First and foremost, how to cook tri-tip steak strips on the stove? Well, the cooking process is pretty simple. First, bring the steak to room temperature and season with salt, pepper, or any other desired seasonings. Next, heat a pan over medium-high heat and sear the steak for 1 minute on each side. Then turn the heat to medium and continue cooking to your liking.
Tri-Tip steak is a cut of meat that comes from the sirloin subprimal. It’s a triangular-shaped muscle that is lean and relatively tough if not cooked properly. It’s also known as Santa Maria, California, culotte, bottom sirloin tip, or a Newport steak. When cooking tri-tip steak strips on the stove, it’s important to sear the meat on both sides over high heat to lock in the juices, then turn the heat down to medium and cook until to no more than medium doneness.
Below you’ll find a step-by-step guide to cooking the most amazing and juicy tri-tip steak in a pan. I’ve also included a steak-buying guide and temperature chart for each level of doneness.
How To Cook Tri-Tip Steak Strips On Stove
Cooking tri-tip steak strips on a skillet is a reasonably straightforward process. You’ll need a few ingredients and a heavy pan suitable for withstanding high heat.
One thing to keep in mind is if you want to cook tri-tip strips medium-well or above, I highly advise marinating steak at least 2 hours before cooking. If it’s cooked medium-rare or medium, then it’s tender. If not, the meat tends to be chewy; therefore, marinating is necessary to make it tender.
- Tri-tip steak;
- Kosher salt;
- Freshly ground black pepper;
- Fresh thyme;
- Olive oil.
- Cast iron skillet or heavy bottom pan;
- Meat thermometer;
- Sharp knife;
- Cutting board;
- Paper towel.
- Bring steak to room temperature. Take the tri-tip steak strips out of the fridge and season with a generous amount of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper for at least an hour before cooking. I highly recommend seasoning tough cuts of beef at least 4 hours before cooking. Dry brine will tenderize the meat, making it juicier and easier to chew;
- Prepare ingredients in advance. While the steak is getting to room temperature, make sure fresh thyme is clean, and butter is out of the fridge. Have all the necessary utensils and meat thermometer within hand reach. Steak cooks fast; therefore, you don’t have much time to do preparation when cooking;
- Preheat the pan. Place a cast-iron skillet or any other pan suitable for cooking steak on a stovetop over high heat. When the pan starts to smoke, add a few tablespoons of light olive oil or any other oil suitable for searing;
- Cook the steak. Sear tri-tip steak strips on high heat for one minute and a half on each side. Once a brown crust has developed on the exterior of the steak, turn the heat down to medium and continue cooking;
- Check internal temperature. About halfway through cooking, check the steak’s doneness. Stick the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat and check the reading. I’m cooking my tri-tip steaks to medium-rare; therefore, it’ll take about 5 minutes. Remember to take the steak out of the pan when the internal temperature is 5° Fahrenheit below the desired doneness. Steak continues to cook for another few minutes after being removed from the heat source;
- Baste. After checking the temperature, add a knob of butter and thyme to the hot pan. Create a butter pool and, using a tablespoon, baste the steak. It’ll add extra flavor and help to keep the steak juicy;
- Rest. Rest the steak strip for at least 5 minutes. Resting will allow the juices to redistribute through the meat and result in a more tender steak.
Note: cooking time may differ depending on the steak’s thickness and cooking temperature. Thinner tri-tip steak strips cook faster compared to a thick cut. Low cooking temperatures can result in longer cooking times. Some home cooks use electric stovetops, which can cause issues in keeping the skillet hot; therefore, steak can cook for a minute or two longer than it should on a gas or induction stovetop.
Steak Temperature Chart
- Rare steak: 125° F;
- Medium rare steak: 135° F;
- Medium steak: 145° F;
- Medium-well steak: 150° F;
- Well done, steak: 160° F.
To check the steak’s internal temperature, stick a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat and check the reading.
You can also use a finger test method. It is very accurate, and you’ll get used to it with time and practice. A rare steak should feel very soft when you touch it. Medium rare is slightly resistant to the touch, while medium steak is firm. If you’re cooking steak until it’s well done, it’ll be hard to the touch.
Remember to take the steak out of the pan when the internal temperature is 5° Fahrenheit below the desired doneness. The steak continues to cook for another few minutes after being removed from the heat source.
Tri-Tip Steak Buying Guide
Here’s a quick reminder of the things to look for when buying a steak:
- Smell. Steak should smell fresh and beefy, not sour or fishy. If it has an ammonia odor, it’s better to stay away from the meat like that;
- Color. Beef should be bright red with some marbling of white fat running through it. Grass-fed beef is dark red with yellowish marbling because it feeds on a natural diet. While grain-fed beef is pink with white marbling;
- Texture. Steak should feel firm to the touch, not mushy. Of course, sometimes you’re not allowed to touch the meat, but you can touch ones that are packaged;
- Barling. Marbling equals texture and flavor; therefore, the more marbling, the better. Fat will dissolve as the steak cooks and provide moisture, flavor, and a crispy crust. Of course, too much marbling for some people can be offputting because it makes steak taste a little too buttery;
- Price. Just like with anything else, you get what you pay for. Expensive steaks are usually from cows that have been grass-fed and humanely raised on farms. Cheap steaks are usually grain-fed.
There’s grass-fed beef, and there’s grain-fed beef. At the same time, there are dry-aged and wet-aged steaks. As you can see, it can be difficult to choose the best steak cut.
Grass-fed beef is leaner and has a more intense beef flavor. You’ll notice the marbling on the grass-fed beef is yellowish because of the pigments in the plants.
Grain-fed beef is fattier and has a mild flavor (some consider it too buttery). It’s also cheaper and readily available. One downside is that it does not have a complex flavor profile as grass-fed meat does.
Dry-aged steak has been aged in a controlled environment for several weeks. This process makes the meat more tender and flavorful. Wet-aged steak is aged in its own juices for several days or weeks.
Note: tri-tip beef steaks can be hard to find. Try looking at your local butcher shop.
How To Store Tri-Tip Steak
You can store steak in a freezer for up to six months. Make sure it’s properly wrapped to prevent freezer burn. When you’re ready to cook the steak, thaw it in a refrigerator for 24 hours before cooking.
If you have any tri-tip steak strip leftovers, store them in an airtight container and place them in a refrigerator. Use within three days for the best quality.
Does tri-tip steak need marinating?
If you plan to cook tri-tip steak medium-well or well done, it needs marinating. Otherwise, the meat can be tough. Alternetaviley dry brine is excellent for tenderizing meat. Rub the steak with a generous amount of kosher salt for at least 24 hours before cooking. It’ll make the tri-tip steak tender.
Do you cook tri-tip steak fat side up or down?
It’s best to cook tri-tip steak fat side down first to render the fat and create a crisp, flavorful crust.
Which is better, tri-tip or top sirloin?
Both tri-tip and top sirloin steaks are flavorful cuts of meat. Tri-tip is leaner and has more of a beefy flavor. It’s also a tougher cut of meat. Sirloin is a little fattier but has a more complex set of flavors because of the amount of fat. It’s also slightly more tender.
How long does it take to cook tri-tip strip steaks?
How long it takes to cook tri-tip steak depends on its thickness. Usually, cooking one-inch rare tri-tip on a stovetop takes around 4 minutes. Medium-rare around 5-6 minutes. Medium takes about 6-7 minutes. Medium-well 7-9 minutes and well done about 9-11 minutes.