Crock pot tri tip roast perfect for a weeknight dinner, Sunday roast or even as a low key festive holiday option.
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Read on for relevant information and step-by-step pictures (2 mins)
About This Trip Tip Slow Cooker Recipe
This is a classic beef pot roast in that the tri tip is cooked low and slow with moist heat, courtesy of a flavorful liquid base added to the slow cooker. We use the same pot liquids at the end to make a rich gravy which needs only a couple of minutes on the stove top. The result is deeply satisfying.
While we show a traditional combination of red potatoes and carrots for the vegetables you can also use celery, parsnips or whole button mushrooms.
Is Tri-Tip a Good Cut for Pot Roast?
Tri tip is an excellent beef cut for a pot roast (braising whole) whether in a slow cooker, a braiser, a Dutch oven or tightly covered with foil in a roasting pan.
The tri tip is a triangular muscle harvested from the bottom sirloin of the animal. It is also known as bottom sirloin roast or California cut. While it is less tender than the top sirloin it is both lean and meaty enough to be prepared using many of the same methods. It can be grilled, smoked, roasted, cooked sous vide and reverse seared or pressure cooked. It is an excellent, versatile cut endowed with a lot of flavor.
Ingredients for Slow Cooking a Tri Tip
By way of ingredients you have a good degree of latitude in making substitutions as noted below. Consider the recipe as a set of guidelines and work your own magic into them as you see fit.
Tri tip roast. The average weight for a tri tip is about 2. 5 pounds. We like to prepare two roasts when using the crock pot because we can enjoy one as a pot roast and reserve the second one for tri tip sandwiches the next day or shredded beef and use it for nachos, beef tacos, ramen bowls, rice bowls, with mashed potatoes etc.
Aromatics. Any pot roast needs onion and garlic cloves, so these are called for here. Feel free to add more than one onion – yellow is best but red, white or most sweet onions will work.
Taste balancers. We use tomato paste for some acidity and brown sugar for a hint of sweetness, especially since we like to sneak in some dark beer to work its magic. We also add fresh thyme to the crock pot for its savory goodness, so compatible with onions and beef.
Olive oil. We use it to both sear the beed and to sort of line the slow cooker with it. You can substitute with vegetable or canola, but good olive oil definitely adds more flavor.
Flavorful liquid. To provide the needed moisture for braising the tri tip and to infuse the entire dish with deep flavor we use beef broth and also a dark lager or ale that is predominantly sweet and deeply malty. Deglazing with wine works too, pick one that is not too acidic. Or use only beef stock, no beer or wine. But we recommend a beer. Dark beer and beef are natural partners.
Vegetables. Small, way potatoes such as red potatoes or baby gold are best because they can withstand the cooking time the beef requires to become tender. Carrots and other root vegetables such as parsnip, turnip and even rutabaga work well too, just be sure to increase the brown sugar if using the last two since they have a certain degree of bitterness. Whole button mushrooms and celery can be added or used as a substitute.
Seasonings. At a minimum use salt and pepper to generously coat the tri tip before you brown it. You can add your choice of savory herbs and spices.
Tri Tip Rub
For a beef pot roast rub as shown below we favor the savory notes of dried oregano, the aromatic qualities of garlic powder and the sweetness of paprika. We mix these three with kosher salt and black pepper to make a simple but impactive spice mixture.
Feel free to mix your own version or use a favorite store bought rub (such as Italian seasoning). Other suitable options are dried parsely, dried thyme, onion powder, smoked paprika, dried marjoram, cayenne pepper (if you are looking for a bit of a spicy kick), dried summer savory.
If you are interested in traditional Santa Maria trip tip rub check out our Sous Vide Tri Tip recipe where we flavor the cut with this exact rub just before reverse searing it.
Why Sear Crock Pot Tri Tip?
Before we review of the steps involved in slow cooking a tri tip let’s clarify why it is important to sear (brown) the beef first. It is not due to food safety reasons or just a frivolous step to complicate the cooking.
When searing the meat’s surface an array of flavor compounds are born via a process known as the Maillard reaction. Without exposing the protein structures on the tri tip’s surface to the high heat of the pan and the hot oil these complex flavors simply will not develop. The pot roast will still be flavorful but not to the same degree.
Bottom line – you can make a tri tip slow cooker roast without first browning the cut but it will taste richer if you do.
Step-by-Step: How to Slow Cook a Tri Tip in Crock Pot
You will find these instructions in concise format in the recipe card below. Here we showcase the process so you have it in your head before you begin cooking.
In a nutshell, there are two main stages.
Create the flavors. Rub the tri tip generously with spice rub and sear all sides using a non-stick skillet (we like the Hexclad hybrids) over medium-high heat. Set aside, lower the heat and saute the onion and garlic, then work in the tomato paste and deglaze with beer (or wine or beef broth). Allow the mixture to simmer for the alcohol to cook off (if using) and add brown sugar.
Braise. Add olive oil to the crock pot, add the vegetables and thyme, the onion mixture from the pan and then nestle in the tri tip on top. Pour beef broth, close the lid and let it all cook away until the tri tip roast is fork tender.
How Long to Cook Tri Tip Roast in Crock Pot?
Tri tip steak is already a tender cut so cooking it longer is not necessary. Go for 6 hours on slow and about 3 to 4 hours on high.
Note that both of these time estimates are guidelines and it really depends on your particular slow cooker and how large your tri tip cut is. Simply test the tenderness of the roast with a fork and when satisfied – stop cooking.
Gravy for Slow Cooker Tri-Tip Roast
You do not have to make a gravy, but why miss out on it? After all, you have all the delicious pot liquids, infused with flavor from the tri tip after a few hours of braising.
And making a gravy takes only a few minutes.
Instructions for Gravy: Melt butter in a saucepan or small skillet and work in an equal amount of flour. Cook into a paste and once it begins to brown add braising liquid. Stir constatntly throughout this whole process. Add as much as you need to reach your desired gravy thickness and then allow for about of minute of simmering time. Transfer the gravy to a serving dish and keep warm if not using immediately.
Carving and Serving Tri Tip Roast
The nature of a tri tip is such that there are two distinct areas in each cut as far as the direction of the grain goes.
For best results you need to slice it against the grain which may not be too easy to tell after pot roasting. If you cannot readily determine the direction of the muscle fibers simply slice a small slice from each end of the tri tip to reveal the direction. Then continue to slice according to your findings.
(Do not worry about it too much. The braised beef will be so tender that even if you do not carve it perfectly it will still be really easy to chew.)
When serving slow cooker tri tip as a roast garnish with fresh herbs such as thyme or parsley and make available sour cream for the veggies.
Present the gravy in a gravy boat or simply drizzle it over the sliced roast for everyone to watch as a prelude to the delicious meal ahead.
TIP: Save the crock pot juices you didn’t use to make gravy. They contain a lot of flavor and can be used in a future braise, added to a soup or a stew, used to make barley risotto, etc. You can even add them to rice instead of some of the water called for to make it more flavorful.
Other Crock Pot Recipes
Tri Tip Crock Pot
- 2.5 lbs trip tip roast*
- 3 tsp each garlic powder, dried oregano, paprika, coarse salt
- 1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 3 tbsp olive oil (or more as needed)
- 1 onion, large diced
- 4 cloves garlic, rough chopped
- 1 tbsp tomato paste (or a bit more)
- 1 to 1 1/4 cup dark beer or wine**
- 4-5 sprigs thyme
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 cups beef stock
- 2 lbs red potatoes or small gold potatoes
- 4 large carrots, cut into thick bite-sized pieces
- 4 tbsp butter
- 4 tbsp flour
- 2-3 cups crock pot braising liquid
- salt and pepper to taste, to season gravy
TRI TIP CROCK POT
- Bring the tri tip beef to room temperature and pat it dry. Mix the spice rub and generously apply it all over.
- To a large non-stick, heavy saute pan over medium-high heat add the olive oil and sear the tri tip on all sides until it is nicely browned. Set it aside and lower the heat to medium.
- Saute the onion and garlic for 3-4 minutes, Stir in the tomato paste, cook 1 more minute.
- Add the wine or beer to deglaze the pan. Scrape off any brown bits from the bottom of the pan and bring to simmer. Stir in the brown sugar.
- Drizzle olive oil at the bottom of the crock pot. Add the potatoes, the carrots, the thyme, and the onion mixture straight from the pan. Place the browned tri tip on top. Add the beef broth. Close the lid and cook on low for up to 6 hours or until the meat is fork tender/on high for 3-4 hours or until the meat is tender.
- Once you are satisfied with the tenderness of the tri tip roast, remove it from the slow cooker onto a platter. Arrange the vegetables around it. Keep warm while you make the gravy (see steps below).
- Strain the braising liquid from the crock pot. Keep warm.
- In a sauce pan over medium heat melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Add the braising liquid (about 2 cups or just a bit more) while continuing to whisk.
- Once the gravy reaches your desired consistency, simmer for about a minute and remove it from the heat. Taste and season as needed. Transfer to a gravy boat for serving.
*This is the average weight of a tri tip roast. You can also cook two cuts with this recipe and use one for a second meal of sandwiches etc.
**If using wine only use 3/4 cup. If using an ale or lager to deglaze choose a malty, dark style with pleasant coffee, toast, or dried dark fruit notes. For example black lager, porter ale, dunkel lager, doppelbock, chocolate stouts or stouts brewed without too much roasted barley are all perfect and will enrich the flavor of the braising liquid for the tri tip roast.
***Also consider celery, parsnips, turnip, rutabaga or mushrooms. You may want to add extra brown sugar if using parnsips or rutabaga to counter the natural bitterness.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 406Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 21mgSodium: 448mgCarbohydrates: 51gFiber: 5gSugar: 7gProtein: 8g