What is Picanha? A Detailed Guide with How to Cook it, Plus Recipes (2024)

What is Picanha? A Detailed Guide with How to Cook it, Plus Recipes (1)

Ask any steak fan if they know what a sirloin is, they of course reply with a resounding yes. But if you ask, what is picanha? Many of them will look confused and unsure.

Those that do know of picanha will probably have found it in a good Brazilian steakhouse. Traditionally served on skewers with the thick fat cap still attached, it is a sight to behold and a flavor to savor.

So why have you never heard of it?

That’s because it’s often sacrificed in favor of other cuts that come from the same area. That coupled with the recent want for leaner cuts, means that those with a good fat cap often get passed over for those without.

Well, be prepared to be educated, as this guide is the whole enchilada, or whole picanha if you will.

We will show what picanha is, where it comes from, how to get it, and best of all how to cook it to perfection.

Contents (Jump to Topic)

  • 1 What is Picanha?
  • 2 Where Does it Come from on the Cow?
  • 3 Other Names for the Picanha
  • 4 Flavor, Texture, Fat Content and Tenderness
  • 5 Typical Uses
  • 6 Nutritional Values
  • 7 Buying Picanha
  • 8 Where to Buy Picanha Online
    • 8.1 Crowd Cow
    • 8.2 Porter Road
    • 8.3 Snake River Farms
  • 9 Average Price
  • 10 Portion Size: How Much Per Person?
  • 11 How to Prepare it for Grilling or Smoking
  • 12 How to Cook Picanha on a Grill or Smoker
  • 13 Three Best Picanha Recipes from Around the Web
    • 13.1 Brazilian Kitchen’s Classic Churrasco Picanha
    • 13.2 Learn to Smoke’s Brazilian Garlic Rotisserie Picanha
    • 13.3 Jess Pryles Blackened Smokey Picanha
  • 14 Conclusion

What is Picanha?

What is Picanha? A Detailed Guide with How to Cook it, Plus Recipes (2)

It comes from the same cut of meats as the top sirloin steak, and the top section is then cut off to include the entire fat cap and some meat residing just under.

This slab of meat is then cut into steaks called picanha.

This cut normally has the fat cap removed before being sliced into sirloin steaks, or is sometimes sold as a roast without the fat cap. The picanha steak, however, prizes the fat cap as the key to a great tasting piece of meat.

Check out this short video all about picanha, it’s origins, how to prepare and cook it traditionally:

On average the picanha will weigh anywhere between 6oz and 9oz in weight with the fat cap attached, and it is usually cut into ½ inch to 1 inch thick steaks.

Where Does it Come from on the Cow?

What is Picanha? A Detailed Guide with How to Cook it, Plus Recipes (3)

It comes from the sirloin primal, more specifically the top sirloin area near to the tenderloin, making up a part of the biceps femoris muscle and its fat cap.

To put that into context, it’s the upper part of the rear leg near to the hip.

Much like the other sirloin muscles, it’s relatively underused and as such very supple and tender, and is where some of the very best types of steak are cut from.

Marbling and the generous fat cap all add to the incredible flavor when it cooks and renders.

Many butchers portion this area of the sirloin primal into other cuts such as the rump, the round, and the loin. So picanha isn’t seen too often.

Other Names for the Picanha

What is Picanha? A Detailed Guide with How to Cook it, Plus Recipes (4)

Like many cuts, it has picked up many monikers through the ages, some are indicative of the muscle or area of the steer that it originates from, others are a little more general.

For the record, picanha itself is named after a pole that farmers used while herding their cattle.

Here is a list of the other names that it sometimes goes by:

  • Coulotte – “Coulotte” originates from the French “Calotte” meaning cap.
  • Rump cap — So-called due to its position high up on the animal’s rump.
  • Top Sirloin Cap — The most used name worldwide for this cut of meat that sits atop the sirloin steak.

Being an often overlooked piece of meat, picanha steak can sometimes be hard to find.

If your butcher hasn’t heard of it, simply give them the industry ID, IMPS/NAMP – 1184D, UPC–1421, which will bring up all the information they need to find it.

Flavor, Texture, Fat Content and Tenderness

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The picanha is renowned for its flavor and juiciness.

When cooked right, both the fat cap and the marbling play a major part in giving it a melt in the mouth texture, easy chew, and a buttery, earthy flavor.

The meat itself is somewhat tougher than most steaks, a little more dense, but is still quite tender, particularly when prepared and sliced correctly.

Typical Uses

What is Picanha? A Detailed Guide with How to Cook it, Plus Recipes (6)

Traditionally used in Brazilian cooking as a skewered meat grilled over open coals, this is the classic way most restaurants will serve it. They take the entire top sirloin cap and divide it into several steaks that are then curled onto skewers and grilled until juicy with a crisp fat cap.

However, it has gained popularity and mainstream exposure recently, with many choosing to cook it as a whole roasting joint in a smoker, or as another standalone steak that can be grilled like any other.

Nutritional Values

NutritionAmount (Based on 3 oz Serving)% Daily Value (based
on 2000 calories/day)
Saturated Fat3.9 g20%
Sodium68 mg3%
Protein17 g35%
Iron2 mg10%
Zinc6 mg60%

Buying Picanha

The picanha is an elusive meaty beast that is not readily available from supermarkets, and when it does make the odd appearance, it isn’t around for long.

So, your best chance of getting your hands on some is to order it online or ask your butcher to cut it for you!

Where to Buy Picanha Online

Online food shopping takes all the hassle out of obtaining the best pieces of meat. It involves no trudging around supermarkets or awkward conversations with a butcher. You merely sit back, relax, and order.

Then your chosen meat will appear at your door as if by magic, leaving you more time to do what’s important: Cook and eat!

Here are three online outlets that sell some of the best picanha available:

Crowd Cow

What is Picanha? A Detailed Guide with How to Cook it, Plus Recipes (7)

Crowd cow has a good selection of picanha, from full roasts to individual ‘coulotte’ steaks cut from the roast, pasture-raised beef, and Japanese A5 wagyu.

All picanha is tender and juicy, but you have to see the wagyu picanhas and the coulotte cuts marbling because it’s just insane, and a relatively affordable way to experience wagyu too.

Check Price on Crowd Cow

Porter Road

What is Picanha? A Detailed Guide with How to Cook it, Plus Recipes (8)

Porter Road sells a pasture-raised, hormone and antibiotic-free, shipped fresh picanha, sold either as a whole roast weighing between 3 and 4 lbs, or if a whole picanha is too much, they sell it cut into individual steaks — weighing between 0.65 and 0.8 lbs.

The meat is dry-aged for two weeks minimum to produce the most flavorful and tender cut possible.

Check Price on Porter Road

Snake River Farms

What is Picanha? A Detailed Guide with How to Cook it, Plus Recipes (9)

Snake River Farms picanha is from their American Wagyu Black grade range, which has a higher marbling than USDA prime, making it incredibly tender and delicious.

Cut in the traditional way with the fat cap still intact so you can cook it the Brazilian way, it weighs an average of 2 lb so it can feed many mouths.

Check Price on Snake River Farms

Average Price

Being relatively unknown, it can be found for a good price, but is somewhat unpredictable. Some outlets will sell it at value prices as they don’t know what demand there is for it, or they realize its potential and charge accordingly.

At the time of writing it is priced at between $20 and $30 per lb across online outlets.

Also See

  • How long to cook steak
  • What is a ribeye steak?
  • Top round steak

Portion Size: How Much Per Person?

For ease of reference, a picanhas a whole piece of beef averages around 2 to 2 ½ lb.

So how much you cook is relevant to what you serve it with, and the appetite of your chosen audience, but one steak with a few sides will be plenty here.

We always recommend a good 1/2 pound or so of beef to satisfy a healthy appetite.

How to Prepare it for Grilling or Smoking

What is Picanha? A Detailed Guide with How to Cook it, Plus Recipes (10)

From online meat outlets, the picanha usually comes as a large lump of meat with the fat cap attached.

If cooking or smoking it whole, you will need to score the fat cap in a crisscross formation as you would a ham joint. This will stop the fat shrinking and distorting the meat.

If cooking as individual steaks, you can either slice them yourself to grill as you would any other steak, or you can place them onto a skewer ready for grilling.

If any of the tough membrane and silverskin is still attached to the underside, be sure to remove it with a sharp knife.

Bring to room temperature and simply rub with kosher salt, not table salt! (For more on this, check out our article on the different types of salt.) This will be enough seasoning, at least for the first time you cook it so that you can enjoy it in all its unadulterated glory.

How to Cook Picanha on a Grill or Smoker

What is Picanha? A Detailed Guide with How to Cook it, Plus Recipes (11)

The classic picanha is best cooked over indirect heat on a hot grill, placing your meat skewers around the heat.

Placed over open coals will ignite the rendered fat and cause flare-ups that will burn the meat, so it’s best to cook just off from direct.

Here’s our simple guide to cooking your picanha on a grill.

  1. First, divide your picanha into inch thick steaks cutting with the grain. Pat dry, then place onto skewers.
  2. Season well, not skimping on the salt, at least an hour before cooking. This will draw out liquid that will mix with the salt, before being reabsorbed. Make sure to get PLENTY on the fat cap.
  3. Set your grill to high heat and place the skewers on, away from the direct heat and close the lid.
  4. Cook for at least 25 minutes, turning every 5 to 7 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 120f.
  5. Now place each skewer over the coals directly to sear the fat cap of each steak and create some char on the meat. Monitor the temperature so as not to overcook it. 130 to 135f finishing temp is perfect.
  6. Remove from the grill and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes, so the meat relaxes and absorbs any juices. Enjoy!

Three Best Picanha Recipes from Around the Web

What is Picanha? A Detailed Guide with How to Cook it, Plus Recipes (12)

So, you know what it is and where to get it, and you can only imagine how good it tastes. It’s time to decide what recipes you should try!

Here are three recipes that show you a traditional, alternative, and downright tasty ways to eat it. So take a look and get cooking!

Brazilian Kitchen’s Classic Churrasco Picanha

This simple recipe starts with salt and pepper seasoning, then grills the steaks to perfection before pairing it with a classic Brazilian side – egg farofa, which is onions, eggs, and flour.

Full recipe and instructions can be found here: Classic churrasco picanha recipe.

Learn to Smoke’s Brazilian Garlic Rotisserie Picanha

This detailed guide will show you how to prepare perfect rotisserie picanha on your grill with a little garlic kick.

The key is good preparation of the steaks and resisting the urge to dig in straight off the grill, just let it rest.

Click here to see the recipe: Garlic rotisserie picanha recipe.

Jess Pryles Blackened Smokey Picanha

This is one for the taste buds with its thick crust that packs a punch. The key is a good dry rub that gives the meat a real crunch after being smoked low and slow for a good few hours.

Head here to see how fantastically simple it is: Blackened smoky picanha recipe.


The picanha is a new and exciting arrival on the BBQ scene for many of us. It is a lot of meat for not a lot of money and has a depth of flavor that will challenge a good ribeye.

Not only does it deliver a huge hit of buttery beefiness, but it also offers versatility with a great choice of options for what you can do with the cut.

Its big flavor will impress on its own or stand up against strong marinades, rubs and sauces too.

So, that makes it decision time … are you cooking it whole or trying the classic picanha steaks on skewers?

Either way, share your wins with us in the comments below and let us know how you get on!

What is Picanha? A Detailed Guide with How to Cook it, Plus Recipes (2024)


What is the best way to cook a picanha? ›

Place the Picanha fat side down over the hottest part of the grill (about 250°F) and sear for 5–7 minutes. Turn and sear an additional 3–4 minutes. Be prepared for flare-ups as the fat softens and soaks into the meat and the grill. Remove the Picanha and slice into 3 or 4 sections with a sharp knife.

What is picanha explained? ›

Picanha is a cut of beef taken from the top of the rump. You might also know it as a rump cover, rump cap, sirloin cap or even culotte steak. It is triangular in shape and surrounded by a thick layer of fat called a fat cap.

What is picanha called in the USA? ›

In the US, the picanha cut is known as a rump cap or sirloin cap. It may also be called a rump cover or “culotte steak.” It is not common to find this cut of meat in stateside grocery stores, where it is typically broken down into smaller cuts of meat like loin or round steaks.

Do you cook picanha fat side up or down in the oven? ›

Whole roast oven method

First, preheat the oven to 180°C / 355°F and put a cast iron pan on high heat. Score the fat cap slightly and rub it in with coarse salt. Sear the picanha, fat side down, without any added oil. As it cooks, beef fat will continue to be released into the pan.

Do you eat the fat cap on picanha? ›

You can definitely eat the fat cap, in fact most Latin American countries keep the fat top sirloin cap on for added flavor! It's a very soft, buttery fat layer. However, for those that do not like to eat the fat, then you are welcome to cut it off. You'll still enjoy this juicy cut of beef.

Should I salt a picanha before cooking? ›

Seasoning Picanha Steak

Season steaks generously with salt and let them sit for 45 minutes before cooking to create a brine that results in a crispy outside. As for other seasonings, you can add them right before you're ready to cook.

What is so special about picanha? ›

Picanha is a beef cut taken from a cattle rump's top portion. It is an extremely flavorful cut of beef, thanks to the steak's outer fat cap, which keeps the steak nice and juicy too. Picanha steaks are the most popular steak in meat loving Brazil where this cut is called the “Queen of Steaks”.

Is picanha better than sirloin? ›

Both cuts of meat have their own characteristics. Those who prefer a leaner cut of meat with a milder flavor may prefer sirloin. Others who enjoy a richer, more flavorful cut with a higher fat content may prefer Picanha. The price point may also be a factor for some, as Picanha tends to be more expensive than sirloin.

Why is picanha so hard to find? ›

However, finding this cut of meat at a regular butcher store is nearly impossible, as it's often broken down to make round steaks and loins. If you do happen to find a cut of picanha steak from a specialty butcher or Brazilian market, there are few qualities to look for.

What cut is picanha Costco? ›

Kobe Classic Beef Wagyu Top Sirloin Cap / Coulotte / Picanha 8 x 200 g (7 oz) | Costco.

Why do Brazilians love picanha? ›

Picanha is a centerpiece in Brazilian barbecue culture and is enjoyed for its succulent texture and robust beefy taste. Picanha holds significant cultural importance in Brazil, deeply embedded in the country's culinary traditions and social gatherings.

At what temperature do you cook picanha? ›

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Add a ½ inch of water to the bottom of a roasting pan. Transfer the steak to the pan and then place the pan in the oven on the middle rack. Cook for 60-70 minutes for medium-rare until your thermometer reads 120-125℉.

Do you salt both sides of picanha? ›

Instructions: Start by scoring the fat cap of the picanha with a diamond pattern. Season the meat generously with coarse salt (and minced garlic if desired) on both sides. Let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

How to cook a 3 lb picanha? ›

  1. Prepare the meat. ...
  2. Preheat a smoker to 250f.
  3. . ...
  4. Lay the picanha in the smoker. ...
  5. Smoke the meat until it reaches an internal temperature of 130f, which will take about 2-3 hours.
  6. Wrap tightly in foil or butcher paper, and rest in a cooler for 30-45 minutes, then slice against the grain and serve.

Is picanha tender or tough? ›

Image: Picanha Steaks have a perfect balance of lean and fat giving a tremendous mouthfeel. Picanha steaks are insanely tender due to the outer fat cap. That said, when cooked correctly, they come out juicy and lean. The fat cap also creates a unique, butter-like mouthfeel.

Can you cook picanha low and slow? ›

As we hinted at above, the best answer is to cook the picanha in two stages: a low/slow stage followed by a high heat sear. Now, if you've spent much time on this blog, you know there's nothing new about this method.

How long should I cook picanha? ›

A picanha roast takes much more time than cut steaks to cook in the oven. If cooking to medium-rare, expect the roast to take about an hour in the oven, give or take 10-20 minutes, depending on its size. For higher doneness levels, your roast may need between 90-120 minutes.

How long do you cook a whole picanha? ›

Cooking Whole Picanha Roast

Drain out some of the fat (but don't throw it away) and continue to render the fat until the outside is browned and crisp. Turn over the meat and baste it with the reserved fat. Transfer the joint to the oven and cook it until the internal temperature reaches 50°C (around 30 minutes).


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