The Real Reason Tri-Tip Steak Is Associated With California

If you were traveling to the beautiful and sunny state of California in the 1950s, there's a chance that you might have heard of a little something called the California cut (today known as the tri-tip steak). This cut of meat quickly became associated with California because of the boom that it experienced within the area. Active NorCal reports that it was around the 1950s that Bob Schultz, who was a butcher and meat manager at a local Safeway, decided to capitalize on this flavorful and lean cut of meat. 

The tri-tip is a triangular cut that, when cooked properly, is considered to be super tender and delicious. This cut of meat, which might go by the name of Santa Maria steak, is pulled from the underside of the sirloin section that is cut out from the cow (via Active NorCal and Santa Maria Valley). The Spruce Eats cites that the cut carries a deliciously excellent level of marbling, making it a great grilling meat. (It is also a lot less expensive when compared to something like rib-eye.)

Butchers initially didn't know what to do with tri-tip steak

According to Active NorCal, cutting the tri-tip out was initially a difficult task, as it was thought to be in a complex area of the cow. Add to that the fact that the tri-tip was primarily ground up to make hamburger meat or cut up in chunks to sell as stewing meat. It wasn't until Schultz thought to utilize it in a different way that tri-tip received the second wind that it deserved. Santa Maria Valley reports that another reason it wasn't popular prior in the 1950s was because butchers thought it took up too much space in the display case. It also didn't help that they could only offer their customers one or two pieces at a time, which contributed to the tri-tip being destined for burger meat or stewing meat status (thus giving it more "marketability" for butchers). 

The Spruce Eats cites that tri-tips can benefit from either grilling, broiling, or pan-searing and that marinating it for a few hours prior to cook time can enhance the flavor profile. When cooked properly, tri-tip will give off a buttery, beefy taste that's incredibly tender to chew.