How to Cook the Perfect Picanha Steak
Unless you have been to Brazil or a Brazilian-style steakhouse, you may have never heard of the Picanha steak. Hugely popular in that region, the Picanha is lesser known to American audiences. However, those who know about the Picanha are often die-hard fans, and it’s easy to see why. So, just what is Picanha steak and what are the best techniques for cooking it? Read on as we get into all the beefy details.
WHAT IS A PICANHA STEAK?
Picanha is a tender cut of beef popular in South America and is typically served tableside, often on skewers or just simply sliced at your table. The Picanha is classified as a roast and is renowned for its tenderness and rich, beefy flavor. Its triangular shape gives it a unique look, but you will typically experience the Picanha served sliced, on skewers, or as tiny bites, not as a whole roast.
Picanha is often referred to by other names including top sirloin cap, rump cap, rump cover, and in the United States, Coulotte steak.
While the Picanha steak is a lesser-known cut of beef, steak lovers are well aware of its incredible taste.
WHAT CUT IS A PICANHA STEAK?
The Picanha cut comes from the rump area of the cow. Picanha is derived from the Latin word, ‘picana,’ and translates to ‘pole.’ A picana is a type of cattle prod that ranchers use on cows and the rump is right where they use it.
Unlike other parts of the animal that get regular movement and exercise, the rump does not and is therefore not overly muscular. However, there is a large cap of fat that covers this cut which in turn helps make the Picanha tender and juicy.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO COOK A PICANHA STEAK?
Don’t let the unfamiliar name or the rarity of this cut of steak deter you from making it a regular cut in your rotation. Most of the same cooking techniques you use for other cuts of steak will work perfectly well with the Picanha.
One recommendation to note: many prefer to cook the Picanha with its fat-cap side down, as this helps render down that fat, creating an unforgettable, mouthwatering steak experience.
HOW TO GRILL PICANHA STEAK
The best way to cook a Picanha steak is to grill it, Brazlian style! It’s actually pretty simple to do:
- Preheat your grill to a temperature of 400 to 450°F and create two cooking zones (one hot zone and one for indirect heat by either adjusting the burners or moving coals to favor one side).
- On a cutting board, use a knife to cut slits into the Picanha’s fat cap in a crosshatch pattern. This will allow seasoning to penetrate throughout the fat cap.
- Slice the picanha with the grain into 2 or 2.5 inch steaks. We slice with the grain in this case because the Picanha will later be cut against the grain upon serving.
- Fold each indiviual steak into the shape of a C or similar to a rainbow, where the fat cap runs along the top.
- Slide the steaks onto metal skewers. Typically you can fit 2-3 steaks per skewer without overcrowding.
- Once your grill is nice and hot, place the skewered Picanha steaks directly on the grates between the two heat zones for 15-20 minutes, flipping them every few minutes to mimic a rotisserie style cooking method.
- Pull from the grill once you read an internal temp of 130°F (medium rare and most recommended), or 135°F for medium, and 140°F for a medium well doneness.
- Allow the Picanha steaks to rest for 10-20 minutes before slicing into thin strips against the grain and serving.
PICANHA STEAK SOUS VIDE
With the rise in popularity of the sous vide method of cooking, the culinary expets at Snake River Farms have narrowed down how to get the best results for a sous vide Picanha. Simply follow these steps:
- First, you’ll want to season your Picanha liberally with kosher salt and let it rest at room temperature for about 45 minutes. We recommend scoring the fat cap with a knife in a crosshatch pattern to allow the seasoning to better penetrate the fat cap.
- Heat your sous vide water bath to 135°F.
- Place the Picanha into the vacuum-sealable bag and into the water bath, clipping the bag to the pan to ensure it remains securely in place.
- Cook your Picanha in the water bath for five hours and then remove the bag and immediately submerge it into an ice bath to stop the cooking process.
- Get your cast-iron skillet or carbon steel pan piping hot before adding a tablespoon of olive oil, avocado oil, ghee, or your preferred cooking fat.
- Remove the steaks from the bag and place them on the skillet, fat-cap side down. Sear the steak with the fat-cap side down for 2-3 minutes.
- Flip them over to the opposite side and sear for an additional 1-2 minutes.
- Remove the steaks from the pan and allow to rest for 10-20 minutes before serving, cutting it against the grain and into thin slices for serving.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO CUT A PICANHA STEAK?
Picanha steak can be cut in different ways depending on the dish. Here are few of the most common ways to cut and prepare the Picanha:
CUT INTO STEAKS:
Place the whole Picanha roast fat side down a cutting board, and slice with the grain to create individual steaks of about 2 to 2.5 inches in thickness. The reason you cut with the grain is because the individual steaks will later be cut against the grain when serving the Picanha in thinner slices.
SLICING A COOKIED PICANHA ROAST:
Slicing the Picanha steak after cooking it as an entire roast is great way to enjoy a rare or medium rare doneness. Allow the Picanha roast to rest for 10-20 minutes after cooking, and then carve thin slices by cutting against the grain.
You can prepare Picanha steak for a Brazilian style presentation by cutting it into thick slices of steak, about 2.5 inches each, and cut with the grain. Then, fold each cut in a C shape (similar to a crescent moon or rainbow), and run them onto a metal skewer to prepare for grilling.
OUR FAVORITE RECIPES FOR PICANHA STEAK
Picanha steak is a versatile cut that can be cooked with a wide variety of techniques, each delivering a unique ‘wow’ factor.
The pros at Snake Rive Farms have put together some of our favorite recipes for Picanha steak to help get you started:
AMERICAN WAGYU PICANHA STEAK FROM SNAKE RIVER FARMS
If you love Picanha—and after you try it, we are positive you will—then Snake River Farms is your go-to source for American Wagyu beef and all of its cuts, including rare gems like the Picanha. With its delectable fat cap adding unmatched tenderness and flavor, the Picanha is quickly becoming a favorite for steak aficionados.
While this may not be an everyday steak, you can make it one to look forward to on special occasions. Serve with feijoada (a black-bean stew that is the national dish of Brazil) and impress your friends and family with an exceptional Brazilian steakhouse evening. Order your next-favorite cut of American Wagyu Picanha steak from Snake River Farms.
Frequently Asked Questions About Picahna Steak
While Picanha steak is difficult to find in typical grocery stores, but your local butcher is likely to have Picanha either available to purchase or pre-order.
One of the way to get your hands on Picanha steak is through online delivery. At Snake River Farms, we offer a delicious, American Wagyu Black Grade Picanha that can be delivered straight to your door.
Picanha is Portuguese for ‘rump steak’.
It takes 5 hours to sous vide a whole Picanha with a water bath temperature set to 135°F.