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How to Barbecue Santa Maria Style on the Grill

Updated on February 17, 2015
Paul Edmondson profile image

Paul is a barbecue enthusiast. He is currently grilling and smoking on a Komodo Kamado Ultimate 23.

Barbecuing over Oak for Santa Maria Style BBQ

How to have a Santa Maria Style Barbecue

Santa Maria Style Barbecue has it's roots in the Central Coast of California. It's a wonderful combination of beef, garlic salt, pepper and it's cooked over hot oak wood coals.

While it's not that common to barbecue over wood, to have a true Santa Maria Style barbecue, you must cook the meat over an oak fire. Start the fire 45 minutes to an hour before you want to begin cooking and let the wood burn down to hot coals and a small flame. You'll want the heat of the fire at the height of the grill where you can hold your hand over it for about three seconds. Most barbecues designed for cooking over wood have adjustable grills so you can move it closer or farther from the heat.

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Santa Maria Style Rub Recipe

  • 1/4 cup garlic salt
  • 3 tablespoons of black pepper

Mix in a jar. It will last a long time. Variants to this recipe add onion powder and some chili flakes for spice.

Santa Maria Style Barbecue

The second step is preparing the meat. Tri-Tip is a classic cut of meat for barbecuing Santa Maria Style, but ribeyes, spencers, fillets, and New York strips are all great. Generously use garlic salt and pepper on the meat and rub it in with your hands. Let the meat sit for about 10 minutes before placing it on the grill. Tri-Tip will have one side of the meat that has about 1/4 inch of fat on it. Cook the Tri-Tip with the fat side down. It's a very forgiving meat to barbecue because if you burn the fat side, you can easily cut it off in the end. Cook the meat to your desired temperature. I tend to cook Tritip medium rare to medium. Let the meat site and then slice the meat in 1/4 inch slices and serve with fresh salsa.

The meat will be rich in flavor from the garlic salt and pepper, but it will also be very flavorful from the Oak bbq.

Serve the tritip with a side of chunky fresh salsa.

If you don't have a barbecue that supports wood burning, you might want to check out a Kamado Grill. I just ordered a 1/4 chord of six inch oak cuts for my Kamado that is on order. Also, you can experience Santa Maria Style barbecue at a few great steak houses on the Central Coast. My favorite is Jocko's in Nipomo (The worlds greatest steak house), also, the Far Western, and McKlintocks are good.

Questions & Answers


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      • profile image

        cleet 6 years ago

        I haven't found any oak that will give it the flavor that the red oak from the Santa Maria does. My son and I have opened 6 Santa Maria style resturants in the midwest and the people love it. Worked for Williams Bros. Markets in Santa Maria for 20 years, sold lots of tri-tips.

      • Paul Edmondson profile image

        Paul Edmondson 7 years ago from Burlingame, CA

        @Glenn, I'm a big barbecue fan. I've been doing quite a bit of oak grilling in my Kamado.

      • Glenn Raymond profile image

        Glenn Raymond 7 years ago from Bailey, Colorado

        It looks as though we enjoy the same things. You have done a great job with this article. Thank You.

      • lovelypaper profile image

        Renee S 8 years ago from Virginia

        That sounds so delish. I'm getting hungry!

      • Paul Edmondson profile image

        Paul Edmondson 8 years ago from Burlingame, CA

        I got a 1/4 chord of oak delivered last night. Now I need my wood burning bbq to arrive and I'll be in bbq heaven.

      • Pinoys profile image

        Marian 8 years ago from Manila, Philippines

        I'll be doing a Santa Maria BBQ right after I finish writing another hub.

      • profile image

        Nancy's Niche 8 years ago

        OK, it's time to grill your making me hungry!!! LOL 8-D I love Santa Maria and they do have great food there...

      • dusanotes profile image

        dusanotes 8 years ago from Windermere, FL

        I'm impressed, Paul. Cooking with oak is probably a unique taste experience. One I've never had, unfortunately.

        Good blog. Don White

      • Philipo profile image

        Philipo 8 years ago from Nigeria

        Very nice.

      • profile image

        gredmondson 8 years ago

        Also good for Santa Maria style BBQ is a whole top sirloin cut in slabs about 1 1/4 inches thick. Slice after BBQing as described above.

      • artrush73 profile image

        artrush73 8 years ago

        Great Article :)! thanks for sharing.

      • Ralph Deeds profile image

        Ralph Deeds 8 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

        Sounds great,Paul! You should do one at HubPages!

      • Hmrjmr1 profile image

        Hmrjmr1 8 years ago from Georgia, USA

        Yummies great Hub