I live in Santa Maria which is known for their tri-tip the irony of this is there is no good restaurant in Santa Maria where you can get a good affordable sandwich or plate, I have even seen it where they cut the Tri-tip into stakes and grill them to order. I see this as a potential opportunity to open a very narrow restaurant serving Santa Maria style BBQ, my question is in preparing the product. Cooking it to order makes no sense given the time and the portion size but cooking ahead of time just leaves strew in a steam table or dry out under a heat lamp. I am looking for a method that produces very consistent results and the idea I have had is preparing two rounds of Tri-tips one for lunch one for dinner service ahead of time Sous Vide bringing them up to them then browning them on a wood grill then to be served and then hold that one tri-tip under a heat lamp or possible another Sous Vide bath just as serving temperature if things are slow. The idea would be if things where busy enough there would be no need to store the browned tri-trip. My thinking is that this would produce a very consistent product that was cooked perfectly while lowering my food costs because any unsold tri-tips could be the next day just needing to be brought to serving temp in a water bath and finished on the grill. Truly looking for ideas for a town that is supposed to be "World Famous" for a product we seem to do a bad just of preparing it. Inputs, thoughts on this method?
How to hold Tri-tip all day without degradation (sous vide?)
I use tri tip regularly for sands, the trick is to be constantly cooking new, letting it rest then serve.
If I came to Santa Maria for a tri tip sand, I'm expecting something cooked over wood or charcoal, no sous vide.
Squirrel, don't know where your getting tri tip for $2-3 lb, here best I can do is around $5 for choice, peeled.
You have an excellent point about wanting the Santa Maria cooked over Oak and not sous vide, but my thought was that the extreme consistency I would get with sous vide and the ability to hold it and have product on hand that could then be used the next day would out weight the traditional process now in our town which frankly is not good at all and is known by most. As popular as it is in this area no restaurant does it affordable and good, you either go to a nicer restaurant and pay $14 or you pay less and really get an inferior product. I really believe there is a market in this town for just doing that and doing it right while being able to keep food cost down. My question is also since the meat is grilled and not smoked how much flavor would I loose just finishing it on the grill, a question that can only definitively be answered by experimentation.
Having cooked many a Santa Maria Tri-tip for lunch and dinner service, I believe you will be greatly disappointed in the sous vide approach.
If you have a reasonable handle on your target service, it should not be difficult to stage the tri-tips on the grill for sandwich or plate service.
For the way I cook them, it takes 40-45 minutes over an oak bark fire for each tri-tip for medium rare, 10-15 minutes resting. At 2 1/2 lbs. (40 ounces) and a 20% weight & trim loss, that's eight, 4 ounce servings per tri-tip so if you put one on every five minutes, you can serve one serving every 37.5 seconds.
Calculate your servings per five minute interval, divide by 8 (or whatever works for your serving size and raw weight), and that is the number of tri-tips that go on the grill every five minutes, starting 55-60 minutes in advance of service, and ending 45 minutes before the end of service.
As a final thought, Santa Maria and the Central Coast must have certainly changed in the last 5-10 years if there are no restaurants selling good tri-tip, maybe they've all moved to the Central Valley They were a dime a dozen when I lived in the area for over twelve years and visited regularly through the 1990s.
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Thanks for the reply its what I was looking for that was my first thought as it is the most traditional and still may be the most economically viable my reason for thinking sous vide was the need for consistent results where the traditional route requires much trust with the person on the grill. With something like this its all in the planning because it cannot be made to order so I must predict the flow but should not be all that difficult. Another questions I had was in Santa Maria a lot of my target customers would be Mexicans and from all the experience they will not eat medium or medium well so I was thinking of providing two temperatures medium rare and well done, thoughts on this, since it would be on the grill I would get more done pieces at the end. My thought is that if I specialize in this one area/market I can put out the best and most consistent product.
It's not sounding like you've cooked many tri-tips pver a live oak fire on a Santa Maria style grill. If you cook a tri to rare/med-rare in the center, there's almost not medium -- let alone medium well or well.
The sous vide thing sounds horrible to me, but there's no substitute for experience. What should we make of the fact that you haven't tried it yet? Give it a whirl and see what you think yourself. Even if it's good, how the heck are you going to market it?
Your analysis of the opportunity is surprising.
I grew up for a few years in the Santa Ynez and Lompoc Valleys, and sixty years later my wife and I go up into the Central Coastal Valleys area fairly frequently because we like the drive, the wineries, and so on. The last few times I've been to Santa Maria on a weekend in tourist season there have been plenty of organizational fund raising grills setup all over the place; not to mention a few gas stations with Weber kettles. Getting a tri sandwich or plate of tri with all the usual stuff like pinquitos, garlic/sour dough rolls and bread with garlic, salsa cruda, etc., wasn't a problem.
As a tourist, I don't know enough about the local economy to make an educated guess at whether or not you can make a living on the other days; but my uneducated guess is that you can't.
I think the best restaurant in the immediate area for what's come to be known as "Santa Maria Barbeque" (I hate that name) is probably the Hitching Post in Casmalia, about seven or eight miles from Santa Maria; they don't have tri-tip but their top sirloin is the real deal. The Santa Maria Elks Club Lodge is uber-good beyond outstanding, but that's only twice a month (if I remember right), and special events like the Santa Maria Rodeo.
Tri-tip thickness is relatively consistent. Only a small part of thinnest tip of the triangle shaped meat, and one thin slice from the opposing leg of the triangle will overcook. The steak is cut relatively thin and against the grain. That means every slice gets some of the charred edge and top and bottom surfaces, but the rest is "middle" muscle. There's not much difference between the doneness of the meat a mere 1/2" from the edge than at the very center.
FWIW, I use a "Santa Maria" style, open face grill to cook tri and top sirloin over live flame (fireplace size red oak splits) at a grill surface convection temp of ~350F - 375F, with enough radiant heat to get a good sizzle. The grill allows very good temp control by raising and lowering the cooking grate, and refreshing the fire as needed. My cooking times run ~12 minutes per pound to rare/med-rare, as you'd expect.
I really like tri-tip and use it whenever I see it on sale from a good source. However, I have an excellent source for Prime "top block" sirloin, and prefer that to just about anything else. The problem here in LA adjacent Monrovia is finding pinquitos.
Let me apologize if it seemed that I was telling you your idea could not succeed. I wasn't, just giving a few impressions.
No worries know that none of it is personal looking at this from a business prospective and really looking for input from people with experience. The main reason Sous Vide came to me because it allows for a perfectly consistent product just by its design as well has being ready whenever I need it within reason. Being on the grill that relative short amount of time and on an open grill at that, how far do you think that oak actually penetrates the meat? And back to the idea I know as food people we hate this and traditional "Santa Maria Style" is cooked med-rare the fact is that a lot of the people I know and talk to do not like pink meat period won't touch it and for me it doesn't make much business sense to completely cut them out, ideas thoughts?