If Silicon Valley has Fred’s Steak, then North County San Diego boasts its own beloved culinary gem – Cardiff Crack. While officially labeled as WHOLE BURGUNDY PEPPER TRI TIP at the iconic Seaside Market in Cardiff by the Sea, locals couldn’t resist dubbing it Cardiff Crack due to its irresistible, ready-to-grill deliciousness.
According to the Seaside Market website, Cardiff Crack is described as a delectable USDA Choice tri tip that has been meticulously trimmed, marinated, and infused with a one-of-a-kind Burgundy Pepper marinade. The result is a tri tip that is unmatched in flavor and tenderness.
The secret behind Cardiff Crack’s exceptional taste lies in the marinade and the process used to create it. In a 2009 interview with meat manager Bob Byrne in the San Diego Entertainer Magazine, he revealed a glimpse into the marinade’s magic. “The key is the marinade we use and the process. We marinade it in a vacuum tumble machine, put it in plastic containers. The air gets pumped out and spins so the marinade can really absorb.”
Let’s delve into the process further. Vacuum tumbling involves using specialized machines that create a vacuum within a drum, allowing the meat and marinade to tumble between liquid and non-liquid states for up to an hour. During this process, the meat tissue expands, absorbing the marinade, while the muscle tissue becomes tenderized through tumbling. This crucial step contributes to the unique texture that sets Cardiff Crack apart. Unlike any store-bought tri-tip, even the well-done portions of Cardiff Crack remain astonishingly tender.
Interestingly, there are vendors who sell these vacuum tumbling machines, and there’s a wealth of academic research available on the technique. For instance, studies like “Effect of Different Tumbling Marination Treatments on the Quality Characteristics of Prepared Pork Chops” shed light on the process. Although I haven’t added a vacuum tumbler to my kitchen gadget collection just yet, I have experimented with using a vacuum sealer for sous vide cooking. While my vacuum sealer may not match the strength of industrial contraptions, I have discovered that freezing the marinade into ice cubes and sealing them with the meat in a bag creates a similar effect.
Now that we’ve unraveled the process behind Cardiff Crack, what about the elusive recipe? Surprisingly, I discovered that numerous attempts to crack the secret marinade yielded the same recipe found on Just a Pinch, maxgigicare, and Openmancave. Allegedly sourced from The Primal Blueprint Cookbook, this recipe has gained traction among enthusiasts.
Upon close examination of a raw piece of Cardiff Crack, I identified the presence of black pepper and whole yellow mustard seeds. I also noticed minuscule carrot fragments, although they could have been orange-dyed fat. The overall color of the meat leaned towards a rusty red, suggesting the addition of ground red pepper – a subtle touch sans spiciness or smokiness.
If I ever get around to giving this recipe a shot, I’ll be sure to update this post with my findings. In the meantime, I invite you to share your attempts or any rumors you’ve heard about replicating this tantalizing tri-tip.
(Note: Initially, I contemplated using the dryer for the tumbling process on a no-heat setting. However, considering the potential mess if the bag with the marinade were to break, I deemed it safer to double or triple vacuum seal the meat and opt for the washing machine instead. Should any mishaps occur, a sterile cycle would be sufficient for cleaning. When I shared this idea with my husband, he humorously suggested stringing the meat to the back of my paddleboard when I go surfing. I retorted, convinced it would attract sharks. He then mockingly remarked that the washing machine idea was equally ill-advised, stating, “I don’t want food in my washing machine.” Ultimately, I had to agree, realizing it would be easier to simply purchase Cardiff Crack.)
Update May 1, 2019: I recently purchased some Cardiff Crack and inquired about its ingredients. After a moment of silence, the staff revealed that it contains sugar and soy protein, but it is gluten-free. Given the presence of soy, it’s safe to assume that soy sauce is not used (although it could be substituted with Tamari Sauce). I suspect they might incorporate Bragg Liquid Aminos, a secret ingredient known for enhancing flavors, just like in the addictive Carlsbad Bitchin’ Sauce.
For more enticing delights and culinary adventures, visit Ekilove. Your taste buds will thank you!