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Santa Maria Barbecue

Santa Maria Style-Barbecue Tri-Tip and Salsa

Most recipes call for using garlic salt or garlic powder in a spice rub, but we like Rancho San Julian cattle rancher Elizabeth Poett’s alternative technique of using fresh garlic. The best local tomatoes are conveniently in season at the same time that we generally want to serve barbecue, although you will also find Santa Maria-style salsa made with canned tomatoes and canned diced green chilies. Some also add diced celery to the mix, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Makes 6–8 servings
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Barbecue, Beef, Salsa
Servings: 6 to 8 servings


  • 1 grass-fed beef tri-tip roast, approximately 2 pounds
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 –3 cloves of garlic, cut in half, or spice rub of your choice

For the Salsa

  • 1 1⁄2 pounds tomatoes, chopped into ¼-inch pieces
  • 1 jalapeño chile, finely diced
  • 1⁄2 small red onion or several scallions, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely diced
  • Small handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime or 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste


  • Rub the meat with the salt and pepper. Poke the tip of a small, sharp knife into the meat and insert the pieces of garlic. Alternatively you can rub the meat with a spice rub of your choice.
  • Put it on the grill over red oak coals, fat side up, and sear for about 5 minutes. Turn it over and adjust the grate so that the meat is about 8 inches from the coals. Cook the meat for approximately 20 minutes per inch of thickness or until it reaches an internal temperature of 130°. Remember Encarnación’s advice to “watch it continuously, turning the meats so they stay moist yet get well browned.”
  • Remove and let rest for a few minutes. You can trim the fat then slice against the grain and serve with fresh tomato salsa.

To Make the Salsa

  • Combine the tomatoes with the rest of the ingredients and season to taste. Salsa should be made to taste, so add a little more of one ingredient or less of another to get it just the way you like it. Let sit for up to an hour before serving to allow the flavors to meld.