Tri Tip vs Top Sirloin Steak

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Maybe you’re trying to experiment with steak cuts and decided on tri tip steak and top sirloin steak. Choosing between the two may not be the easiest thing to do. Thankfully, both cuts are actually good and can be made into delicious meals with the right recipes. Before you start cooking one (or both), let’s get you up to speed on everything you need to know about top sirloin steaks and tri tip steaks.

About Tri Tip

Tri tip (aka Santa Maria steak, bottom sirloin butt, Newport steak, or California cut) is beef cut that’s taken from the bottom sirloin part. The “tri” comes from triangle because this cut is shaped like a triangle. In fact, in some areas, it’s more popular as “triangle roast.”  It’s lean with a good amount of marbling and a distinct signature flavor.

About Top Sirloin

Top sirloin, as the name implies,  is a cut of steak that’s taken from the top section of the sirloin just a little below the tenderloin. Like the tri tip, it’s also a lean cut and has very little marbling, which affects the overall flavor.

Differences between Tri Tip and Top Sirloin Steak


When shopping for steaks, you might find that the cost of tri tip and top sirloin vary a great deal depending on where you buy them and the quality of the cuts. However, in general, the tri tip is more expensive because of its marbling and the location where the meat is taken. The top sirloin (not to be mistaken as sirloin) is more affordable because it has less marbling and is more tender.


Tri Tip steak has more flavors than top sirloin because it has more fat. Although it can be chewy at times, it also can still be tender when cooked properly. The top sirloin is leaner and is not from the juiciest section of the cow, but it is quite popular for its deep beefy flavor. It also lacks the complex flavors present in the tri tip. Currently, the tri tip and the top sirloin are slowly becoming some of the most popular cuts favored by steak lovers in the market.  


As already mentioned, the tri tip has more marbling than the top sirloin, which means when cooked properly, this cut will have a chewy consistency. However, the marbling isn’t always enough to ensure a juicy steak, so cooks who are using this cut for the first time should be very careful so as not to end up with a piece of tough and unappetizing piece of meat. In comparison, the top sirloin is easier to cook because it has very little marbling. 

Fat and Bone Content

The tri tip steak has significantly more fat than the top sirloin. It can also come with bone-in options, which gives it more flavor and texture. The top sirloin has very sparse fat and no bone at all. Although this means a more inferior flavor profile, this same characteristic makes this cut much easier and more straightforward to cook.

Cooking Methods

The tri tip steak is more delicate because of its higher fat content, which means you need to be more precise when cooking this cut. If you cook it too fast or at extremely high heat, it can easily dry out. Ideally, this cut should be cooked on low, indirect heat for longer periods than with direct heat, such as when grilling or pan searing.

The top sirloin’s lean meat makes it suitable for cooking on direct flame and with high heat. This is why it’s perfect for new cooks who are still learning to handle different steak cuts. In some cases, it may be necessary to cook them a little bit longer to fully bring out their delicate and beefy flavors.

Tri Tip Pros and Cons


  • Has a unique flavor because of its ample marbling and fat content
  • Bone-in options add texture and flavor
  • Less expensive than more premium steak cuts


  • Requires precise and sometimes complex cooking methods to bring out the flavors and prevent drying out 
  • Trimming the steak cuts can be challenging to a new cook
  • Can easily dry out if not cooked properly

Top Sirloin Pros and Cons


  • Leaner than other more popular steak cuts giving it a much more traditional steak flavor
  • More straightforward to cook because of the lower fat content
  • Perfect for single servings because of their smaller cuts


  • In some recipes, it may take longer to cook to achieve desired doneness
  • The lower fat content may give it a more basic flavor with not a lot of depth
  • Can be more expensive than other more popular cuts of beef


Generally speaking, both cuts of beef have their own pros and cons. If you’re after the flavor, tri tip may be the better option. For the budget conscious, the top sirloin is the easy choice. Complexity-wise, it depends on the cook’s experience and exposure to different cuts. Ultimately, it all depends on your personal preference and, of course, your cooking needs and experience. As long as you start with a good cut of steak from a trusted butcher or steak shop, you shouldn’t have any problems creating amazing steak dishes!