Grilled Picanha

Written in 2022
by Toni Costa

    Picanha steak is the hidden gem of south American cuisine, and the absolute gem of Brazilian BBQ. Read on for everything you'll need to know about this lovely cut of meat, and the best way to grill it.

    What is it?

    Picanha is one of the hidden gems of South America, really not many people know about it!

    If you've never been to a Brazilian restaurant before, we suggest first things first and you make your way there, and be sure that Picanha is the first thing you try. It'll be the highlight of any BBQ.

    Picanha is the name in Brazilian, or Portuguese as that's the language they speak there, but its more often known here as sirloin cap, rump cover or rump cap. Whatever name you pick for the meat, make sure to bring it to the next BBQ.

    What cut of meat is Picanha?

    Picanha comes from the top of the rump of the cow and usually comes in a triangle shape. The layer of fat on top makes it all so juicy and tender, its a lovely cut.

    The rump area is pretty big in Brazil, and lots of South America, for good reason, a similar taste and texture to the famous sirloin, whilst so juicy and tender.

    The Picanha coming from the top of the cow means that it comes with a 'fat cap' on top of it, its left on traditionally in Brazil but it can also be taken off if that's your preference. We suggest leaving it on as the fat makes the cut so juicy and tender.

    It can be a difficult cut to cook as it doesn't actually have , much meat on it, and so it can be hard to keep moist and tender.

    Picanha and Tri-tip Differences

    Despite what lots of people think, the tri-tip and the Picanha are different cuts of meat and aren't simply interchangeable. They have different textures and flavours, so be sure not to get mixed up!

    The cuts are often mixed up because they both have fat caps and are close to the sirloin!

    Whilst the trip-tip comes from the top of the bottom sirloin, the Picanha comes from the top of the rump, and so the high fat content and that its a less-worked area of the cow means that it wonderfully tender. The tri-tips appeal on the other hand is the rich, beefy flavour that comes with the lack of fat.

    Where can you buy it?

    Butchers in Europe and South America, where are readers are most likely from, tend to call the Picanha lots of other things, and in all likelihood it'll be cut up into lots of other stuff like the loin, rump or round. Some even throw the Picanha away as its not super popular. This can make it harder to find but its still not impossible.

    Aim to find a specialist that does a full animal breakdown and specially request it, 2 or 3lbs is the ideal weight to aim for.

    Meat Prep

    In our recipe today, we are going to keep that fat cap on, the half an hour it spends on the grill will allow the fat to render, but it shouldn't be too long that it goes rubbery.

    This cut is so rich in flavour that simple salt and pepper will be enough to season it, you won't need a marinade or a rub.

    How to Grill

    The whole picanha will need to be seared on either side for about 3 or 4 minutes on each side, and then cut against the grain into strips and cook on a grill just like you would with any other normal steak!

    We advise you to leave picanha out of the smoker, it'll end up rubbery instead because of how high the temperatures get. If you really do have your heart set on a smoker, remove the fat cap.

    Its a pro tip to score the top of the picanha to allow the rendered fat and liquid to go through the meat.

    Final Thoughts

    Picanha is a lesser known cut from South America that more people need to make themselves acquainted with, a simple seasoning of salt and pepper is all that you need, as its so incredibly flavourful. Try out this beautiful cut and let us know what you think!

    Written by Toni Costa

    I'm Antonio! I'm a university student based in Leeds, UK. My passions, are sports and food! The less said about the teams I support the better...

    Working on the SmokeGuys site has allowed me to improve my writing and of course, provide you with awesome reviews and guides!

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