Tri Tip Rub Recommendations

A great tri tip rub will put your roast over the top!  When it comes down to it, I prefer using a dry rub over a wet marinade.  The reason is simple:  a marinade can overpower the internal flavor of the tri tip while the rub just enhances the flavor of the outside of the roast. 

Tri tip does not need a lot of help in the flavor department – it is a great tasting cut on its own (Reason #214 of why tri tip is 100% awesome).  Here are two awesome rubs that remain on my shelf (let us know what you use and recommend in the comments below):


Pappysmontreal steak seasoningMcCormick’s Montreal Steak Seasoning:  coarsely ground black and red peppers with salt and garlic my personal favorite.  High sodium content, so use sparingly if your ticker can’t handle too much of that!

Pappy’s Choice Seasoning: finely ground salt, paprika, peppers and other herbs.  This very tasty rub has a great kick…and no MSG.



Using a Rub:  the best advice about rubs is to get it on the tri tip about 20-30 minutes before it hits the grill or smoker.   Coat it liberally on both sides.   These two rubs are awesome!  Check these out or find one – better yet, CREATE one – that works for you.


*Links are to our affiliate page.  If you purchase these rubs by using these links, we get a small profit…and we thank you for that!

This article has 9 Comments

  1. Hi Darth, I mean, Eric!

    I was in Ventura, CA this past weekend and saw a guy preparing a Santa Maria grill so he could cook about 15 tri-tips. Said he was a former chef who was catering a retirement party. Seemed like a nice guy, so I asked what seasoning he uses, and he said, “Just Pappy’s and Montreal Steak seasoning”. I had never heard of Pappy’s, so I Googled it and found your site showing EXACTLY those same two seasonings the former chef recommended. Interesting! Now I definitely have to try Pappy’s! I’m curious – don’t know if you can reply to these comments – but do you use them both at the same time on the same slab of meat, or do you do some tri-tips with Pappy’s and others with Montreal Steak?

    Your note above asks us to share what seasoning we use/recommend. Seasonings are obviously subjective and we tend to “cook to our audience”, but my favorite is called “Santa Maria Seasoning” from Scott’s Foods ( Anaheim, CA, I think). It adds a nice flavor and crust to the tri-tip. I apply the rub liberally then smoke the tri-tip on my Weber charcoal grill (indirect, piece of oak wood in the coals) low and slow until the internal temp is about 100 degrees, then sear it over direct heat to finish and take it off when the internal temp is about 125-130 degrees. It picks up some subtle smoke and the sear gives it a nice exterior with some great flavor. Most of the time we get Choice cuts so the meat is already plenty tender, but if we get a Select cut (something less than Choice), then I like to Jaccard the meat to tenderize it a bit before applying the rub. That actually lets the seasoning get into the meat a little bit for even more flavor and it is tender even with a lesser grade of meat. And that sums up just about everything I know about tri-tip. 🙂 Thanks for your nice site, Eric! Will definitely read your suggestions and try your recipes. -Mick

    1. Thank you Mick! To answer your question, I only use one seasoning at a time. I prefer the Montreal SS, but I love Pappy’s equally.

  2. Love your site and all the great advice, but I don’t see what the minimum recommended time to leave your “simple” rub on the meat before cooking.
    Can you help, please?

    1. I usually put the rub on 20 minutes before; it doesn’t have to be a lot – sprinkle it across the whole roast and let it sit.

  3. I can get Tri Tip here in Toronto fairly easily–not many people know about it still but it’s always fun to see the butcher’s face light up when I ask for it. He knows.

    I’m a fan of dry brining Tri Tip either by salting several hours before the cook and then adding garlic, paprika and black pepper–lots of pepper!, or by just applying a rub with plenty of kosher salt. Why? Dry brining denatures the proteins which means the meat will retain more moisture during the cook and of course, salt enhances flavor. With Dry brining, salt, the only molecule small enough to pass through the surface and into the meat, gets distributed throughout the meat. Read more about it on

    Another great rub is “The Most Powerful Stuff” by Rod Gray of Eat Barbecue–if you follow competition barbecue at all, you’ll know that Rod is one of the best and his rubs and sauces are fantastic. This one in particular just rocks on tri tip, brisket and beef ribs….I also use it as a bone-side rub on pork ribs.

  4. I work in the Santa Maria area and love the weekends with all the BBQs fired up at every store or gas station parking lot and restaurant. While it is true that you can certainly cook a tri tip with anything you want on it, there is very much indeed a common way it is prepared in that area today. If you stop and ask (as I have many many places) they will tell you the basic traditional seasoning used is a blend of salts and pepper (most basically garlic salt, black pepper at a specific ratio, and some tiny parsley flakes). I use the Mantreal seasoning you mention above for other recipes, but honestly it is not at all like a traditional common seasoning that you would get if you visited the Cali Central Coast. The closest thing that I have found that is store bought (I usually make my own) is this brand. You will find it on store shelves in the Santa Maria area, but I have not been able to find it in any store even just up in norther California. I’ve used this with great success and works well.

  5. 1 TBS each of salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder
    2 TBS paprika
    1 Tsp red cayenne pepper


    1 tbs salt, pepper and garlic powder

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge