Smoke Grilled Tri-Tip Sandwich With Caramelized Vidalia Onions

July 15, 2013

The humble onion is ever so simple to grill but does it ever deliver big flavor! Larry of Embers & Flame gives us a tutorial on the Vidalia and how to really make it shine.

  Smoke grilled tri-tip with carmelized Vidalia onion 

Mose Coleman, a Toombs County farmer, is believed to have been the first grower of the now popular commodity.

Today was a big day for the Grail household. It was time to pick up our “pie of the month” pie. Yep, you read that correctly…”pie of the month.”  It’s a great thing having a friend who bakes the most incredible pies.  I get to trade some type of BBQ for a pie every month.  Today’s trade was a tri-tip roast in exchange for a coconut cream pie.  The barter system is a beautiful thing.

Normally, I prepare double of whatever meat I cook for the pie trade.  This way not only do we get pie for dessert we get some good tasting BBQ for dinner to.

Tonight’s tri-tip ended up as awesome tri-tip sandwiches with caramelized Vidalia onions.  The sweetness of the onions complimented the flavors from the Santa Maria seasoning on the tri-tip and buttery glaze used at the end of the cooking process.

For the past couple of weeks I’ve practiced different recipes and flavor combinations as I try to come up with an entry for the “Sweet Vidalia Flavors of Summer” recipe contest. I love Vidalia onions and cooking with them has been interesting and educational.

The caramelized onions, tonight, had plenty of sweet goodness. Normally when I caramelize onions for burgers or sandwiches I have to add sugar to help with the process but in the case of the Vidalia the natural sweetness of the onion makes it thatmuch easier.  And cooking with the cooking the sweetness is intensified.  They are yummy.

vidalia onions from Georgia

Real Sweet Vidalia onions are only grown in the Georgia counties of: Emanuel, Candler, Treutlen, Bulloch, Wheeler, Montgomery, Evans, Tattnall, Toombs, Telfair, Jeff Davis, Appling, and Bacon and portions of: Jenkins, Screven, Laurens, Dodge, Pierce, Wayne, and Long counties.

One of the reasons Vidalia onions are so sweet is because of the low-sulfur content of the soil in the Georgia counties they are grown in.  Since, ultimately it’s the sulfur in the onion that causes you to tear up when you cut onions, the low-sulfur has the added benefit of keeping the tears to a minimum.  I’ve cooked almost 10 pounds of Vidalia onions in the past couple of weeks and not once did I shed a tear.  It’s quite nice to not have to worry about crying while cutting onions.

The Tri-Tip was seasoned with Susie Q Santa Maria Style seasoning and smoked with oak wood pellets, at 225 degrees, until the internal temperature of the meat was 145 degrees.  After a couple of hours with smoke I heated my Saber Grill to 700 degrees  and seared the Tri-Tip on all sides to start the caramelization of the meat.  Because I bought untrimmed Tri-Tip  the searing onthe fat cap adds great flavor, this is an important step.  Sear this meat as much as you can and then sear it some more.

Take 1/2 cup of your favorite, non-vinegar based BBQ sauce and mix it with 1/2 cup of melted butter until blended together.  Move the Tri-Tip to indirect heat and sauce all sides of the of the meat.  Let the roast cook on the cool side of the grill for 10 minutes, with the lid closed, or until the sauce has “set.” Glaze again and cook another 10 minutes.

While you’re cooking the tri-tip follow the recipe below for the caramelized Vidalia onions.  You’ll notice the recipe calls for two onions, one sliced and one chopped.  The reason I do it this way is because with two difference sizes of onion pieces cooking you get two different textures and I like the really soft, browned smaller bits combined with the slices, which come out slightly firmer.

carmelized Vidalia onions in the skillet

Smoke Grilled Tri-Tip Sandwich With Caramelized Vidalia Onions


Author: Larry Gaian @BBQGrail

Recipe Type: Main


Prep Time:  15 mins

Cook Time:  2 hours 30 mins

Total Time:  2 hours 45 mins


Serves: 8



  • Tri-Tip
  • 2 tri-tip roasts, 2½ to 3 pounds each
  • Santa Maria style seasoning to taste
  • BBQ Butter Sauce
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ½ cup BBQ Sauce (non-vinegar based works best)
  • Caramelized Vidalia Onions
  • 2 Sweet Vidalia Onions, one sliced and one chopped.
  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 tablespoon Pastamore Jalapeno Infused Olive Olive
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon fresh cracked pepper





1. Pre-heat smoker to 225 degrees.

2. Season Tri-Tip with Santa Maria seasoning and smoke the roast until it reaches 145 degrees internal.

3. Quickly sear meat on a charcoal or gas grill pre-heated as hot as you can get it.

4. Sauce with BBQ Butter Sauce and continue to grill with indirect heat until meat reaches your desired temperature.

5. I like to sear again just before pulling the meat off the grill.

BBQ Butter Sauce

Combine butter and BBQ sauce over low heat and whisk until the butter is melted and combined with the BBQ sauce.

Caramelized Sweet Vidalia Onions

  1. Pre-Heat a heavy bottom skillet or for best results a cast iron skillet.
  2. Add both olive oils, onions, salt and pepper to the skillet and cook covered, stirring occasionally until the onions are transparent and soft.
  3. Uncover and cook another 20 minutes or until the onions start to turn brown. Make sure you stir frequently to keep the onions from sticking and burning.
  4. When the onions have browned add 1 tablespoon of the BBQ Butter Sauce an still until all the onions are coated. Cook an additional one minute.
  5. Make your sandwich however you’d like, I like mine with provolone cheese, and top with caramelized onions. A nice horseradish mayo would be good too!



If you’d prefer use whatever combination of olive oil you’d like. I only split mine between jalapeno infused and non because my family is wimpy sometimes.


Source: Embers&





Related Topics: 2 Zone Grilling | 2-zone Cooking | Basics Of 2-zone | Direct Cooking | Direct Grilling | Direct Heat | Editor's Picks | Embers&flame | Grilled Onions | Indirect Cooking | Indirect Grilling | Indirect Heat | Indirect Method | Larry Gaian | Sandwich | Tri-tip | Two Zone Grilling | Vidalia Onions

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