Grilled Santa Maria Tri-Tip with Espresso Rub and Cabernet Reduction

Grilled Santa Maria Tri-Tip with Espresso Rub and Cabernet Reduction
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About This Recipe

Deep in the heart of California's wine country lies a treasure trove of culinary marvels, waiting to be discovered by the discerning palate. Among these delights, one dish that has garnered acclaim for its harmonious blend of flavors is the Santa Maria tri-tip. This cut of beef, traditionally associated with California's Central Coast, has found its way northward and landed gracefully in the menus of Napa's home kitchens and rustic winery restaurants. Marrying this classic with Napa's robust wines brings forth a recipe that's a testament to the region's rich culinary history: Grilled Santa Maria Tri-Tip with Espresso Rub and Cabernet Reduction.

When you think about the best way to cook tri-tip, grilling is the method that often stands out. Grilled tri-tip, with its smoky aroma and charred edges, pays homage to the outdoor barbecues Santa Maria is famed for. However, it's the Santa Maria tri-tip rub that really sets it apart. Traditional rubs often consist of garlic, salt, and pepper, but to give it that unique Napa twist, I've introduced a bold espresso steak rub. The deep, earthy flavors of the espresso blend beautifully with the tri-tip's natural umami, creating a flavor profile that’s both familiar and intriguing.

But what truly elevates this tri-tip recipe is the Cabernet Reduction. In Napa, wine is not just for sipping - it finds its way into our pots and pans, adding depth and character to our dishes. This reduction, made with some of the finest Cabernets from the region, drizzled over the grilled tri-tip, provides a sweet and tangy contrast, making it a dish worthy of any festive table. For those unfamiliar, a red wine sauce for steak, especially one made from Napa's prized Cabernets, imparts a richness that's hard to replicate.

Pairing such a dish with wine might seem daunting, but in Napa, where wine flows as freely as the Napa River itself, it's a delightful journey. A safe bet would be a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon from the Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, its bold flavors complementing the beef's richness. If you're feeling a bit adventurous, a Tempranillo from Artesa Vineyards & Winery would offer an intriguing contrast with its old-world charm.

When considering the best way to prepare tri-tip for a full-fledged menu, think of it as the star of the show. Start your meal with a light garden salad using fresh, local ingredients. Given the intensity of the espresso steak rub, and the red wine reduction, accompanying sides should be milder. Consider garlic mashed potatoes or roasted vegetables. A cheese platter featuring selections from local dairies, like those found in Dean & DeLuca, can be an exquisite prelude or finish to this meal.

This tri-tip recipe, while rooted in Santa Maria's culinary tradition, is very much a celebration of Napa and its wine culture. If you're visiting or planning a trip to this enchanting valley, take the time to explore the local vineyards, dine in rustic wineries, and immerse yourself in the gastronomic wonders that make Napa a food lover’s paradise.

In essence, this Grilled Santa Maria Tri-Tip with Espresso Rub and Cabernet Reduction is more than just a recipe—it's a narrative, a story of Napa's culinary heritage and its enduring love affair with wine. Whether you're a resident, a traveler, or simply someone with an appreciation for good food and wine, this dish, much like Napa itself, promises an experience that lingers long after the last bite.

Hero Ingredient Spotlight: The Santa Maria Tri-Tip

Nestled between the ribs and the flank, the tri-tip is a triangular cut of beef that's both tender and full of flavor. A native star of California's Central Coast, the Santa Maria tri-tip is celebrated for its distinct taste and grain, making it a prime choice for grilling. Its natural marbling ensures that every bite is juicy and succulent. Paired with bold flavors like our espresso steak rub, this hero ingredient takes center stage, promising a culinary experience that's genuinely Californian.

How to Perfectly Grill Santa Maria Tri-Tip

Grilled tri-tip is a harmonious balance of smokiness and beefy goodness. Here's a step-by-step guide to mastering the best way to cook tri-tip on a grill:

  1. Preheat your grill: Whether you're using a charcoal or gas grill, aim for a medium-high heat. A two-zone fire (hot on one side, cooler on the other) is ideal for tri-tip.
  2. Season your tri-tip: Apply the espresso steak rub generously. Ensure that the entire surface is well-coated. Allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Sear on high heat: Place the tri-tip on the hotter side of the grill. Sear each side for about 3-4 minutes until a nice crust forms.
  4. Move to cooler zone and grill: Once seared, shift your tri-tip to the cooler side and let it grill for another 20-30 minutes. Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness - 130°F for medium-rare.
  5. Rest and slice: This step is crucial! Let your grilled tri-tip rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing against the grain. This ensures all those lovely juices stay locked in.

FAQs about Grilled Santa Maria Tri-Tip

  1. Can I use another cut if I can't find tri-tip? Absolutely! While tri-tip is distinctive in its flavor, flank or skirt steak can be worthy substitutes. Adjust the cooking time accordingly.
  2. I have a nut allergy. Is the espresso rub safe? While the espresso rub doesn't contain nuts, always check the individual ingredients for any cross-contamination risks if you have severe allergies.
  3. How can I store leftovers? Cool the grilled tri-tip completely. Then, wrap it tightly in aluminum foil or place it in an airtight container. Refrigerate and consume within 3-4 days for best quality.
  4. I don't drink alcohol. Can I skip the red wine reduction? You can! If you're avoiding alcohol, try a balsamic reduction. The tangy-sweet flavor will be a great complement to the tri-tip.
  5. Is there a specific type of espresso to use for the rub? A dark roast espresso grind works best for the rub, offering deep, robust flavors. You can find these at local grocers or specialty coffee shops.

Tips for Success with Your Grilled Santa Maria Tri-Tip

  1. Invest in a good meat thermometer: This tool is invaluable. It takes the guesswork out of grilling, ensuring your tri-tip is perfectly done every time.
  2. Allow your meat to come to room temperature: Before grilling, let the tri-tip sit out of the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. This results in more even cooking.
  3. Pair with Napa's finest: Enhance your dining experience by pairing your dish with a recommended wine. Not only does it elevate the meal, but it also offers a genuine taste of wine country.

Recipe Overview

Grilled Santa Maria Tri-Tip with Espresso Rub and Cabernet Reduction
Lily Anderson
4-6 servings
Calories Per Serving:
Prep Time:
Cook Time:
Total Time:

Ingredients List


  • 1 tri-tip (about 2 to 3 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons finely ground espresso coffee beans
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup Cabernet Sauvignon (preferably from a Napa vineyard)
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Step-by-Step Directions

  1. For the Espresso Rub: In a small bowl, combine ground espresso, brown sugar, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, ground cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and black pepper. Rub this mixture all over the tri-tip, ensuring it is well-coated. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes to marinate.
  2. For the Cabernet Reduction: In a saucepan over medium heat, sauté the shallot until translucent. Pour in the Cabernet Sauvignon and balsamic vinegar. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, letting it reduce by half. Stir in honey and continue simmering until the mixture is syrupy. Remove from heat and whisk in butter until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  3. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Place the marinated tri-tip on the grill and cook for about 12-15 minutes per side for medium-rare, or until desired doneness is reached. Remember to turn occasionally for even grilling.
  4. Remove the tri-tip from the grill and let it rest for 10 minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute.
  5. Slice the tri-tip against the grain and serve with the Cabernet reduction drizzled over the top.

Share Your Results

Was it everything you dreamed it could be? Let me know how it turned out for you and share a picture on social media with the hashtag #LilyCooksNapa

Hello and welcome to Napa Home Chef! We're thrilled you're joining us to explore the vibrant world of wine country cooking. Our team has crafted bold, creative recipes inspired by Napa Valley's lush landscapes, bountiful harvests, and world-renowned wines. We hope you enjoy the journey with us!

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