Picanha: What Is It and How to Cook It?

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Naomi Blue Published: March 26, 2021 Modified: September 22, 2021
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Want to try something different for steak night? Then look no further! Picanha, although not as popular as the other cuts of beef, is a great option for steak lovers. In this article, learn all there is to know about picanha and the different ways to cook it.

After reading this guide, try cooking this cut then serve it with a side of fresh rosemary french fries. And once you’ve mastered cooking picanha, steak nights will never be the same. So stick around to know more about this Brazilian beef cut.

What Is Picanha?

slices of picanha

Wikimedia Commons | Dalma Food AB

Picanha, pronounced “pee-kahn-yah”, is also known as “rump cover,” “rump cap,” “top sirloin cap,” “coulotte steak,” or “cap steak” in English speaking countries like the United States. It was popularized in Brazil and is known for its great quality despite it being cheaper than other cuts of beef. 

Although this beef cut originated in the South American country, its name can be traced back to the Iberian Peninsula. During the colonization period in the Iberian Peninsula, farmers used poles to herd and brand their cows. These poles were then called “picana”.

Eventually, Portuguese and Spanish settlers brought this practice to Brazil. The branded part of the cows became known as “picanha”. And many years later, the term “picanha” is now used for cooking.

Also learn all about veal in our What Is Veal and Is It Good For You? article.

What Cut of Beef Is Picanha?

infographic on picanha’s location in a cow

Brazilian picanha is found beside the sirloin and on top of the cow’s rump, hence its other names such as “rump cover” and “rump cap.” This cut has a three-cornered shape and is covered by a layer of fat called a “fat cap”. 

Additionally, the cut’s size may vary in shape due to its triangular shape. The weight can be around 170 to 397 grams.

What Does Picanha Taste Like?

picanha on a plate

Wikimedia Commons | Sepato

Now that you know its pronunciation, history, and what cut of beef it is, you might be curious about its taste.

Picanha beef is not an overworked muscle, so expect great flavors from it. If you’re a big fan of oven-grilled sirloin steak, then you’re in for a treat because some say that the Brazilian beef cut tastes just like it. Aside from being flavorful when cooked, it is also tender and juicy. 

Additionally, picanha meat doesn’t have too much fat, so this is a great choice of beef cut for those who are conscious about their diet. 

After knowing its taste and benefits, you’re probably eager to try this cut for a meal. No worries! Picanha is not hard to find.

How to Prepare and Cook Picanha

While there are many methods of cooking this beef cut, its preparation is usually the same. Just like any other kind of steaks such as eye of round steak or prime rib, it’s best to set picanha at room temperature before cooking. 

Once set, pat the beef cut with a dry paper towel then remove the excess skin and membrane. In terms of seasoning, you can settle with just using salt since the Brazilian beef cut itself is already flavorful. But if you’re feeling adventurous, you may use some tasty steak seasoning as well.

How to Make a Great Picanha Steak Cut

picanha steak

Here are some tips on how to get the slices perfect:

  1. Place the fat side of the Brazilian beef cut down. This will make the cutting a whole lot easier.
  2. Cut it following the direction of the grain. 
  3. After cooking and resting, cut against the grain’s direction. This will ensure that the meat achieves peak juiciness.

As for cooking, here are some picanha recipes you can choose from:

Classic Steak

When we hear the word “steak,” some beef dishes that automatically come to mind are rib-eye steak, grilled beef tenderloin, and many more. But now, you can add the Brazillian meat to this long line of beef parts. 

  1. Once it’s seasoned, render the fat side first on a hot pan.
  2. After rendering, sear both sides then turn the heat down. This allows it to be cooked to medium-rare within a few minutes.
Tip: You can also make a tender picanha steak using the sous vide method.
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Brazilian Steak

If you want a little taste of Brazil, then this method is for you. In the South American country, picanha is an ingredient for barbecues known as “churrasco.” 

  1. Pierce the Brazilian beef slices with a spit then place them on a charcoal grill (also known as “churrasqueira” in Brazil). 
  2. Once cooked and rested, feel free to serve the dish with a side of delicious chimichurri sauce for an even more authentic Brazilian meal!

Grilled Picanha

You can also serve this inexpensive meat cut for a weekend grill with family and friends. 

  1. Before placing the picanha on the preheated grill, rub a small piece of fat on the grill first. This will ensure that the pieces won’t be stuck. 
  2. Place them in the farthest areas away from the heat. That way, not only can you avoid overcooking the outside, but the insides of the picanha will be cooked perfectly too. 
  3. After a few minutes, sear both sides of the beef cut on the hottest area of the grill.

Whole Roast Picanha

If you’re craving a roasted steak meal, then you might want to try this option.

  1. Put a hot cast iron pan in a 355 degree F preheated oven.
  2. Slice the surface of the meat then rub it with some salt.
  3. Sear the fat side of the beef cut. Don’t use any oil!
  4. Some of the fat will melt on the pan while searing. Drain it a bit, but don’t throw the oil away.
  5. Keep searing the fat until it looks crispy. Use the molten fat to baste the beef cut.
  6. Place it in the oven and roast it for 30 minutes.
  7. Once the picanha is cooked, let it rest before slicing it into smaller pieces.
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Smoked Picanha

Although you can cook this Brazilian beef cut with a pan or grill, smoking it is also a great option.

  1. Make a fire in the smoker of a covered grill or a pellet grill. Check if the heat is somewhere between medium and high.
  2. Make shallow cuts on the fat of the beef cut then drizzle it with olive oil. Don’t forget to season it with salt!
  3. Place the picanha on the smoker with the fat side down. Let it be smoked for a few hours.
  4. Flip the fat side of the beef cut up after 45 minutes.
  5. Once it has reached your favored heat, pull it off the smoker then let it rest.
  6. Feel free to serve it with chimichurri for added flavors.

Rotisserie Picanha

If you want to cook picanha using a mouth-watering option, then you may want to try the rotisserie option.

  1. Light a fire and burn some charcoal for a few minutes.
  2. Pierce it with a skewer and cut it into a C shape then drizzle it with olive oil.
  3. Cook it over the fire within 30 to 40 minutes. While cooking, you can pull it off and slice the surface then put it back in. This quickens the cooking process.
  4. After cooking, let it rest before serving with chimichurri sauce.

Where to Buy Picanha

Since picanha is not a famous cut of beef, it is not usually sold in groceries. To get this fantastic beef cut, you may have to visit your local butcher. You could also go to your nearest farmers’ market to see if you can buy one.

When buying this beef cut, make sure that you check its size and fat content. These qualities will ensure that your picanha is in its peak condition. Smaller cuts are often better than the bigger ones. If the cut is too big, then there is a chance that other cuts such as the tough regions below the rump are included.

As for the fat content, make sure that the fat cap is not too thick. A great measurement of its thickness would be along 1.5 centimeters.

There Are Many Ways to Serve Picanha, the Brazilian Beef Cut 

While this portion of beef is not the most popular one, that doesn’t mean you can’t turn it into a hearty meal. So keep our cooking methods in mind, and serve picanha for any meal you wish!

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Naomi Blue

Naomi is a writer, editor, and manga enthusiast. She has written for various websites, events, and ad commercials. She is also an avid fan of street food and food history. She’s currently in her Japanese and Indonesian food phase and is interested in exploring Vietnamese cuisine next.

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