How to Cook Picanha

  • By: Jack Mancuso

How to Cook Picanha

Today, I want to introduce you to a Taste of Brazil: Picanha. This particular cut of beef is known for its rich flavor profile. You may see it marketed under other names like sirloin or rump cap. You’ll often have to ask your butcher for it, as it’s rarely seen in the grocery store. 

What is Picanha exactly? It’s a piece of meat near the back of the cow resting above the fat cap. It’s a chef’s treasure. Why? Because the fat cap on the Picanha protects the meat and keeps it tender and tasty. You never cut off the fat cap on this product. 

This particular cut can stand on its own as part of a main course, but you can also get creative with it, like my Picanha and Queso Tacos.

Steps for Oven Cooking Picanha

  1. Before cooking, bring the meat to room temperature.
  2. Season it with olive oil, ground pepper, lime zest, and coarse salt. It needs no further spices or herbs.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400F
  4. Using your handy Chef’s knife carefully score the surface of the fat cap. Do not go any deeper than halfway through. 
  5. Heat up an iron skillet with oil.
  6. After 5 minutes place the picanha face down on the skillet’s surface. 
  7. The surface of the meat gets crispy while the fat melts out. Keep that fat!
  8. When you’ve rendered the meat through the score line you created, place the iron skillet in the oven, fat cap upward.
  9. A 3-4 lb picanha needs about 35 minutes of cooking to reach medium-rare
  10. The meat will read between 120-125F, and increase in temperature to 130-135F after resting for a half hour. 
  11. Slice against the grain for serving.

PitMaster’s Memo: All Hail the King

In the world of meats, rib eye often takes the number one spot as being the “king” of beef. Having said that, Picanha is catching up fast on rib eye’s heels. When made correctly, very few other cuts stand up to a flavor comparison. 

Originally, Picanha was “poor people’s food.” It fed farm workers while the elite would have nothing to do with it. At this juncture, the cut was wood-grilled. Like any yummy discovery, Picanha moved into the foodie market with a flourish starting in the 1950s.


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