This Air Fryer Tri Tip steak is well seasoned and cooked to perfection in the air fryer, which leaves it with a deliciously cooked exterior and tender juicy interior.
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For those living in the United States – particularly the west coast – you likely have access to the Tri Tip steak, which is a cut of steak that originated in Santa Maria, California. It’s the bottom tip of the sirloin, thus the name, and is cut into a triangular shape.
While this cut of meat isn’t sold everywhere around the world, it is quite popular in the United States and can be found at most Costcos or from your favorite butcher. It’s a desirable cut because the sirloin tip is very tender and sometimes well marbled.
Cooking a tri tip in the air fryer might seem weird at first, but once you try it, you’ll see that it’s actually a great way of cooking steak. With a nice thick rub on the outside, it will become a little crunchy with the circulating air, while the inside just cooks perfectly, until it reaches your preferred level of doneness. Give it a try. You’ll love the ease of it.
Ingredients You Need
- Tri Tip – a tri tip steak is usually between 1.5 and 2.5 pounds, though you can find ones that are smaller or larger. At Costco, they tend to sell them in strips rather than in a full roast. It can be cooked in the air fryer in any form, but be aware that the strips will cook faster than the roast.
- Extra virgin olive oil – Mixing the oil with the rub is an easy way to spread it onto the steak and then it won’t fall off as the air blows on it, like some powdered rubs will do.
- Meat rub – I use a homemade rub that includes garlic powder, paprika, salt, and pepper. You can also use a store-bought rub. You might even find a Santa Maria rub you like.
- Air fryer: I use this 4-quart basket-style air fryer. It’s large enough to fit a meal for 4-6. But some things need more space in the air fryer basket, so they cook evenly.
- Kitchen tongs: It’s very easy to remove food from your air fryer with kitchen tongs. I use these kitchen tongs that are silicon coated so they don’t scratch the interior.
- Meat thermometer: The only way to tell if meat is fully cooked to the right temperature is to use a meat thermometer. I use this Instant Read thermometer. It’s so quick to open the basket and check the temp.
How to Make Air Fryer Tri Tip
A tri tip is meant to be cooked to medium rare inside. It’s at its most tender when it’s cooked to only 140°F inside, so the slices are pink. Not everyone loves their steak this way, so feel free to cook it to medium or medium well if you like that better. However, this steak isn’t meant to be cooked like a roast until it’s fall apart tender.
Take the tri tip out of the refrigerator at least 15 minutes before cooking so it can come up to room temperature. This will ensure a more even cooking.
Mix together all the seasonings with the olive oil in a bowl. Coat the tri tip with the rub. I use my hands to do this. Just sort of massage it into the steak until it’s coated. You can put it back in the fridge to marinate for 30 minutes to a couple of hours to impart more flavor, or just go ahead with cooking.
Spray the basket of your air fryer to keep it from sticking to the bottom and place the tri tip inside.
Note that this is a recipe for a 2-pound tri tip. That means if you have one that’s smaller or larger, the cook time will vary. Keep checking the internal temperature with a meat thermometer to make sure it comes out the way you want it. Don’t just trust the timing here. All air fryers are different.
Cook at 380°F for 14 minutes, flipping it over halfway through. Then check the internal temperature. It should be:
- 130° for rare
- 140° for medium rare
- 145-150° for medium
- 160° for well done
I always take the meat out of the air fryer when it reaches a few degrees shy of what I prefer and then let it rest. The carry over cooking as it rests will bring it up to the final temperature.
Be sure to let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing so the juices can become redistributed. Slice against the grain in thin slices.
Tips & Additional Information
- Sometimes a tri tip will come pre-marinated with a seasoning rub. If you buy a tri tip like this, you can skip the adding of your own rub. Just keep in mind when purchasing one like this that the rub isn’t always great. I prefer to put on my own.
- Tri tip can come in smaller pieces rather than as a roast. If you have smaller pieces, they will cook MUCH faster than the roast. Start cooking them for just 6 minutes and check the internal temperature.
- The seasoning is very important to the flavor of the meat. Be sure to use enough salt to bring out the best flavor. You can use any seasoning you like, but to keep it Santa Maria style use just garlic powder, salt and pepper. Keep it simple.
- Be sure to cut the slices against the grain to make sure the meat is as tender as possible. You can serve it alone or with a chimichurri sauce.
Why Use an Air Fryer
An air fryer is an incredibly easy way to cook just about anything. You place the food in a fryer-style basket and hot air rapidly circulates all around the food, making the food crisp – much like deep-frying, but without the oil. You can cook anything you’d make in the oven.
- I use a Ninja MaxXL air fryer (pictured left). If you don’t have an air fryer yet, check out these options to find one that fits your needs.
- See reviews and prices for air fryers on Amazon.
- Here’s a printable Air Fryer Cooking Times Cheat Sheet to get you started.
- Click to find more recipes to make in your Air Fryer.
- Learn how to make fun things in the air fryer, like potato wedges, pork belly bites, and chicken wings.
What Side Dishes to Serve?
You can serve some really easy side dishes with your main dish cooked in the Air Fryer. Sometimes, you can cook them together in the air fryer to make it even faster.
Some of our favorite side dishes to serve include:
- Air fryer cauliflower
- Air fryer baked potatoes
- Brussels sprouts
- Corn on the cob
- Crispy smashed potatoes
- Cottage fries
Here are 28 more air fryer side dishes to try
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Air Fryer Tri Tip Steak
- 2 pound (1 kg) tri tip
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon (3 g) garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon (2 g) paprika smoked or Spanish
- 1/2 teaspoon (3 g) salt
- 1/4 teaspoon (0.5 g) pepper
- Take the tri tip out of the refrigerator at least 15 minutes before cooking.
- Mix together all the seasonings with the olive oil in a bowl. Coat the tri tip with the rub.
- Spray the basket of your air fryer and place the tri tip inside. Cook at 380°F for 14 minutes, flipping it over half way through. Then check the internal temperature.
- Take the meat out of the air fryer when it reaches a few degrees shy of what you prefer and let it rest.
- Let the meat rest for 10 minutes before slicing and slice against the grain for tenderness.
- Check the internal temperature of the meat for the desired doneness. 130° for rare, 140° for medium rare, 145-150° for medium, and 160° for well done.
- I always take the meat out of the air fryer when it reaches a few degrees shy of what I prefer and then let it rest. The carry over cooking as it rests will bring it p to the final temperature.
- Be sure to let the steak rest for 10 minutes before slicing so the juices can be come redistributed.
- Slice against the grain in this slices.
All air fryers have different wattage and may cook at different rates. You may need to adjust the time or temp for the best results.
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Laura is a passionate foodie and owner of Air Fry Anytime She is dedicated to sharing delicious recipes and helpful tips for using air fryers at home. With years of experience in the kitchen and a love for healthy, flavorful cooking, Laura has become an expert at using air fryers to create amazing meals that are both nutritious and delicious.