wood. It’s integral to the Central Texas style of barbecue my soul belongs to. While you might not be able to find “red oak” in these parts, live oak properly aged and seasoned for firewood is prevalent.

Using my Hasty-Bake oven, I decided to sear the tritip on a stovetop cast-iron griddle, move it to a room temperatur­e cast-iron griddle and deliver it to a grill burning between 220 and 250 F.

The beef was smoked at that temperatur­e for about 45 minutes to arrive at an internal temperatur­e of 135 F.

The result is a hunk of glorious beef that yields juicy mid-rare cuts on the fat side and tasty medium to medium well slices on the smaller side.

I decided to smoke the beef on a cast-iron griddle in an attempt to collect rendered beef fat. That was a success. When the time came, enough tallow had melted onto the griddle that I was able to mop it up and brush it onto the beef.

For seasoning, salt and pepper are the primary contributo­rs but I also used garlic and onion powder, plus some herbs from the garden I clipped and dried.

Because grilled tri-tip is so juicy, I decided to serve it on toast so it could soak up any flavorful drippings before they hit the plate. Since avocado is a prime California crop and has in recent years carved out its own niche on toast, I combined the two.

Pink beans were once commonly served with tritip, but I opted for more local version of ranch-style beans. I also made some macaroni salad because middle age has convinced me it goes with everything.

Tri-tip is also fantastic chilled, and is ideal for second or third-day salads. Pair this beef with a Central Coast wine — consult your favorite wine merchant for recommenda­tions.

Santa Maria Style Tri-Tip

Remove any silver membrane and trim a little off the fat cap before rubbing the entire tri-tip roast with the rub. Place in a sealed container or plastic bag and let stand at least an hour and as long as over night.

Remove the tri-tip from the refrigerat­or and let stand at least a half hour and as long as an hour before time to cook.

For standard grilling

Soak oak chunks in water for at least an hour. Prepare your grill for direct and indirect grilling over medium-high heat. Before adding the beef to the grill, add the soaked wood chunks directly to the fire.

Place your seasoned tri-tip over the direct heat, fattiest-side up, and sear about 10 minutes, or until browned. Flip the meat over and sear the other side the same way.

Move your tri-tip to the indirect-heat. Cover your grill and let the tri-tip cook 20 to 30 minutes, until an instant-read thermomete­r reads 130 F in the thickest part of the beef.

For using a smoker

Prepare a smoker to 220 to 250 F using oak wood or a mix of oak wood and charcoal.

Heat a cast-iron griddle over high heat until it is smoking hot. Sear the tri-tip on both sides 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.

Move the roast to a cool cast-iron griddle or pan and transfer, fat side up, to the smoker. Smoke the tri-tip until it reaches at an internal temperatur­e of at least

130 F on its thickest side.

Let beef rest at least 15 minutes, then slice it against the grain and serve it on avocado toast with beans and rice or pasta.

SOURCE: Dave Cathey

 ?? PHOTOS/THE OKLAHOMAN ?? California’s Santa Maria style barbecue begins with tri-tip roast over an open flame. DAVE CATHEY
PHOTOS/THE OKLAHOMAN California’s Santa Maria style barbecue begins with tri-tip roast over an open flame. DAVE CATHEY
 ??  ?? Sliced tri-tip served on avocado toast with macaroni salad and ranch-style beans.
Sliced tri-tip served on avocado toast with macaroni salad and ranch-style beans.
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