Once you make this perfectly seared + tender Air Fryer Tri-Tip you will never go back to grilling this fantastic cut of meat. It is so amazing that we stopped everything to make another one and we wanted to tell you about it! It is air-fried in just a few minutes.
🐄 Why This Recipe Works
Simple | It takes just a few basic steps to get a perfectly cooked tri-tip.
Three ingredients | There is no long grocery list or expensive spices – Just three ingredients.
Perfectly seasoned | You are going to love our star of the show: the rub. I recommend stocking up!
Flexible | You can swap out the spices to fit your preference, the cooking method remains the same.
All you need is a quality air fryer and a few ingredients to make this delicious dinner idea. You can use a basket or a tray air fryer. You will find that there are some things the air fryer does really, really well. Tri-tip is one of those things.
Tri-Tip Roast | This is a juicy and delicious piece of meat. Made popular in California, it is sometimes considered a leftover scrap and in the old days it was discarded. In fact, this delicious cut of meat works perfectly in the Air Fryer, as well as on the grill, in the oven, broiled, or even smoked.
Trader Joe’s Coffee BBQ Rub | There are so many wonderful things I can tell you about this rub. It’s absolutely delicious! It has a subtle spiciness, sweet flavors, and it’s also smoky and a little bit salty. It is perfect for steak, fish, pork, and even chicken. If you don’t have Trader Joe’s near you, you can make your own homemade coffee rub.
Garlic Powder | You just need a little bit of garlic powder to give you a great flavor.
🧂 What is Tri Tip Steak
Tri-tip (also called a Santa Maria steak or Triangle Tip) is a triangular piece of meat that is found near the backside of the cow. It can range from 1.5 – 5 pounds. Before it was prepared like a steak in the Santa Maria market, it was often used for ground beef or discarded.
Tri-tip is a cheap and lean portion of the sirloin, so it will not be as tender as a ribeye, but don’t let that deter you! This cut of meat has beautiful marbling. For a beautifully tender cut of meat, tri-tip is substantially lower in cost than its neighbor – the ribeye.
The flavor is amazing! The one we cooked today was a small 1.5-pound cut that was perfect for the three of us. For best results, do not overcook it. Well done is not a good option for this cut.
⏲️ Equipment and Tools
Air Fryer | Just one simple tool is all that you need to make this tender and juicy roast. This cut will fit into all types of fryers so pull out those Cosori, Ninja basket or Ninja Foodi, Instant Vortex 7 in 1 or the 10 in 1. The Chefman 2 Qt might be a bit too small but if you cut up the roast, it can be done.
If using a tray version, start by putting it in the bottom tray as you may already know that the upper one heats stronger and faster. Save that for getting a crust.
Allow the tri-tip to come to room temperature before you begin. This will allow the meat to retain moisture as it cooks and it will also absorb the rub more effectively. Set it out on the counter for about 20-30 minutes for a 1½ pound steak.
Step One: Heat the Air Fryer for about 10 minutes at 400º so it is piping hot.
Step Two: Create the rub for the Tri-Tip by combining the garlic powder and Trader Joe’s BBQ Rub. Pat the Tri-Tip dry and then cover the entire roast with the dry rub.
Step Three: Place it in the Air Fryer for 5 – 7 minutes. Turn it over and set the time for another 5-7 minutes. Check the temperature so you don’t overcook it.
Do you see the juice in the finished photo? That is accomplished by allowing it to rest for 10 minutes after you remove it. Don’t skip this step. Allowing it to rest is essential!
Don’t have an air fryer? You can smoke your tri-tip, cook it on the grill, or even sear it off in a very hot skillet and bake it in the oven for about 12 – 14 minutes (for 1½ pounds of meat) at 400º. If you have a convection setting on your oven, it works exactly like the air fryer but on a larger scale.
⏲️ How to Cook Tri-Tip Perfectly
At 400º, it should take 5-7 minutes per side to get a nice medium temperature for the steak. Here are the temperatures to watch for depending on your desired level of doneness.
|Well Done (not recommended for tri-tip)||165º|
The best option when cooking beef is to start with the shortest time and work up, testing the temperature of the meat as you go. I always suggest testing, as everyone’s Air Fryer is slightly different and not everyone likes a medium-rare piece of meat.
For perfect doneness, you want to watch the internal temperature using a thermometer probe. Remove the meat before it comes fully up to the temperature you want since it will continue to cook for a little bit as it rests.
You can use another, larger cut of steak to replace the tri-tip roast in this recipe. You will need to adjust the cooking time a bit. Just keep an eye on the temperature of the meat for your desired doneness.
Allow your beef to rest, as this will help prevent it from drying out. Beef should rest after cooking for about fifteen minutes. It will continue cooking during this rest period, so you should remove it from the heat source before it reaches your desired final temperature. Do not skip out on resting your meat.
Change out the seasonings in the rub to change the flavor. You could try a simple blend of garlic, salt, and pepper such as the Kinder’s rub from Costco. We also love this Yucatan Dry Rub for a little Mexican flavor.
Always watch your food, as every air fryer will heat just slightly differently. Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature to cook your meat to your preference.
When slicing your tri-tip roast, be sure to cut against the grain. Cutting meat with the grain results in a chewy, unappetizing texture. Cutting against the grain makes an incredible difference!
This is literally the difference between loving and hating tri-tip. It must be cut against the grain for melt-in-your-mouth results. The unique cut of tri-tip means you may have to turn the meat slightly as you go to stay against the grain.
👩🍳 Recipe FAQs
Tri-Tip is a sirloin cut of beef originally made popular in California in the Santa Maria market. It gets its name from its triangle shape. It is low in fat and very flavorful. It’s also inexpensive.
Sirloin butt and Santa Maria cuts are other names you might encounter. Sometimes it is called the a triangle cut or a California cut. Newport steak or bottom sirloin tip are other popular names for this cut. If you can’t find it, just ask the butcher at the store or meat shop.
Place some bread on the bottom of your air fryer. As the meat cooks and the fat drips, it will land on the bread. This prevents your air fryer from becoming smoky.
This really depends on the wattage and size of your air fryer as well as your desired level of doneness. I recommend estimating about 7-8 minutes per pound for a medium finish, and keeping a close eye on the internal temperature of the tri-tip.
🥔 Serving Suggestions
If you want a complementary type of meat for a party, try this Air Fryer Jerk Chicken.
🍽️ Related Recipes
Don’t miss out on the other Air Fryer recipes we have created. They are becoming a hot passion of ours and we can’t wait for you to try them all!
Air Fryer Tri Tip Roast
- Air Fryer
- 1 lb Tri Tip
- 2 tbsp Trader Joe's Coffee BBQ Rub you can make your own java rub as well
- 1 tbsp Garlic Powder
- Olive Oil Spray
- Combine the Trader Joe's Rub with the garlic powder and stir together.
- Heat the Air Fryer to 400º.
- Spray the tri-tip with olive oil spray and coat it with a dry rub, making sure to cover both sides.
- Add the meat to the air fryer tray. Note that I added a couple of pieces of bread to the drip pan to catch any drippings. I find that it stops any unwanted smoking and makes cleanup a lot easier.
- Cook the tri tip for 5-7 minutes on each side. Each air fryer is different, so check it early and often to avoid overcooking.
- Remove the tri-tip when you reach the desired temperature and let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
- Medium Rare 130-135 degrees
- Medium 140 degrees
- Medium Well 155 degrees
- Well Done 165 degrees