Just because summer is coming up does not mean you need to put aside your pho forays. Pho is a year-round thing in Vietnam, with people slurping up bowls in hot temperatures to cool themselves down. But aside from the noodle soup, how can you get the pho-ish flavor during grilling season?
Cue that pho spice blend that I wrote about. That recipe is in The Pho Cookbook. When I wrote the book, I didn’t have space to include this recipe, though I did suggest how to use the spice blend as a rub. Now I’ll share the details.
I chose tri-tip because it’s relatively flat (lots of surface area for creating a pho flavored exterior), marbled (fat is good for flavor), and affordable (good for experimenting!). It also cooks quicker than say, a brisket.
For the pho seasoning, you want to combine the spice blend with coarse kosher salt, which helps to disperse the pho flavors well. I used a 1:1 ratio for this tri-tip recipe. The rationale was this: I wasn’t planning on serving any sauce with the tri-tip so I needed to season the meat well. If a ratio of 1:1 is too salty for you, go with a 3:2 blend of spices to kosher salt.
Then it’s simply a matter of rubbing and massaging the pho spice-and-salt mixture all over the tri-tip. That includes the side! The meat smelled like pho but to concentrate the seasoning, I let the meat sit in the fridge overnight. It was uncovered so the exterior dried just a touch. Then I brought the tri-tip back to room temperature. There wasn’t much fat on the piece so I lightly coated it with spray oil.
As a side note, the hand-pump oil mister by Fine Life is worth every penny. After quickly blasting through a can of spray oil, smelling the funny fumes, and observing the strange foaminess, I gave up on the commercial sprayers. Research led me to this sprayer, which is pricey but I’ve used it enough to justify the expense. I put a neutral oil in the spray, most often it’s non-GMO canola oil from Whole Foods.
Then my husband grilled the tri-tip on moderately-high heat (the temperature gauge hovered around 400F. He flipped it several times and it was done in less than 30 minutes! Resting for 10 minutes while we finished our wine, increased the temperature from 130 to 135F to around 140F – medium. There’s still some pinkness to the flesh but it was medium, how I like tri-tip. You can opt for medium-rare, if you like.
The final thing was slicing the meat. I followed my friend Molly Stevens’s tip in her super-informative cookbook, All About Roasting. She suggests cutting from either the tiny pointy tip to the shortest side. I reversed it and cut from the shortest side down to the pointy tip. Triangular-shaped tri-tip is like a horn-of-plenty. Cut from the wide opening or the tiny tip and you’ll always be creating tender slices because you’ll be cutting across the grain.
If you try the spice rub mixture on a steak, you can leave out at room temperature for about 1 hour before grilling. Or refrigerate it overnight, loosely covered with plastic wrap or wax paper.
Needless to say, the grilled pho tri-tip was very very good. There were leftovers since we're a small household. I’ll be making it many times this summer and hop you do too!
Grilled Pho Tri-Tip
Yields: 6 servings
- 1 3/4 to 2 pounds trimmed tri-tip roast
- 1 tablespoon Pho Spice Blend
- 2 to 3 teaspoons kosher salt
- Pat the meat dry with paper towel. Combine the spice blend with the salt. Season the meat all over, rubbing and massaging in the seasonings into crevices.
- Set the meat on a rack on a dish or small baking sheet. Refrigerate overnight, uncovered, and return to room temperature before cooking. (If you’re in a hurry, let the beef sit at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours, then grill.)
- Heat a gas grill to medium-high, or prepare a charcoal grill. Aim for a temperature that’s roughly 400F. Grill the tri-tip for 20 to 30 minutes, turning occasionally, until an instant read thermometer reads: 120 for rare, 125 to 130 for medium-rare, and 130 to 135 for medium. Remove from the heat and let rest for 10 minutes; expect the temperature to rise a bit as the tri-tip finishes cooking.
- Slice into thin pieces across the grain and serve.