What is picanha?
Picanha is a cut of meat that’s really popular in South America, especially in Brazil. The cut is less popular in North America, but it’s quickly gaining popularity. When cooked properly, this cut of meat is tender and incredibly delicious.
How do I ask my butcher for picanha?
Most butchers will know the cut by the name picanha. There are a few other names that this cut is also know by. You can ask for rump cap, top sirloin cap, culotte or coutlotte.
Visiting a Brazilian steakhouse or churrascaria is an experience!
Our family has visited Brazilian steakhouses several times. It’s not something I grew up with, but it’s definitely something I’m happy to have been introduced to.
Visiting a Brazilian steakhouse or churrascaria is an experience. There’s often live music, dancing, the salad bar (don’t make the mistake of filling your plate here), and of course the Gauchos serving endless amounts and varieties of meats.
The Gauchos walk around with a variety of freshly cooked meats on large skewers/swords, visiting tables to offer more, before returning the skewer to the rotisserie for a little more heat. Typically guests have some sort of stop and go cards, usually with a colour on each side. As long as you have the go/green card facing up, the Gauchos keep visiting.
This style of service is known as rodizio. You don’t serve yourself buffet style (except for the salad bar) and you don’t place your order at the table. People just keep coming around with mouth-watering food during the whole meal. 😃
Rodizio is normally billed at a flat fee and it can be a bit pricy. But don’t forget that you’re eating a lot of high end meats cooked to perfection. You get what you pay for.
What other meats can I expect when eating rodizio-style?
In addition to the house special picanha, Brazilian steakhouses or churrascarias offer a wide variety or grilled meats. Commonly there’s chicken wrapped in bacon, sirloin steak, filet mignon, sausages, beef short ribs, lamb, pork ribs, grilled chicken and even grilled pineapple. The pineapple is so good! With the cinnamon… don’t even get me started. We offer our own version of the recipe on our blog.
When we visited Portugal last year we had the pleasure of being treated to a fish and seafood rodizio. Same concept, but with fish and shellfish instead of red meat and chicken. So good!
I didn’t know what this meant until I visited a Brazilian steakhouse for the first time. Meat sweats…it’s a thing! Soon after your meal you start feeling it. You know you’ve had enough… too much. Everything in moderation, right. I don’t recommend these meals for daily consumption. 😂
How do you season picanha?
You could season this meat with any favourite seasoning and it would probably be awesome. I decided to go traditional. I salted the meat and didn’t add any other seasoning. It’s unbelievable how delicious this meat is with the simplest preparation. It’s also a testament to how good this cut of meat is when it’s this delicious without needing to hide behind other flavours.
How do I cook picanha?
It was quite simple. I cooked mine on a rotisserie skewer on a gas BBQ. In a nutshell, I trimmed silver skin and extra pieces of fat (don’t remove the fat cap, though). I cut the meat in three pieces, against the grain, I seasoned the meat with salt and let the meat come up to room temperature.
Once the meat was at room temp., I folded the meat tightly inward (fat side out), to create a U shape and pierced the skewer through the fat on both ends. I did this for all three pieces.
I placed the skewer on the rotisserie and let it cook until the edges of the meat had a nice charred look. The internal temperature was around 135ºF.
At this point you can do one of two things. Stop the rotisserie, slice thin pieces off for immediate consumption and keep cooking the rest on the rotisserie. This is an impressive way to serve picanha if you have guests. It’s also a lot like the experience at the churrascaria. Think about it… you too can be a Gaucho in your own backyard. 😂
The other option is to take the three pieces of meat off the skewer, place them in a dish and let the meat rest, covered with a tented foil. If you stopped cooking the meat at 135ºF internal temperature, it should rise to about 140ºF once it rests, a perfect medium rare.
Feel free to leave it in a bit longer if you prefer medium. We don’t recommend cooking it much more well done, as the meat might get a bit tough.
Make today yummy
Rodizio at home. Yes, please! What a great treat without a lot of effort. Turn your “go” card up and make today yummy, friends.
Eating picanha at a Brazilian steakhouse or churrascaria is an experience. But what if you could make something just as delicious at home?
- 1.8 kg or 4 lbs picanha (also known as rump cap, coulotte or top sirloin cap)
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
I cooked the picanha over inderect heat. I removed the three centre grates and placed an alumium foil pan with water on the heat plates.
Preheat the bbq to around 450 ºF. Crank the side burners to high and use the rotisserie backburner on low if your bbq is equiped with it. This is optional.
Make sure the rotisserie attachment is connected.
Trim the silver skin and extra pieces of fat (don’t remove the fat cap).
Cut the triangular piece of meat in three, equal width long pieces, against the grain.
Season the three peices of meat on the meat side with about 3/4 of the kosher salt. Do not season the fat cap.
Let the meat sit until it reaches room temperature, about 30 minutes.
Fold the meat tightly inward (fat side out), to create a U shape and pierce the skewer through the fat on both ends. Do this for all three pieces and centre them on the skewer against each-other.
Place the skewer on the rotisserie attachment, close the lid and cook until the internal temperature is around 135 ºF, or a touch more if you prefer it closer to medium.
If you plan on serving the meat off the skewer (because it looks cool), stop the rotisserie and shave/trim off the outer edges of the meat onto a plate. Salt the remaining meat on the skewer, turn the rotisserie back on and continue to cook while you treat yourself to the succulant peices you just trimmed off.
Make sure to monitor the meat on the skewer becasue it will cook quickly. Once it's done, remove the pieces of meat from the skewer, tent some foil over it and let rest for 10-15 minutes before serving. Skip the previous step if you don'y plan in trimming the cooked edges on the skewer.
Enjoy the picanha with your favourit sides. Rice, potato salad or green salad compliment this meat perfectly.
- If you’re struggling to get the bbq to 450 ºF with the side burners, turn on the centre burners to low for additional heat.
- Don’t cut off the fat cap when trimming the meat. The fat cap seasons and moistens the meat as it cooks.
- Different BBQs cook at different rates. Make sure to mentor the meat and adjust timing if necessary. Your best bet is to use a meat thermometer to test doneness.