Have you ever heard of picanha, also know as cap steak? You may have eaten top sirloin cap grill known as picanha in a Brazilian steak house, sliced off a large skewer and served as is, no sauce. If you have, you know it’s delicious.
You will see two different sets of pictures below, from two different picanha grilling days. One day I put the steaks on a skewer as I had cut them a little too thinly, and another day I didn’t. I prefer to cut them thicker and not use skewers. Either way, Brazilian picanha is one of the most delicious steaks I’ve ever eaten.
My personal note, I learned something today. There is no end to learning something new about food and food culture. Every country, every region has recipes that mark them. Even small geographical areas such as counties or small towns can boast a dish original to that area.
The media has divided us according to our differences in a very toxic way, but cultural cuisine brings us together. Everyone in America eats outside of their origins in various restaurants. It’s one of the ways we can appreciate differences in a positive way. My hope is that people will get fed up with all the divisive exploitation and sit and share food with each other. That’s step one in sharing humanity.
How do you Pronounce Picanha?
I had to look this up. The American pronunciation sounds like pēe caań yuh.
What is a Picanha Cut?
It’s made from the triangular steak that sits on the top of the round at the back of the cow, known as the top sirloin cap.
Other names for top sirloin cap steak include fat cap, rump cap, or in Australia, the culotte steak.
I first came face to face with picanha in my Butcher Box subscription. I had no idea how to cook it or what to do with it, and honestly wasn’t thrilled with the piece of fat on the top. I was wrong, and didn’t initially realize how amazing this steak is.
How do You Cook Picanha Steak?
This is a fairly fast cooking steak, best prepared on a grill, gas or briquet. In Brazil, you will most likely find it grilled over a open coals.
This is why the internet is a wonderful thing, for within minutes, I had breezed through several recipes and videos on sirloin cap steak. While some suggested seasoning and some suggested skewering, there were a few thing all the recipes agree upon.
- Pichana is a fast cooking steak best prepared on a grill.
- Rock salt or kosher salt is the seasoning and a dry brine for 24 hours is suggested.
- Reverse sear is the best method. See Below.
- No sauce is needed due to amazing flavor, although some serve with chimichurri.
- Resting steak for ten minutes is important.
- Skewers were used more often, but not imperative.
- Cook to medium rare.
- Slice across the grain to serve.
How Do We Dry Brine Picanha?
Dry brining the meat will result in tasty and tender steak.
This is pretty easy, but requires an extra day. Cut your picanha into steaks. Salt. Refrigerate uncovered overnight. It’s important to give the steak 24 hours to absorb the salt. It’s worth the wait. The picanha will take on a beautiful mahogany color, once the salt is absorbed.
When you grill reverse sear style, the meat will cook more evenly. Notice in the picture below how much of the surface maintains a medium rare. When I grilled this yesterday, it was very cold outside and I had a hard time keeping my grill hot, which is why the fat isn’t grilled as much as I would have liked. The meat, however, was perfection.
What Does Reverse Sear Mean?
Reverse sear means you cook the meat on indirect heat before browning on direct heat.
- Heat your grill high. Before you place the meat on grill, turn off one side.
- Reduce to medium heat.
- Place steak on the side with no fire, for medium indirect heat.
- Turn the steak skewers over at 80 degrees F and continue to cook until internal temperature is 115 degrees F.
- Turn the other side up to high again and place to direct heat.
- Rub olive oil on each side before searing.
- Heat one to two minutes per side to brown.
- Rest for ten minutes before cutting.
How Do You Skewer the Picanha Steaks
- Cut Length-wise about 2 inch WITH the grain. Leave fat on.
- Place onto metal skewers, if you have skewers.
Flavor is amazing. Queen of the steaks.
Do You Have to Put the Steaks on a Skewer?
No. The second time I made it, I did not and I think you should only use a skewer when you are cooking them on a rotisserie.
How do You Slice Picanha Steak?
Always cut the raw steaks with the grain. Once cooked, cut across the grain to serve.
The second time I made Picanha, I cut the steaks thicker and then sliced the meat very thinly. It was so delicious and I was able to cook it more on the rare side this way.
How Do You Find Top Sirloin Cap or Picanha?
Ask your butcher for whole top sirloin cap (picanha). When I saw top sirloin at my local Publix, I went to the butcher and asked if they had it with the fat cap. He came out with the top sirloin cap also labeled picanha. Normally, the butcher cuts off the fat and slices and packages as top sirloin, but he said I could special order anytime.
I looked at the prices for ordering one from a local boutique butcher, priced at $55. When I asked my butcher at Publix to allow me to have one before they cut it into top sirloin steaks (fat removed), I paid $33. However, I’m willing to try the boutique butcher, but there is a wait list. I will purchase one eventually and I’ll let you know how it goes.
What Do You Serve with Picanha?
I think picanha is best served, seasoned with salt and pepper. The meat is so tasty, you want to enjoy it, not cover it up. Brazilians serve white rice, black beans, collard greens and creamy polenta. You might also enjoy the dishes below.
Serve with these side dishes:
- Collard Greens
- Grilled Corn Tomato Salad
- Lemon Dijon Roasted Potatoes
- Garlicky Spinach
- Dijon Garlic Roasted Potatoes
- Smashed Buttery Fingerling Potatoes with Shallots
- Sauteed Swiss Chard
More Steak Recipes from Spinach Tiger
How to Grill Brazilian Picanha
- Whole Sirloin Cap (Picanha)
- kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Trim off silver skin if there is any.
Cut steaks about 1 1/2 to 2 inches lengthways.
- Salt with kosher salt liberally. Put on rack. Refrigerate 24 hours.
Take meat out 30 minutes to one hour before cooking. It should have a darker appearance and the salt will be absorbed.
- Light Grill. Once hot, turn off one side of the grill.
- Place meat on the side that has no heat.
- Once the meat has reached 80 degrees,F, turn over.
- Once the meat has reached 115 degrees F. rub olive oil on each side. Place on hot grill to sear, about a minute on each side.
- Rest meat for 10 minutes. Add black pepper.
Cut across the grain to serve.
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