Santa Maria BBQ originated in California’s Central Coast, specifically in the Santa Maria Valley, renowned for its delicious grilled beef and standout side dishes. This BBQ style became a California culinary tradition 175 years ago.
In the mid-19th century, Santa Maria Valley ranchers would gather to brand their calves and partake in a Spanish-style feast featuring grilled beef roasts, beans, bread, salsa, and salad. Acclaimed “the best barbecue in the world” by Sunset magazine, Santa Maria BBQ differs from traditional BBQ due to its absence of slow-cooked meats.
Santa Maria BBQ Components
Initially, cooks used sirloin roasts for Santa Maria Barbecue. Then later replaced by the tri-tip roast, known for its triangular-shape, beefy flavor and suitability for hot and fast grilling.
Santa Maria tri-tip is grilled over California red oak, which imparts a distinct smoky flavor to the meat. The process involves searing the meat close to the fire before slowly roasting it to perfection. It is all done on an adjustable charcoal grill, similar to Argentinian Grill.
The tri-tip is seasoned with a simple combination of salt, black pepper, and garlic, allowing the meat’s natural beefiness to shine. It’s best to generously apply and work the rub into the meat for maximum flavor.
Santa Maria Barbecue includes:
- Pinquito beans (that includes diced bacon, ham, tomato, Anaheim peppers, etc.)
- Garlic bread (or grilled bread dipped in melted butter).
- A simple green salad (bib lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and red onion)
The standout side dish is the native pinquito beans, exclusively grown in the Santa Maria Valley. That can make them hard to find in local grocery stores. However, never fear. You can order them online through vendors like Suzie Q’s or substitute them with pink beans.
Santa Maria BBQ’s time-honored preparation, delicious flavors, and distinctive sides have secured its place as a cherished California culinary legacy.