Ever heard of Picanha? For you folks who’ve been to a Brazilian steakhouse I’m sure you’re familiar with it.
But if not, allow me to introduce you to the queen of beefs.
Picanha is a hefty bunch of beef seasoned with Brazilian style. Coming from a culture that is inspired by excellent aromas, there’s a lot to adore about picanha.
Its grilled to instill intense flavors into each strand of meat. If you’re a fanatic of grilled meats, then this dish would be a little paradise for you.
But what exactly is it?
Picanha also known as rump cover, rump cap, culotte or top sirloin cap in other places is technically a cut of beef that comes from the rump cap muscles located in the rear of the bovine above the butt. They are really popular and prized in Brazil and other Latin American countries.
In Brazil, its cut at the silverside to obtain slices that are thick enough to bent on themselves leaving the fat part outside to be then cooked.
It is very tender, juicy with amble amounts of flavor (both smokey and non-smokey) and has texture similar to sirloin. It’s supposed to be cooked carefully so as not to make it tough because it holds very little fat inside the meat.
The fat cap can be eaten for added flavor.
History behind Picanha
Apparently, this Brazil’s favorite steak is named after the pole that farmers used for herding cattle in the Iberian Peninsula before colonizing Brazil.
The farmers there had a technique for branding cows with this tool called ‘picana’. The herders used to touch the cattle above the tail with this rod to get them to move in a certain direction. The portuguese and Spanish migrants later went and introduced this in Brazil. Over time, the term “picanha” was adopted to mean the area where cattle were touched when with the picana.
How to season Picanha
Looking for seasonings that work well with Picanha? Knowing how to season steak is an important part of making the perfect grilled picanha.
In this case, simple is better since picanha already has all the flavors and tenderness it needs.
For a traditional picanha, season with a generous amount of coarse salt/kosher salt, ground black pepper, freshly lime juice and possibly some olive oil.
You can also try the simple but flavorful Santa Maria steak seasoning. This is simple a mixture of salt and black pepper, granulated honey or sugar, granulated garlic and onion powder.
So, what is the best can you cook picanha?
This steak can be cooked in a number of ways but what you’re going to see below is a popular technique found in Brazilian steakhouses.
- Be sure your Picanha is completely thawed.
- Do not trim the picanha since fat cap will help keep the meat moist and tender.
- If your picanha has been refrigerated, be sure to remove it 1 hour before cooking to bring it to room temperature.
- Put the top sirloin cap flat on a cutting board fat side up and cut across with the grain. Make sure it isn’t too thin because it’ll dry out. Each stake should be 1” to 1-1/2” thick.The pieces should look like the below image.
- Put salt into the crevices of the cross hatched fat layer of the steak and massage it to make sure it gets in
- If you want to skewer the steak, roll each piece and secure it on a skewer in a way that its hold together rolled up.
- Season as you desire.
- Clean the grates well and apply a thin layer of oil by using a bunched-up paper with olive oil making sure its saturated but not dripping.
- If you’re cooking on a charcoal grill, create two cooking zones. Move the hot coals to one side of the grill efficiently separating the grill into a hot and low-heat zones. Place steaks over the hottest part fat side down (This doesn’t apply if its skewered) and sear both sides for 2 to 3 minutes. Then move your steaks to the low-heat zone and continue to grill for:8-13 minutes for rare, 9-14 minutes for medium-rare, 10-15 minutes for medium and 12-17 minutes for medium-well. Turn about 1 minute just before the halfway point.
- If it’s a gas grill, reheat to high then sear both sides for 1 to 2 minutes. Then reduce to low heat and continue to grill according to the time stated for rare, medium-rare, medium and medium-well. The steak desired degree of doneness is as of below:
- Rare – 1250F
- Medium rare – 1350 F
- Medium – 1450 F
- Medium well – 1500 F
- Well done – 1600 F
- For the perfect medium-rare Picanha steak, grill for 9 to 12 minutes for an inch steak and 12 to 14 minutes for one-and-a-half-inch steak turning 1 minute before halfway point. A meat thermometer should read 130o F.
- Remove and rest your steak for about 5 minutes before serving. This is very important since the heat continues to rise about 50 F during this time pulling the juices in the meat toward the surface. If you slice it immediately, those flavorful juices will end up your plate and not in your steak. That’s why it’s important to give the juices time to sink back in and throughout the meat making it moist and flavorful.
- Remove the skewers if you skewed it.
- Cut each steak against the grain, cutting the long muscle fibers into tiny segments and ensuring each bite is tender.