What is a Santa Maria style Tri-Tip? Apparently, that question can’t be answered without talking about what Tri-tip is and how it came into being. Tri-tip didn’t gain notoriety until the 1950s; before then, it was allegedly written off to be used as ground beef or as stew meat, its potential as steak not having yet been realized. The Tri-tip cut, as its name would suggest, is a triangular cut of beef, from the bottom tip of sirloin.
Bob Schutz is credited with first marketing Tri-tip as a steak in 1950 in Santa Maria, California. A traditional Santa Maria style Tri-tip is seasoned with black pepper, salt, and garlic; basic ingredients, big flavor. In addition to the seasoning, the Tri-tip is smoked by California live oak (also known as coast live oak or red oak) chips. To make it truly Santa Maria, traditional accompaniments are pinquito beans, fresh salsa, tossed green salad, and grilled French bread.