Would you consider yourself a steak-aficionado? Are you looking to try something new and exciting? Then we have the perfect cut of beef for you! You ought to try the picanha cut, famous for its taste and texture.
So, what is a picanha cut? Picanha is a cut of beef taken from the rump of the cow. It is a fairly rare cut in the US, sometimes referred to as top sirloin cap or rump cap, but it’s hugely popular in Brazil. This particular cut has a very delicate, juicy flavor and is very soft and tender.
Read on to get a detailed understanding of the picanha cut and how you can cook it!
What Is Picanha Cut?
Picanha cut (pronounced as pee-Kahn-yah) is a popular cut of beef in Brazil. It comes from the top part of the rump of a cow.
You may have heard of this cut referred to as culotte, top sirloin cap, rump cover, rump cap, and top butt cap.
The word picanha comes from the process of branding the cows by farmers. The poles by which they used to brand were called picana, which eventually became picanha.
There are many different stories of its origin, but the most popular is its origin in Brazil in the 1960s.
The Brazilian millionaire Francisco Pignatar visited a steakhouse, and accidentally he was served a different part of the meat, the picanha cut.
He loved the juicy and tender flavor of the steak so much that it became famous all over Brazil.
In the United States, this cut of beef is further cut into three parts: the loin, rump, and round. Usually, the butchers in the US also cut off the fat cap, which is an essential element in Brazil.
If you live in the US and this cut is not available anywhere, you can specifically ask the local butcher. You can give them specifications as well on how you want the cut to be.
Why Should You Try Picanha Cut?
Even though picanha is a rare cut in the US, people in the Southern states love it. In Brazil, this cut of beef is more popular than cuts like rib eye, shank, brisket, or sirloin.
Read on to know more about picanha cut and why you should try it!
It comes from the rump portion of the cow, which is not an overly tough cut. Because of this, it is soft and tender. It has a beautiful flavor profile when cooked.
If you know the taste of oven-grilled sirloin, then you’re in for a treat because picanha cut tastes just like that.
Moreover, it also has a thick layer of fat on it, which offers a rich, big, beefy flavor, and when smoked or grilled, the flavor increases manifold.
The fat keeps the cut juicy and tender as well. You can even remove the fat if you do not like its taste and texture.
The overall texture of the picanha cut is tender and soft. Because of the fat cap that is traditionally kept in the cut, it also has a very buttery texture.
The fat after cooking becomes crisp, which provides a very nice contrast against the tenderness of the meat. Because of this crispiness and tenderness, a lot of people, after cooking it, do not remove the fat cap.
Picanha cut is a pretty thick cut of meat. When you cut it as a steak, it is about 2-3 inches thick. Additionally, the fat cap is about 1.5 cm thick.
Because of this thickness, it will need a little bit more time to cook, potentially around 5-6 minutes on both sides, but that can vary of course.
However, if you just put it over blazing heat, then the outside will overcook and burn and the inside will remain raw.
The one thing people love about picanha cut is how affordable it is. The entire picanha cut is pretty heavy as it weighs around 1.5 kg or 3.3 oz.
However, it is relatively cheaper than the smaller cut, like a rib eye. For its weight, this cut offers a real deal as you can feed your friends and family and impress them with your cooking.
How To Cut Picanha
Picanha is a precious cut of beef, and you should handle it appropriately. Meat is usually cut against the grain, but this piece is cut along the grain.
So, this means that you have to cut the meat in the same direction as the fibers. This process will ensure maximum tenderness after you have cooked the beef.
Below is a step-by-step guide on how to properly cut picanha:
- Lay the cut on your worktop.
- Cut the silverskin off the meat and remove it. The silverskin is the membrane of the meat or the connective tissue, which is a bit tough.
- Keep the fat cap side on the cutting board and start cutting the steak.
- Make sure that the cut is not too thin as it will dry out or be too thick, which will make it challenging to cook.
- Keep the individual steak 2-3 inches thick.
How To Cook Picanha
There are many different methods to cook picanha, such as on a stove, roasting, smoking, or grilling it whole.
Cast Iron Pan
Here’s how you can cook picanha in a cast iron pan:
- Season the cut with kosher salt.
- Place your cast iron pan over medium heat.
- Once the pan has come up to temperature, pour some vegetable oil into it.
- Place the cut with the fat cap side down to render the fat out.
- Cook for around 2-3 minutes.
- Sear on both sides for around 4-5 minutes or until each side has a golden brown crust.
- After a crust has developed, you can optionally butter baste the steak. To do so, place 2-3 tablespoons of butter in the pan along with some crushed garlic and thyme. Using a spoon, baste the steak for another 2-3 minutes.
- Once your steak has reached an internal temperature of 125°F, remove from the pan and transfer it to the plate. Let it rest for 5-10 minutes.
- Season again with kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper, serve, and enjoy!
If you want, you can grill picanha by following these steps:
- Prepare your grill. Let it heat up for 10-15 minutes.
- In the meanwhile, season your picanha by massaging it with olive oil and kosher salt.
- Place the picanha farthest from the blazing heat; otherwise, the outside will cook faster than the inside.
- Place the fatty side down to render the fats for about 2 minutes and then flip it and sear the flesh side for 4-5 minutes.
- Remove from the heat once it has reached an internal temperature of 125°F.
- Let it rest for 10 minutes after you take it off the grill.
- Season these steaks with salt and pepper.
- Serve and enjoy!
Do you love roasting? Well, try out this method below!
- This is a double cooking method in which two utensils are used, one is a cast-iron skillet, and the other is an oven.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Meanwhile, heat the cast iron pan over medium heat.
- Season with kosher salt and place it in the pan.
- Don’t add any oil; instead, let the fat from the fat cap release into the pan.
- Render the fat till it is beautifully crisp, and then transfer it to the oven for 30 minutes.
- Reserve the excess fat, which you can further use for basting.
- Picanha cut tastes best when it is medium-rare, so cook it till its internal temperature reaches 125°F.
- Take it out of the oven and let it rest for 10-15 minutes, after which you can carve the whole Picanha cut into individual pieces.
Smoking meat is another great option for you to try. It adds a new flavor dimension to the regular dish.
- If you have a pellet grill, then you can make the perfect smoked picanha. If you do not have one, you can place the meat on the grill and cover it to get the smokey flavor.
- Make cuts on the beef and the fat for the maximum absorption of the smoke. Dress the beef with olive oil. It will attract more smoke from the grill.
- Grill each side for about 4-5 minutes till it reaches the desired temperature.
- Rest the steak for 10-15 minutes and serve.
Whichever way you choose to cook it, picanha never fails to amaze you with its flavorful bites, delicious and moist juice coming out of it. It tastes best with the side dish of chimichurri and a glass of red wine.
Tips For Cooking Picanha
Below are a few more things to keep in mind when cooking picanha:
- Always remove the silverskin or the membrane on the Picanha cut. This membrane is tough, and you should not eat it at all.
- Make sure that the picanha cut is at room temperature before you cook it. If the meat is too cold and the pan is hot, the meat will not cook evenly. Additionally, the meat will also tense up due to the temperature changes.
- Pat the meat dry after you take it out of the freezer. The condensation can react to the heat of the pan. If you are dry brining the meat, season it a couple of hours before. Then, pat it dry, or else the wetness from the salt will not let the cut cook properly. A drier surface means better browning.
- Always give the meat 10-15 minutes of rest after cooking it. It helps the meat to reabsorb the juices.