During the summer, I like to grill and eat outside as much as possible. It’s always nice to be outside on a warm evening with friends, family and good food. This weekend is Labor Day weekend, and that generally serves as the unofficial end of the summer grilling season. I keep grilling just about year round, but I always make it a point to have a few people over and celebrate with a cook out. One of my summer favorites is Spice-Rubbed Grilled Tri Tip with Watermelon Salsa. The tri tip is a generous piece of meat that is great for serving a crowd and the spicy-sweet watermelon salsa is a delicious accompaniment that makes the whole meal feel light and fresh. The salsa is actually great with tortilla chips or other proteins, like chicken, and I will frequently whip up a batch when I have extra watermelon just taking up space in my fridge. The salsa is best on the day it is made, but can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days, if you have leftovers or really want to do your prep work in advance.
The spice rub I used on the tri tip is a simple blend of spices that I always have in my cabinet. It has a nice amount of garlic to it and a little dose of heat, thanks to ground chipotle pepper. You can substitute in cayenne for the chipotle, but you might want to reduce the amount slightly as the cayenne has a slightly more aggressive heat. I add some brown sugar for sweetness and to enhance the caramelization of the meat when it is on the grill. You can adjust the spices to taste, and double (or triple) the rub as needed if you’re cooking a larger piece of meat.
When grilling, you should always check your meat for doneness with a meat thermometer. Different grills will cook differently (“high” on one grill can be quite a bit higher than on another model) and two pieces of meat that weigh about the same can cook at different rates, depending on thickness, temperature, etc. I used a relatively small tri tip, however you can make more rub and use the same techniques with a larger piece of meat by extending the cooking time slightly.
Spice-Rubbed Grilled Tri Tip
2 1/2 – 3 pound tri tip steak
2 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic power
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground paprika
1/2 tsp ground chipotle pepper
2 tbsp brown sugar
Preheat your grill to high heat.
Pat your tri tip dry with paper towels. In a small bowl, whisk together salt, garlic powder, pepper, cumin, chipotle pepper and brown sugar. Rub the rub evenly over the tri tip.
Grease your grill with olive oil or cooking spray. Cook the tri tip for 8 minutes on high heat, then flip and cook for an additional 7-10 minutes on the second side. Check with meat thermometer, and if it needs a few more minutes, flip the tri tip one more time. A meat thermometer should read 140F (for medium rare). Meat will continue to cook a bit when it is removed from heat.
Remove meat from the grill, cover with aluminum foil and allow it to rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing.
Serve with watermelon salsa.
4 cups cubed watermelon, 1/4-1/2 in. dice
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
1 1/2 oz lime juice
3 tbsp finely diced jalapeno pepper
salt and pepper, to taste
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and fold together with a large spoon or spatula. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.