Tri Tip Cheese Steak Sandwich

Do you have leftover tri-tip and wonder how to enjoy this delicious meat best? A tri-tip sandwich will help you use the leftovers in the most enjoyable possible way.

Alternatively, you may make the tri-tip just before using it to make these sandwiches by following the instructions for preparing the ideal smoked and reverse-seared tri-tip.

Here is a fast tutorial on how to make a mouthwatering tri-tip sandwich in a few simple steps.

Do you know what tri-tip is?

Tri-tip is among the top-preferred beef cuts by Californian pitmasters, which was popularized by the Santa Maria-style BBQ pitmasters in the 1950s. As the name of the cut suggests, the tri-tip is a triangular-shaped piece of meat that comes from the bottom sirloin sub primal beef cut. But this delicious cut is also known as a Santa Maria Steak or California’s cut.

Before it was popularized in California, this particular cut was usually not offered separately by butchers since very few steaks could come out of the carcass of the animal, so this part of the sirloin used to be made into the ground beef or meat for stew.

The boneless cut is usually 1.5 to 2.5 lbs. in weight and is made of the animal’s tensor fasciae latae muscle and is thus very meaty, tender, and lean with marbling.

One specific feature of the tri-tip cut is that it is made of two different parts of the muscle with different grain directions, so you will need to cut it in between the two and then slice each part separately across the grain if you want the best texture and results.

You can purchase it as a triangular-shaped roast or sliced up into steaks. You can order some top-quality tri-tip online here.

Does tri-tip plus bread equal a sandwich?

A tri-tip is an excellent choice when preparing a sandwich. This meat is lean and yet has enough intramuscular fat (marbling) to keep it juicy and tender after grilling.

While you can simply cut up some of the cooked tri-tip leftovers to make a quick cold-cut sandwich, if you want to try a tri-tip sandwich in the best possible way, then you may want to read on and follow our step-by-step instructions.

This recipe for a tri-tip sandwich includes slicing the meat, grilling it on a griddle with some caramelized onions and cheese, and then topping it up with the sauce of your choice.

What do you need to prepare a tri-tip sandwich?

You can prepare the tri-tip any way you prefer, but we recommend that you smoke the meat first and then reverse-sear it on high heat at the end for the most satisfying results.

By smoking the tri-trip, the meat will be infused with an added layer of flavor which cannot be achieved by grilling.

After the meat has been smoked and seared, let it rest and cool down if you want to slice it thinly for making sandwiches. You can even let the meat sit in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. This will make slicing thin slices even easier.

When slicing the tri-trip, we recommend going for a thickness of just about ¼ inch.

Keep in mind that the tri-tip has two different grains due to the different muscle fibers. For the best texture and palatability, try cutting the steak along the line where the two different muscles connect, and then slice each of the parts perpendicular to the grain!

The equipment

A frying pan or a griddle

You will need a griddle or frying pan if you are going to prep the sandwich on your stovetop. We recommend that you choose a pan that is 14 to 16 inches in diameter.

If you have a griddle, the preparation of this sandwich will be even easier. Our top recommended griddles are the Pit Boss 4-burner LP gas griddle or this 36-inch griddle by Blackstone.

A spatula

You will need a long spatula that will allow you to flip the ingredients and the sandwich on the griddle or in the pan. You should opt for a non-perforated spatula that is at least 8 inches long for ultimate comfort and safety.

The bread

Naturally, you will need bread for the tri-tip sandwich. We recommend that you get 12-inch Italian rolls for this sandwich, as they won’t get too soggy or break apart during the prepping or eating.

You can choose any type of bread you prefer, including potato-based bread rolls.

The vegetables

For this specific recipe for a cheesy and mouthwatering tri-tip sandwich, you will need kimchi and onions.

Kimchi is now easy to find in most stores in the Asian sections. Opt for the cabbage-based kimchi rather than the radish-based one for this particular recipe.

The pickled taste of kimchi will complement the meat’s deliciousness and juiciness and bring a briny taste to your sandwich.

The onions will be caramelized.

The sauces

You can use any sauce of your choice for topping the sandwich. Our suggestion is that you opt for a mayonnaise-based one or a horseradish-based sauce. Or you can opt for a combination of both types with Terry Ho’s Hot Yum Yum.

The cheese

For the best cheesy tri-tip sandwich, you should choose a good quality soft and melty cheese. We recommend that you use some sliced Havarti and provolone cheese for this sandwich. The former is delicious and buttery and combines perfectly with the saltier provolone.

How to prepare the tri-tip sandwich?

Photo credit: saddlebackbbq

Preheat the griddle or pan to medium heat, and when it is hot, add some of your preferred cooking fat, such as this healthy clarified butter.

When the fat has rendered and is bubbling up, add ¼ cup of chopped onions and season it with a pinch of salt. Stir the onions into the fat, and sauté them while keeping stirring them until they are brown.

When the chopped onions start to brown and caramelize, add two minced cloves of garlic and stir them in as well.

Keep cooking the veggies for another two minutes, and then add the kimchi to the pan. Continue stirring and combining the ingredients for about 5-7 minutes in the pan or griddle.

Turn the heat up, add some more fat, and now you can add the thinly sliced tri-tip leftovers and add a pinch of salt and coarse ground pepper.

Keep stirring the meat and vegetables until they are properly incorporated.

Use a spatula to break down the meat as it heats up, or remove it from the pan and chop it up into smaller bite-size pieces.

When everything is combined and the leftover meat has been warmed, you can divide the food into two or more portions and place the slices of cheese on top of each pile.

When you layer the cheese, you can add a couple of tablespoons of water into the pan. This will create steam and will help the soft cheese melt. You can also place a lid on top of the pan to make the process faster.

When using a griddle, you can place a cheese melting dome or an upside-down stainless steel bowl on top of the food to promote faster melting of the cheese.

In the meantime, slice your bread rolls along the length but not all the way. Open up the bread, and place it with the interior down on top of the cooking and steaming piles of delicious food.

Once you are ready, you can shape your sandwiches and add some scallions and the sauce of your choice.

You can cut up a 12-inch sandwich into 3 to 4 servings.

Then you can enjoy this delicious sandwich which combines the smokiness of the tri-tip, the tanginess of the pickled kimchi, the sweetness of the caramelized onions, the softness of the melted cheese, and the sauce all in one pillow-soft bread with a crispy crust.

My favorite tri-tip sandwich recipe


Ingredients for making the cheesy tri-tip sandwich

  • Leftover thinly sliced tri-tip smoked and seared – 1.5-2 lbs.
  • Butter or other fat of your choice – 3 tablespoons
  • Sweet onion – ¼ cup diced
  • Garlic minced – 2 cloves
  • Provolone cheese – sliced
  • Havarti cheese – sliced
  • 12-inch Italian bread rolls or other bread – 2
  • Yum Yum sauce
  • Scallions – thinly sliced – 1 tablespoon
  • Salt and pepper
  • Water

Step-by-step instructions

  1. Cool the smoked and seared tri-tip overnight, or remove it from the freezer to thaw in the fridge if it has been frozen
  2. Slice the meat into thin slices across the grain
  3. Preheat the griddle or pan to a medium heat
  4. Add 2 tablespoons of butter or other fat of your choice and wait until it starts bubbling
  5. Add the diced onion to the skillet with a pinch of salt and stir until brown and caramelized
  6. Once the onion has caramelized, add the minced garlic and keep stirring
  7. After a couple of minutes, add ½ cup of kimchi and cook and stir for 5 minutes
  8. Increase the heat to high, add another tablespoon of butter and add the thinly sliced meat
  9. Keep stirring and mixing the ingredients while breaking down the meat into smaller pieces with your spatula
  10. Divide the food into equal portions on two sides of the pan and layer the slices of provolone and Havarti cheese on top
  11. Add a couple of tablespoons of water to the pan to create steam, and put a lid or dome on top of the food so that the cheese will melt faster
  12. Cut the bread along ¾ of its length, and place it on the open side down over the piles of food
  13. Use a spatula to flip the sandwich to the other side after 30 seconds
  14. Take it out onto a cutting board, add the mayo-based or horseradish sauce and scallions and cut and serve
  15. Enjoy the sandwich while it is hot!

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