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Jul 7, 2006 12:59 AM

Need recipe for "Santa Maria BBQ"

When I was a kid, this was a staple at my dad's corporate picnic. I remember it having a ton of flavor and I would love to make it for my husband. What is the best cut of meat to use and what is the seasoning blend?


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  1. Whole top block is the cut that was used by the original men's club that started the SMSBBQ. Later, tri-tip of beef was used and is what most backyard BBQ'rs use today. A simple S&P rub works just fine, perhaps with a touch of garlic. No fancy rubs needed for SMSBBQ, though tri-tip takes well to all types of rubs and marinades. It's a very flavorful cut with lots of marbeling. Cook it fast over med-hot heat, or slow-roast indirectly in a covered bbq a about 225.

    Let us have a report of your adventures, please!

    1. My father's corporate picnics where also heavily laden with Santa Maria BBQ (Vandenburg AFB - my birthplace!) - I don't know about the cuts of meat but I was finally able to get the 'secret' recipe for the rub:

      equal parts: salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and sugar

      Sugar is ESSENTIAL and makes a huge difference in the juiciness of the meat. I make steaks and burgers alike with this shaken over the top and it never fails to deliver super juicy meat.

      1 Reply
      1. re: krissywats

        Sugar is my secret ingredient for tri-tip rub, too. I figured that out about 12 years or so ago. Makes the rub work for some reason.

      2. Agree... tri tip is really the best cut for santa maria bbq. LA times a year ago did a great, extremely simple recipe. I think it was 6 cloves garlic, 4 tsp salt, TB fresh ground pepper. Whiz it in a processor and slowly add 1/4 cup olive oil. rub that on the tri tip 30 minutes before grilling.

        Wen I cook it, I cook it at a pretty high temperature. I sear it well over very high heat, then move it to the indirect side of the grill until it reaches between 125 and 130 (if cooked at a high temp, it will continue to raise another 5 degrees or so).

        I think the traditional is to use oak wood for flavoring (red oak at that). But, honestly, any good smoke wood would work. My favorite are fruit woods like apple or cherry, or nut trees like hickory, oak or pecan.

        1. Here are a couple pics from last year using the slow and low, uncovered method for tri tip-about 1.25 hrs on the grill. It produces very tender and flavorful meat when the cap and veins of fat are allowed to soften and melt into the beef. We do a basic salt, pepper, and garlic rub like toodie jane mentioned, and of course a smoky essence from wood is a delicious component.

          1. is there another name for tri-tip? I can't seem to find that cut locally (MA)

            1 Reply
            1. re: Biggie

              the only place you'll find it in MA labeled as tri tip is at a Trader Joes. Hopefully you have one nearby. Otherwise, you'll be met with blank looks if you ask your butcher.

              It's cut from the bottom sirloin cut. Here's a brief description from wikipedia...