Cheesy Tri-tip Steak Sandwiches
If you’ve tried out our smoked tri tip recipe, you most likely had leftover meat. Let’s get creative with the leftovers and create an epic tri-tip sandwich that is sure to please a hungry crowd.
In this article, we’ll show you how to use your tri-tip leftovers to make a hearty steak sandwich.
What is Tri-tip?
If you’re into BBQ, you most likely have heard all about tri-tip. Tri-tip is a boneless steak and measures around one inch thick, with plenty of marbling, while remaining lean and tender.
You can learn all about tri-tip, where to buy it and how to cook it here.
Tri-tip is a great option for a steak sandwich because while it remains relatively lean, there’s enough intramuscular marbling that it won’t dry out when on the griddle.
Now, you can easily slice the tri-tip as you would roast beef and have a cold-cut sandwich, but we’re going for a bigger bang here.
We’re going to thinly slice the tri-tip, grill it on the flat top with melty cheeses and caramelized onions, and top it with a sauce for a cheesesteak-like sandwich experience.
For another sandwich idea try our leftover brisket grilled cheese.
Prepare your tri-tip
This recipe is a follow-up to our reverse seared tri-tip recipe that is first smoked, and then seared over high heat.
You can cook your tri-tip any way you like, but smoking gives the meat an extra layer of flavor that you don’t get if you roast or grill.
Once you have a cooked or smoked tri-tip, you want to let it come to room temperature and then refrigerate for a few hours until it’s cold – best done overnight.
Refrigerating the meat will allow you to slice it as thinly as possible. We’re going for almost lunch-meat thin slices, about a quarter of an inch in thickness. The grain on a tri-tip can be tricky so check out our post on how to slice tri-tip for a full tutorial.
Ingredients and equipment
Let’s cover the ingredient list and any special equipment we’ll need to make this sandwich.
Frying pan or griddle
You’ll need a large frying pan if you’re going to use your stove top, preferably 14” – 16” in diameter. Better yet, if you have a griddle like the Pit Boss 4-burner gas griddle, or the 36” Blackstone griddle, that would be ideal.
Longer spatulas work best here as they help flip the sandwich and ingredients when. 8” griddle spatulas are perfect. Avoid the perforated ones.
Also, you’ll need a good hoagie or sub roll. The type of bread is crucial for a good sandwich. If you get too hard of bread, the sandwich will break apart. Too soft, and it will get soggy. Italian rolls such as Amoroso’s are perfect for this. I used a 12” roll for this sandwich.
If you just want to grab something from the grocery store or local baker, feel free. Potato-based rolls also work well.
This isn’t any ordinary steak sandwich. We’re going to compliment the tri-tip’s meatiness with caramelized onions and bring the funk with spicy kimchi.
The kimchi adds a level of acidity that melds with the juiciness of the meat as both soak into the soft inner bread. The same way pickles bring that briny flavor to sandwiches, this kimchi elevates our steak.
You can find kimchi at most grocery stores nowadays in the refrigerated Asian section. Any brand and heat level will do, but make sure it’s the cabbage variety and not the radish variety for this dish.
To top it all off, you need good quality cheese. A soft, melty cheese works wonderfully as it seeps into all the nooks and crannies of the sandwich.
For this recipe we used deli sliced provolone and havarti. The salty provolone contrasts nicely with the buttery havarti and brings the sandwich all together.
A creamy sauce like horseradish or mayo-based options work well with our tri-tip sandwich. We blended the best of both worlds and went with Terry Ho’s Hot Yum Yum sauce.
Cooking and assembling the tri-tip sandwich
Preheat your skillet or griddle to medium heat. Add two tablespoons of healthy cooking fats. We used clarified butter ghee.
Once your ghee has rendered and is starting to bubble, add in a quarter cup of chopped onion. Season the onion with a pinch of salt and stir to coat in the ghee. Let the onions sweat and start to brown, stirring every couple minutes to prevent burning.
Once the onion starts to caramelize, add in two cloves of minced garlic and stir to combine. Cook for two minutes then add half a cup of kimchi and stir. Let the kimchi cook down for 5-7 minutes, stirring often.
Turn the heat to medium high and add in one more tablespoon of ghee. Add 1.5 pounds of thinly sliced tri-tip to the pan or griddle. Season with a pinch of salt and pinch of coarse ground pepper. Stir the meat with the kimchi and onions mixture to incorporate.
As the meat warms, use two spatulas to break it apart into smaller, bite sized pieces.
Note: if you do not have metal spatulas or don’t want to scratch the non-stick coating in the pan, remove the hot mixture to a cutting board, chop with a chef’s knife or cleaver, then return to the hot pan.
Once the meat is fully warmed and incorporated with the onions and kimchi, split the mixture into two piles in the pan, about the length of your bread rolls. Place alternating pieces of provolone and havarti on top of the meat.
Add two tablespoons of water to the pan to create steam and start to melt the cheese. If you have a lid for the pan this would help expedite the process. If you’re using a griddle, a good melting dome or upside down stainless steel bowl will do the trick.
While the cheese is melting, slice the bread lengthwise, but not all the way through. Remove the lid and place the bread over the steaming piles of meat and veggies. The steam warms the inside of the bread from the inside out creating a pillowy soft interior while the exterior maintains its crust.
After thirty seconds to a minute, slide your spatula under the meat. Steadying the bread with your other hand, flip the sandwich right side up. Do the same with the other meat pile. Scrape up any meat and cheese in the pan that fell out during the flip and add them to your sandwich.
Set your sandwich on a cutting board and top with hot yum yum sauce and scallions. Cut into portions if you’re sharing. A 12” sandwich will easily serve 3-4 people.
This cheesy tri-tip sandwich has so many layers of flavor. The smokiness from the meat, the tanginess from the kimchi, the gooey cheese and the soft bread all work so well together and complement no only from a flavor perspective, but texturally as well. Enjoy!
Cheesy Tri-tip Steak Sandwiches
- 1.5 lbs leftover smoked tri-tip
- 3 tbsp clarified butter or ghee
- ¼ cup sweet onion diced
- salt to taste
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- ¼ cup kimchi
- black pepper to taste
- 4 slice provolone cheese
- 4 slices Havarti cheese
- 2 tbsp water
- 2 rolls Italian 12"
- 1 tbsp scallions thinly sliced
- hot Yum Yum sauce to taste
- Cool cooked tri-tip in refrigerator for 2-3 hours, preferably overnight.
- Preheat frying pan to medium heat.
- Bring out cold tri-tip and place on cutting board. Slice thin at ¼” thickness.
- Put 2 tablespoons of butter in the frying pan and coat the surface.
- When butter is fully melted, add onions and pinch of salt. Stir to coat.
- Once onions starts to brown, add the garlic and stir to combine.
- Cook for two minutes then add the kimchi and stir.
- Let the kimchi cook down for 5-7 minutes, stirring often.
- Turn the heat to medium high and add in one more tablespoon of butter.
- Add the tri-tip to the pan. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine.
- Once meat starts to warm, break apart with spatula (or remove to cutting board to chop, then add back to hot pan).
- Once the meat is fully warmed and incorporated with the onions and kimchi, split the mixture into two piles in the pan, about the length of your bread rolls.
- Place alternating pieces of provolone and havarti on top of the meat mixture.
- Add water to the pan to steam and melt the cheese. Cover to melt.
- Cut bread lengthwise ¾ of the way through being sure not to cut all the way through.
- Remove the lid and place bread, open side down onto the meat and cheese mixtures.
- Let bread steam warm on the meat for thirty seconds.
- Slide spatula under the meat and flip the sandwich upright using your free hand for support.
- Move to a cutting board and top with sauce and scallions.
- Cut and serve hot.