Here's the rub: tale of two tri-tips

Discussion in 'Beef' started by johnmeyer, Oct 7, 2016.

  1. johnmeyer

    johnmeyer Smoking Fanatic

    Costco was selling choice, trimmed tri-tips for $6.95/lb with two in a package. I thought it would be a good time to test the importance of rubs. My main question: do rubs really contribute much to the flavor of the end product?

    I pre-heated the MES-30 to 225F, got the AMNPS going with two separate rows of hickory pellets, and lit both rows.

    I prepped both tri-tips with yellow mustard. On one tri-tip I applied Jeff's Original Rub, and on the other used Jeff's Texas rub. I figure most of you have purchased his recipes so you are familiar with both of them. I've been using the Original on pulled pork, and the Texas rub on tri-tip.

    I then immediately put both tri-tips on the middle shelf. I smoked for three hours, turning the shelf front to back halfway through the smoke. I used a little water in the tray because tri-tip is such a dry cut, and therefore exudes almost no moisture. My MES was acting up and getting too hot, according to my remote thermometer, so I turned down the heat about sixty minutes into the smoke, and the last two hours were done at temperatures between 160 to 180 degrees. I turned it back up to 250F at the end for about fifteen minutes.

    When the meat hit 140 degrees, I brought it inside and let it rest for an hour while my baked potatoes finished. I used a toothpick to indicate the Texas rub. I didn't tell my wife which was which, but asked her if she could tell a difference, and which one she preferred. My taste test was totally unscientific because I knew which was which.


    The difference between these two rubs was very, very subtle. I wish now that I'd smoked part of the meat without any rub at all. My wife had a slight preference for Jeff's Original rub, and indeed it was a little sweeter, and of course, if you look at his recipes, it does have more ingredients then the Texas rub and therefore imparts more flavors.

    However ...

    I'm sure this will come as no surprise to anyone in this forum, but about 95% of the seasoning comes from the smoke, and my conclusion is that the contribution from the rub, at least in this instance, was extremely small. While I have never before done a side-by-side test, I've used a lot of commercial rubs, and the only time I ever tasted the rub much was when it contained some really weird ingredients not usually found in a BBQ rub, and therefore detracted from the taste of the meal.

    Of course, marinating and brining -- neither of which I did for this test -- alter things other than flavor (texture and moisture), so they represent another variable in the equation, and I suspect the difference might be much larger and less subtle.

    Oh yes, here is the Q-view. These are the remains of both tri-tips, cut into five 10-oz servings. I will freeze and then vacuum pack these. When it is time for leftovers, I will slice these pieces deli-thin and serve on a sandwich bun with my favorite tri-tip sauce, and possibly some sauteed onions.

    I actually much prefer the tri-tip sandwiches to eating tri-tip as a roast, as we did this evening.

    I wish there was some clever way, with whole cuts of meat, to estimate 10 oz. without having to cut it into several chunks. There must be a way ...

  2. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    They look delicious!

    Nice job!

  3. 3montes

    3montes Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I agree rubs may not be a significant contributor to the over all taste of the smoked meat. Which is why I usually sprinkle a bit more on at serving time. I don't go beyond rub and spritz. I have never once injected a piece of meat with anything. I have brined plenty of poultry and pork chops which could arguably be called injecting I guess. I like the flavor of the meat to be the feature with rubs or brine flavors as mild enhancers. I would not win a comp in other words. [​IMG]

    I disagree about tri tips being dry! All the ones I've made have been as juicy as some prime ribs I've seen. Actually I just trimmed up four of them last night for a party I'm cooking for today. 2 of them are sitting in my mojo fajita marinade right now for making fajitas. The other two I just plan to season with a nice beef rub. I will be reverse searing them on the Santa Maria. 

    Your tri tips look awesome! It's crazy how the price of these things vary from region to region. I can't get them in the grocery stores around here so I go through a restaurant supply house.

    I purchase a case which is 3 packs of 4 averaging 2lbs. I pay $3.99 a lb.
  4. bmudd14474

    bmudd14474 Smoking Guru Staff Member Administrator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    My 2 cents on rub is that it depends on what you are cooking. Beef for instance is a strong flavor and to get impact from rub it was to be applied heavy or have alot of punch to it in order to really develop.

    Meat like chicken and pork are subtle flavors and the rubs can be more pronounced then with beef.

    I also like @3montes like to add a tad more rub on the finished product or use a finishing sauce.

    I also agree with 3montes about moisture on the tri tip. I have never had a dry once unless it was cooked like jerky.

    Either way it looks great and great information on your experiment.
  5. johnmeyer

    johnmeyer Smoking Fanatic

    Interesting points about tri-tip not usually being dry. I think this one may have been drier than usual because the smoker got so hot for the first hour or so (I think it was close to 270 than 225). Also, perhaps I needed to use more rub. I covered both sides completely, but what I consider "cover" and what someone else means when they use that word could be two completely different things. Does anyone have a video or picture which does a good job of showing what is considered to be adequate coverage?
  6. bmudd14474

    bmudd14474 Smoking Guru Staff Member Administrator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Here are a few.

    Typically I like a little extra pepper when I do beef in order to get that impact im looking for so I add a little to my normal rub. But if its just Salt and Pepper rub then I do a lighter rub so that the pepper doesn't over power.
  7. bmudd14474

    bmudd14474 Smoking Guru Staff Member Administrator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Also on Tri Tip if you don't cut with against the grain it will seem a bit tough and not as moist.

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