Picanha: The Beef Cut Every Gourmet Should Know
Picanha Steak with gravy
by gavin liu @ flicker
Picanha Meat: The Story Behind the Name
The Picanha cut (pronounced pee-KAHN-ya) is taken from the lower part of the beef tenderloin. It is a prime cut prized by many steakhouses for its succulent texture and flavorful taste.
The Picanha steak is famous in Brazil, where Gaucho steakhouses introduced it before reaching Europe through Portugal and later spread to North America.
It is said that the Picanha cut became famous in the mid-1960s in São Paulo. Brazilian millionaire Francisco (Baby) Pignatari came to eat his usual Cuadril steak (or rump steak) at a renowned steakhouse restaurant and was served another cut of meat by mistake: The Picanha.
Pignatari instantly fell in love with the juiciness and flavor of the Picanah steak. It became, as a result, a national favorite.
Farmers in Brazil used a tool called “Picana” to brand their cows, and with time, the term “Picanha” was born, which came to signify the area where cattle were marked.
Picanha meat is found in other countries under different names. So, if your local butcher doesn’t recognize the appellation, this is a list of names that designates Picanha steak by country.
- Brazil: Picanha
- United States: Top Sirloin Cap, Rump Cover, Rump Cap
- Puerto Rico: Punta Cadera
- Mexico: Sirloin or Aguayón tapa
- Panama: Punta de palomilla
- Colombia: Punta de Anca
- Spain: Picaña
- Chile: Punta de Ganso
- England: Rump Cover
- Italy: Copertura Dello Scamone
- France: Couverture de Rumpsteak
What is Picanha?
If you’re curious about what is Picanha, we have the perfect description for this gourmet piece of meat.
Picanha is cut from the rump of the beef. It is obtained by removing the tail muscle and separating the two rump muscles: the cap and the main rump muscles.
The butcher will then proceed by removing bone fragments, gristle and, discolored tissues. However, some butchers don’t separate the two muscles. Instead, they cut the whole rump piece into steaks of even thickness, which results in less tender cuts.
When removing the main rump from the cap muscle, the latter is cut into even slices of meat that we call Picanha. Each beef delivers two pieces of Picanha since the cut is made from both sides of the spine.
In the United States, the cut is not very common. Most butchers usually carve up the entire rump of the beef into small sections like the rump, round, and loin and remove the fat layer that makes up the Picanha’s delicious and moist texture.
Why is Picanha Meat so popular?
In Rio Grande Do Sul, where Churrasco (Brazilian barbecue) originated, natives of this region will mostly be grilling Picanha steaks in an Asado event. Indeed, they favor this part of the beef for its buttery texture, preserved by the thick layer of fat. The fat maintains the meat’s leanness while grilling and enhances the beefy flavor of the Picanha steak.
Another attribute of Brazilian Picanha is the price. For a relatively large Picanha cut, you can get a real deal to feed your friends and family and impress them with its quality.
How to Get the Most out of your Picanha Steak?
- Cutting. When separating the two main muscles of the rump, and your Picanha steaks from the cap muscle, cut them across the grain. This process reduces the fibers in the meat, resulting in shorter fiber lines and a leaner texture when cooked.
- Cooking. Picanha steaks are inconsistent in their texture. This is why you should choose your method of cooking wisely. Cooking methods affect the juiciness of the meat. For tougher cuts of meat that have less marbling, it is advisable to use braising to keep the beef’s moisture. Roasting or grilling are used in Picanha cuts where the top layer of marbling is preserved to keep the meat from becoming dry.
- Age matters. In this case, the older a beef gets, the more rigid their meat becomes. Indeed, mature animals will have more collagen in their muscles, which makes their meat texture feels chewy. If the animal had more muscular strain, they tend to have a rigid consistency compared to younger beef’s meat. This is mainly due to the fibers and connective tissues that make up the muscles of the animal. If your beef is older, keep in mind that marinades will work wonders in loosening their firm texture.
Picanha Steaks: Cooking Recommendations.
Cuts from the rump lack enough fat to hold up to the long, slow cooking without drying out.
This is why Picanha’s fat is a must-keep since it protects the meat’s juiciness by forming into a crust that prevents the natural moisture from escaping.
Picanha steaks are pan-fried or roasted but are mostly grilled following the traditional Gaucho style.
To get the most out of your Picanha cut, take advantage of its natural juiciness and don’t trim the layer of fat. After grilling it, you can remove it since it will not evaporate and would turn instead into a glistening fat cover (or sear) that enriches the succulent flavor.
Make sure to sear the entire Picanha meat piece for approximately 3 to 4 minutes before cutting it into steak-size pieces and grilling it. Grill your Picanha meat to rare or medium-rare for about 8 to 10 while flipping ever every 2 to 3 minutes to help it cook evenly. Since this part of the beef is not very reliable in texture, you should not overcook it to preserve its tenderness.
Easy Picanha Recipes
Picanha Brochettes or “shish kebab”
This is a classic and versatile recipe for your barbecue event. Add more flavors to the skewers by including your favorite vegetables. The juices seep out from the Picanha meat and get absorbed by the vegetables around it. Tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, and potatoes will mix with the dripping fat to create a palatable brochette. With four ingredients in total, this recipe gives free reins to your imagination.
- 4lbs of Picanha meat
- 2 tbp of salt
- 1 tbp of freshly-ground black pepper
- Allow the Picanha steak to match the room temperature.
- Preheat the grill to high heat.
- On a cutting board, place your steak, fat side up.
- Using a sharp knife, cut the Picanha steak following a crosshatching pattern (this technique is called gashing).
- Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Cut the Picanha meat into equal square pieces.
- Assemble the pieces on the skewers.
- Apply a thin layer of oil with a brush.
- Place the skewered meat on the grill, turning every 5 to 7 minutes to ensure even cooking.
- Remove the brochettes when the internal temperature of the meat reaches 122 F.
- Let them rest for 5 minutes before removing them from the skewers.
- Cut the Picanha meat against the grain and serve.
This simple recipe is ideal to prepare when you’re tight on time and energy. It’s not always easy to think about dinner when your juggling work and family. This is why this easy Picanha recipe is the best time and energy-saving roast for a family supper. The Picanha meat’s tenderness and the beefy sauce they release will make this roast a family signature dish.
- 2 lbs of Picanha meat
- 3 medium potatoes
- 2 green pepper
- 3 small onions
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Aromatic herbs to taste
- Olive oil
- Like many of those we prepare in the oven, this roast recipe is very simple to prepare, and our work is practically reduced to browning the meat before starting to roast it and then making sure that the cooking is done correctly.
- Preheat the oven to 320 degrees.
- Cut the Picanha steak into triangular pieces while leaving some fat on to create the gravy.
- Brown the Picanha meat in a frying pan until the pieces turn golden brown.
- Cut potatoes into uneven pieces with the three small onions and the chopped green peppers. Place the vegetables in an oven dish.
- Place the meat on top of the vegetables and add the aromatic herbs.
- Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 40 minutes, turning the pieces after 20 minutes.
- When ready, close the oven dish and let the meat rest for about 10 minutes before serving.
Easy Picanha Marinades
Marinating your Picanha meat will enhance its inherent beefy flavors and give it an abundance of tastes and aromas.
There are a lot of great marinade recipes that can enrich the taste of Picanha steak. These are our top picks for the best marinades.
Balsamic Picanha Marinade
- 2 lbs of Picanha steak
- ¼ cup of balsamic vinegar
- ¼ cup of Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ cup of soy sauce
- ¼ cup of olive oil
In a Nutshell
Picanha is an especially prized cut of beef and is often rotisserie cooked over a slow-burning fire or coals. If you are a hardcore meat lover, and uou wanna eat real meat the way it should be eaten? Give Picanha a try.