Picanha

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I’m a steak connoisseur. I consider myself a meat master. But I have a confession to make: I don’t eat much picanha.

I really first came to know of picanha through some back-and-forth with a chef I met at Meatopia and later began to follow on Instagram. Chef Andre Lima De Luca has one of the most meat-centric and absolutely breathtaking feeds on all of Instagram. Seriously… Check it out HERE. I’ll be using some of his photos throughout this post as well, just to give you a “flavor” of how great the feed actually is. In fact, the main photo you see at the header of this article is one of his shots.

Okay so you may be asking: What kind of self-described “Carnivore Connoisseur” can go about his days in ignorance of this cut of meat, only having eaten it sporadically? Well, my response is threefold. Number one, it’s not very common in these parts, so that’s the biggest reason. Second, I don’t travel all that much to the southern hemisphere of the Americas, like Brazil, where it is much more commonly prepared. Last, I’m unaware of places in the area to get it myself to cook it, nor do I know of too many restaurants that serve it. I guess all three of those reasons are really all the same reason: lack of ample availability.

The cut itself, as you will learn below, is commonly butchered in a different manner here in the states. As such, you will need to get to a good butcher or specialty shop (perhaps Brazilian or Latin American) where they know how to slice and dice it just right.

Anyway, picanha has been coming up a lot lately in the meat world of NYC, both in food conversation and in photos of those that I follow and give a shit about. I have a feeling it will soon be here in a big way.

So let me tell you a little bit about this steak, about which I actually don’t know very much, as I have only ever tasted it a few times in its “picanha” format…

ANATOMY

In the U.S., picanha is referred to as the rump cover, rump cap or coulotte. Others call it the top sirloin cap, as it is connected to a large cap of fat that sits on top of the meat. Here, the fat is almost always removed prior to cooking, and butchers usually split this up into cuts like the rump, the round and the loin.

However, in South America, particularly in Brazil, where picanha is a most prized cut of beef, the fat is left on while cooking, in order to lock in juiciness and impart additional flavor into the meat.

Here’s a look at a Brazilian beef chart, which shows the anatomy of the steak cut at #8 (top right, just above the asshole, by the tail).

brazilian beef cuts

As you can see from the US beef chart, things are vastly less nuanced in that area. In fact it is pretty fucking different all over the place.

US_Beef_bnw

TEXTURE AND FLAVOR

The texture and flavor is similar to that of your ordinary sirloin here in the US, only with more intense flavors from the rendering of fat during the cooking processes outlined below.

picanha

PREPARATIONS

What I’ve seen most commonly done is that the meat is left in a large roast-sized slab, seared on the outside and then cooked low and slow over open flame with the fat side up, so that the fat melts down into the flesh of the sirloin. Here is a shot of two hunks with the fat side down:

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After it comes up to rare, it is split out into slices. Then it kisses the grill for just a bit longer on it’s side to get to medium rare.

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But let’s take some advice from Chef Andre Lima De Luca on how to best prepare this delicious hunk of flesh, directly from him:

“One friend was asking me about the best way to grill picanha. In my opinion there is not THE best way, but some. My favorite, the way that i’ve been doing for years, is sealing the whole piece , and slicing it in strips before grill it again until medium or medium rare. This shot was taken before the final grilling.”

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Here it is on the cutting board, after final grilling. Some is ready for serving (left), and some is still post-hunk first-sliced (right).

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And another close up of the final product:

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That’s some pretty amazing looking beef!

As it turns out, my favorite piece of meat at Fogo de Chao, a Brazilian churrascaria joint here in NYC, is picanha “top sirloin.” Here’s a shot of it from my last visit there:

Give it a shot. I guarantee you will enjoy.

43 thoughts on “Picanha”

  1. I’ve never seen it for sale anywhere outside of a churrascaria either. The meat distributors I know say they technically CAN butcher it for you if you order a whole primal but it’s a pretty rare request. Individual steaks are pretty much out of the question.

  2. I wonder if you could do some engineering and make one yourself. Maybe pin some of an outer fat cap from a roast to a sirloin?

    1. Good luck! I think if you find a good butcher and you inform him of the anatomy, he should be able to parse some out for you, even if he isn’t familiar with this cut himself. Let me know how it goes.

      1. After watching you tube videos ” sous vide everything ” I learned about Picanha steaks. When my local grocery had top sirloin steaks on sale I told the the butcher about the top sirloin cap or rump cap. He knew what I meant and produced 2 of them for me. I had him cut them 3/4 to 1 in thick WITH THE GRAIN, because when you eat them you cut across the grain. Pulls apart like brisket. I sous vide then finish off on a hot hot grill for hatch marks.

  3. I learned about Picanhia from the Youtube channel Sous Vide Everything. It’s the only meat I Sous Vide with now. I get it at local Brazilian butcher markets in the Orange County area of Southern California. It’s AMAZING!

    1. I usually buy the whole sirloin at smart and final and I butcher the meat myself. There are some videos on youtube of people doing this. Google “Sirloin picanha butcher”
      here is one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBA2TnvvG-w

      Where in OC do you buy your picanha? I started butchering myself because I could not find where to buy

  4. Snake river farms has the Coulette cut. It doesn’t have the fat cap on it, but it does cook nicely on my Carson rodizio rotisserie.

  5. Should be able to find a place in any area that has some Brazilian’s in any number.

    I’m luckily a block away from a great little place in Framingham, MA. It looks like a hole in the wall, don’t let that fool you. It’s on Rt.126 (Hollis St.) about a mile south of Rt.135. cowboymeatmarket.com

    I have also seen the whole picanha vacuum packed in the meat section at Seabra supermarket in the area.

    In west Boca Raton, FL, there is a small place called “Boca Brazil Market” on Rt. 441 that I have been to. In the same plaza, there is also a little Brazilian restaurant you can get a plate of food from the buffet by the pound, including meat from the grill.

    It’s usually around $5/lb. Why bother with any other cut!
    However, I did see tenderloin a $1 cheaper once at that Boca Brazil. Was shopping for a big party with a long time Brazilian friend, I had trouble convincing him to get some!

  6. I had a customer just last night asking about this where I work. It provoked me to look this up on the Internet. I have sold the sirloin cap to customers in the past wondering what they wanted it for, being the fat and all was intact. Now I know. I will have to give this a try. It sounds absolutely delicious!

  7. For what it’s worth, I’ve seen it repeatedly at Whole Foods stores around the Boston area (Medford, Arlington, Woburn, etc…). I’m cooking a couple of them tonight with some chimichurri and roasted peppers. Yum!

    1. I’ll let you know if I hear anything. I haven’t seen it with the cap left on, but there may be some Brazilian butchers around, since the places like Fogo de Chao and Churascaria Plataforma have the cuts in their restaurants.

  8. Picanha is the preferred barbecue (churrasco) cut in Brasil. A good piece of picanha should not weigh more than 1.2Kg…if it is heavier than that It is not 100% picanha. I am from Brazil and during the Russian soccer World Cup Brazilians will cook tons of picanhas to watch the games!

  9. I lived in the USA for a year and a half, and I have not had problems so far because I did not find picanha. If you buy the top sirlon stake meat, half is rump and the other half is picanha, you will recognize with ease by the flavor and softness. And an important detail you can not forget is to season only with coarse salt or sea salt that they call here. There is no secret. is to put on the grid, and visually wait for the point that you like and then turns and leaves in the same coloration. Detail the steak must have at least an inch thick. Enjoy if you want send me an email that I send photos of the top sirlon with the picanha. I was forgetting if I do with the vegetable charcoal it gets a lot better …. Without doubts !!!

  10. I was able to get this cut from Colorado State University’s meat market. They had it labelled as coulette steak. Unfortunately they only had 2 and it doesn’t appear to be a cut they do often.

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