Picanha steak is a cut of beef from the top of the rump area of the cow. In the US, it’s known as a rump cap, rump cover, or top sirloin cap. It’s triangular in shape with a thick layer of the fat cap. It comes in many different sizes; however, the smaller cut between 2,2-3,3 pounds is best since it does not contain parts of other cuts. The bigger cut may include the outer thigh that is located below the rump, which is tough. Since the muscle is not overused and has a decent amount of marbling, it’s a highly flavorful and relatively tender cut of beef.
So what is picanha steak? Below you’ll find everything you need to know about this prized cut in more detail. I’ve included three different cooking methods, a steak temperature chart, and where you can buy this incredibly delicious cut.
What Part Of The Cow Does Picanha Come From?
Picanha steaks come from the top of the rump (rump cap muscle). It’s triangular in shape and contains a thick fat cap on the top. In the US, it’s also known as rump cap, sirloin cap, rump cover, or even a culotte steak. It has a similar flavor profile to the rump steak with a robust beefy flavor. It’s not the most tender cut; however, the fat cap and intramuscular fat make it a juicy cut of beef.
How To Cook Picanha
Picanha steak is extremely popular in brazil. The traditional way of cooking picanha at a churrascaria is to skewer the meat into a horseshoe shape and cook it over an open fire (barbecue style).
Since you can cook picanha steaks using many different methods, I’ve included the three main ways that deliver the best result. The key is not to overseason the meat since it’s a highly flavorful cut. Trim off visible skin or membrane and bring meat to room temperature before cooking. And please do not cook it past medium. Medium-rare is a recommended level of doneness.
How to cook individual steaks
Bring steak to room temperature and season generously with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Preheat the cast iron skillet until smoking hot. Once the pan is hot (around 450-500° Fahrenheit), place the seasoned steak fat side down to render the fat. Once the fat is golden brown, sear the steak on both sides for about a minute on each side before turning the heat to medium—cook to the desired doneness. Leave the steak to rest once cooked.
- How to cook a steak in a cast iron skillet;
- How to cook a steak in a pan;
- How to cook steak in stainless steel pan.
If using a grill for cooking picanha, set up a grill for two-zone cooking. Rub grill grates with cooking oil and sear the steaks on a direct heat side of the grill for meat to develop a golden brown crust. When a crust has formed, move steaks to the indirect heat side of the grill and continue cooking until the meat is cooked to the desired doneness. Use a meat thermometer to check the steak’s internal temperature.
How to cook Brazilian Picanha steaks
Brazilian steakhouses serve picanha sliced, skewered, and grilled over a barbecue. Cut the whole roast into 3-4 thick pieces (should be similarly sized to New York steak). Bring it to room temperature and season with kosher salt and pepper. Skewer the meat into a horseshoe shape. In the meantime, prepare a charcoal grill known as “churrasqueira” and cook it for about 12-20 minutes, depending on the level of doneness you want to achieve. Once the meat is cooked over an open fire, leave it to rest for about 5-10 minutes. It’ll allow steak juices to redistribute throughout the steak’s interior.
Roasting Picanha whole
Score the fat cap and rub in some kosher salt. Salt will help draw out moisture and make the fat cap crispy when searing. Leave picanha roast at room temperature for about an hour before cooking. Season it with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper—Preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Place picanha into a preheated cast iron pan fat side down to reduce excess fat. Do not use any cooking oil. If there’s too much fat in the pan, drain it; however, do not throw it away. Sear the steak until the fat is nice and crispy. Turn over the meat and baste it with a tablespoon. Feel free to add aromatics like garlic, rosemary, or thyme. Transfer the cast-iron pan to the oven and continue cooking the picanha roast to your liking. It should not take longer than 15 minutes.
Where Can I Find Picanha?
Unfortunately, picanha is not readily available. You should go to a specialty butcher shop and ask for the picanha steaks. You can also buy it online. Porterroad and a few other online shops have picanha available. Expect to pay around $25 per pound for it.
Steak Temperature Chart
- Rare steak: 125° Fahrenheit;
- Medium rare steak: 135° Fahrenheit;
- Medium steak: 145° Fahrenheit;
- Medium-well steak: 150° Fahrenheit;
- Well done, steak: 160° Fahrenheit.
The steak temperature chart is handy for home cooks. Using a meat thermometer, you can track a level of doneness without overcooking the meat and making it dry and chewy.
Stick a probe into the thickest part of the meat and track the steak’s internal temperature. Alternatively, you can use a finger test method; however, for most home cooks, it’s too intimidating; therefore, using a meat thermometer is easier.
Is picanha steak a good cut?
Picanha is an excellent steak packed with beefy flavor and perfect for grilling, pan frying, and roasting. It’s a budget-friendly cut, unlike more premium cuts that cost quite a bit more.
Is picanha better than ribeye?
Ribeye is a more tender and flavorful cut of beef than picanha. It comes from the rib section where the muscle gets very little exercise; therefore, naturally, it collects more fat, aka marbling resulting in a more tender and flavorful cut.
Is top sirloin the same as picanha?
Sirloin is a sub-primal cut of the beef loin primal, whereas picanha is a cut from the top of the rump. Both cuts come from different parts of the cow but are similar in texture, flavor, and marbling.