In the latest edition of its food section, the Sacramento Bee turns the spotlight on tri-tip, the cut of meat that was popularized in the Santa Maria Valley and that is considered a signature cut (along with top block sirloin) of traditional Santa Maria Style Barbecue.
Senior writer Allen Pierleoni begins his story with the following observation: “When it comes to beef, tri-tip rules as the king of the California grill. Now this humble, easy-to-cook cut is gaining a toehold in other parts of the nation and is even wowing diners in the Big Apple.”
Later in the story, he delves into the origins of tri-tip, revealing how this once-overlooked cut found its mojo in the Santa Maria Valley: “Fast-forward to the late 1950s, when Santa Maria butcher Bob Schutz experimented with the cut, which is one of the three muscles in the bottom sirloin of the steer. Meat cutters routinely diced it into stew meat or ground it into hamburger, but not Schutz on that day. Instead, he seasoned it Santa Maria-style and cooked it on a rotisserie. His ‘creation’ was surprisingly delicious. He named it ‘tri-tip’ because of its shape and promoted it locally. Its popularity spread statewide.”
As the story notes, tri-tip’s recognition is beginning to spread beyond California, but we still hear from people in other parts of the nation who say that even their butcher doesn’t know about it.
In the Santa Maria Valley and across the Central Coast, however, tri-tip is ubiquitous, not only in the form of classic Santa Maria BBQ, but also in the tri-tip sandwiches that you will find in delis, markets and restaurants all over the region. Visit the valley soon for a taste of this sensational local cut.