There are so many cuts of beef available that choosing which one to cook can be an overwhelming task, and it’s easy to just go back to old familiar favorites. If they do decide to branch out a little when shopping for steak, many people reading the labels in the butcher case may be confused by Sirloin Tip and Tri Tip.
These two steaks may be similar in size and price, but don’t let the names fool you; they couldn’t be more different in flavor and cooking style, and though they may not be as well known as Ribeye or T-Bone, that’s no reason to pass them over.
Let’s get into how these steaks are different and what makes either one an excellent choice for your next dinner.
Are Sirloin Tip and Tri Tip the Same Cut of Meat?
Despite the easily confusable names, Sirloin Tip and Tri Tip are from distinct primal cuts of the steer and probably not the cuts you would expect either.
Both are found on the back half of the steer, but Sirloin Tip actually comes from the top end of the Round Primal which is located at the front section of the hind leg, while Tri Tip is from the exact opposite end of the leg at the very bottom of the Bottom Sirloin Subprimal.
If you take a closer look at these steaks, you’ll notice that Sirloin Tip can be sold either as a roast or already carved into steaks, and Tri Tip has a noticeably curved triangular shape.
About Sirloin Tip
Sirloin Tip, also called Crescent Roast or Top Sirloin Roast, is a very lean bit of muscle carved from the top of the Round on the steer’s flank. Due to its lack of fat, it has a good beefy flavor without too much complexity and a firm, chewy texture.
At the hearty size of 1-2 pounds, a Sirloin Tip is the perfect size for a meal for a small family or a meal with leftovers for two. At $6-$7 per pound, it’s quite an affordable cut for a good dinner.
Sirloin Tip works great either as a roast, carved into steaks and prepared on the grill, or as pulled meat for sandwiches, tacos, or salads. Sirloin Tip is also a popular choice for cube steak to use for stews or skewers.
It’s never a bad idea to marinate Sirloin Tip, but as long as you don’t overcook it, Sirloin Tip makes a fantastic steak. When choosing a Sirloin Tip to grill, make sure it isn’t either too thin or too thick so that it will stay nice and juicy as it cooks, and always season this cut generously to get the most flavorful result.
When it’s cooked properly, Sirloin Tip will be firm and a little chewy but not tough or dry.
About Tri Tip
Tri Tip is a wonderfully inexpensive choice for a steak that packs in rich, beefy flavor and juicy tenderness with just enough of a firm bite to be exciting and delicious. It is fantastic grilled due to its marbling which releases a ton of diverse flavor as the meat cooks.
Tri Tip runs just a little thinner but slightly larger than Sirloin Tip at 1 ½ to 2 ½ pounds. It only averages $6.50-$8 a pound, so if you’re looking for an inexpensive cut to grill, Tri Tip is a great selection.
Tri Tip’s location at the bottom edge of the Bottom Sirloin Subprimal, so low that it actually includes the tensor fasciae latae muscle of the thigh, is what gives it the marbling and connective tissue that provides it such wonderful, varying flavor. Its thickness varies from thinner on the edges to thick in the center and its rich, buttery flavor and tender chewiness give this such a wonderful mouthfeel that it becomes a first choice for almost everyone who tries it.
Tri Tip is undeniably perfect for grilling but it is also fantastic smoked, especially in the classic preparation of Santa Maria Tri Tip, seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic and smoked over red oak wood. Here is how I smoke Tri Tip on a Traeger.
Many people also confuse tri tips with picanha but they are also different (See Tri Tip vs Picanha for more information)
Sirloin Tip vs Tri Tip
Despite their differences, Sirloin Tip and Tri Tip both come out as winners. Depending on whether you want an inexpensive but flavorful steak to throw on the grill or lean beef for a family supper, you really can’t miss with either of these bargain cuts which are also excellent flank steak substitutes,
Here’s a summary of their strengths to make it easy to make your pick the next time you’re at the butcher’s counter.
Which is More Tender?
Tri Tip is definitely more tender than Sirloin Tip. Its location in the steer’s thigh muscle contributes some connective tissue that breaks down during cooking to give Tri Tip a juicer, more buttery, beefy flavor, and more tender texture that has allowed this cut to maintain its popularity, especially on the West Coast, for over a century.
Which is Healthier?
When you compare the health benefits of Tri Tip vs Sirloin Tip, Sirloin Tip is the leaner of the two cuts, being less marbled and lower in saturated fat. Beef already contains a good amount of essential vitamins and minerals and both cuts are packed with protein, providing over a third of the Recommended Daily Allowance for only 150 Calories in three ounces.
Which Costs Less?
Although both Tri Tip and Sirloin Tip are quite affordable cuts of beef, Sirloin Tip rings up about a dollar less per pound than Tri Tip, making either of these a budget-friendly choice for a weeknight dinner.