Santa Maria Style Grilled Bison Tri-Tip Recipe

Honest Bison tri tipIt’s September, but in many parts of the country there’s still plenty of great weather for outdoor grilling. However, when you think of meats to grill, chances are bison doesn’t come to mind. But it wasn’t always that way. Native peoples in North American knew well how delicious bison can be. And now companies like The Honest Bison are farm raising these gentle giants and consumers are discovering that bison makes a terrific alternative to beef or pork.

The Honest Bison started when the company’s founder was looking for healthier options for himself and his family. His research showed him that beef produced by factory farms is often nutritionally compromised. He also learned that grass fed bison could be a healthier alternative. (Health authorities tell us that bison has fewer calories, more protein, and far less total fat and saturated than beef or pork.) He teamed up with a ranching family that raises grass-fed bison humanely and sustain-ably and The Honest Bison was born.

Bison tri-tio

Searing the bison over high heat seals in the juices.

The company sent us a bison tri-tip so we could try out this recipe. They also offer steaks, brisket, roasts, sausage, sausage, fajita strips and jerky and snack sticks. The meat isn’t inexpensive. Our 1.5-2 lb. tri-tip retails for $33.95. However, customers can also order larger bulk orders or even half or whole bison at reduced prices.

Our tri-tip arrived packed in a styrofoam-lined box with dry ice and the roast was pretty solidly frozen. I thawed it for two days in the refrigerator and then, following the recipe directions, brought it out of the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking.

While coffee may seem like a strange basis for a rub, it actually lent a lovely rich flavor to the crust. One guest who’s not a coffee fan had no idea finely ground coffee is part of the rub and she loved the flavor.

By following the cooking directions exactly, our tri-tip turned out amazingly juicy and cooked to a perfect rare-medium rare. All the guests at our table agreed The Honest Bison tri-tip was a real hit.

Bison tri-tip

Let the bison rest for 10 minutes to retain the juices.

And since the holidays will soon be upon us, I’m thinking about serving a steak or roast from The Honest Bison instead of more traditional beef. It’s healthier and, I can guarantee you, it’s tasty.







Recipe courtesy The Honest Bison


1 bison tri-tip (about 2 lbs)


For the “California” Rub:

2 tbsp finely ground coffee

1 1⁄2 tbsp kosher salt

1 1⁄2 tbsp granulated garlic

1 heaping tsp black pepper

1 tbsp brown sugar

1⁄4 tsp cayenne pepper

1⁄4 tsp ground cloves

1⁄4 tsp cinnamon



  1. Sprinkle meat with rub and massage tenderly. Cover and refrigerate at least an hour or longer. Remove from refrigerator an hour before cooking.
  2. Preheat oven to 300 and prepare a hot charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to high. Place roast on grill and cook for 6-8 mins per side or until an even char develops on all sides. Grill for no more than 20 mins total. (Note: we cooked our’s exactly 8 minutes per side.)
  3. Remove tri-tip to a baking sheet or oven safe dish. Cover with tinfoil. Place in 300 degree oven for 10-20 mins, or until internal temperature reaches 120F (rare). DO NOT OVERCOOK. (We cooked our’s 10 minutes and the roast came out beautifully rare/medium rare and juicy.)
  4. Rest roast on a cutting board for 8-10 mins, during which time the internal temperature should increase to 125 (medium rare). Slice against the grain. The center should still be distinctly red. THIS IS PERFECT. Bison is supposed to be cooked less than beef and is ideally always served medium rare.
  5. Serve with grilled veggies of your choice.


Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor

RFT co-founder Bobbie Hasselbring has been a travel junkie her entire life. An award-winning writer and editor for more than 25 years and author of the regional food-travel bestsellers, The Chocolate Lover’s Guide to the Pacific Northwest and The Chocolate Lover’s Guide Cookbook, Bobbie is editor-in-chief at