This Grilled Picanha Steak is a delicious, juicy grilled steak popular in Brazilian steakhouses. It’s a buttery, melt-in-your-mouth bite of good meat cooked over charcoal with simple seasoning.
What is Picanha?
Picanha is a cut of beef popular in Brazil. The meat is cut from the biceps femoris muscle (near the rump of the cow) and it’s fat cap. In the US, this cut of meat is more commonly referred to as the rump cap, rump cover, or top sirloin cap. It’s bursting with flavor similar to that of a sirloin and is juicy to boot.
If you’ve ever been to a Brazilian steakhouse, you’re familiar with picanha. It’s that delicious steak they bring to your table on skewers and slice it freshly grilled right onto your plate. I don’t know about you, but I struggle to say no when this steak is offered, no matter how full I am. It’s just that good.
Picanha steak can be cooked a number of ways, but this recipe uses the popular technique found in those steakhouses. The picanha, fat cap and all, is curved, skewered, and cooked over charcoal for an authentic look and flavor.
This steak is so good, in fact, that we’re keeping the seasoning very, very pure. All you’ll need for this recipe is some good, kosher flake salt. Don’t just reach for any salt for this recipe. Table salt is completely out. You want a nice, coarse or flaky salt for the best taste. I also like to use flake salt so I can see exactly how much salt I’m using. This really helps to ensure you don’t under or over salt your meat.
Picanha is traditionally cooked on a flat skewer on a rotisserie over charcoal. I cooked my picanha on my Weber Kettle Charcoal Grill for that good charcoal flavor while flipping regularly. The rotisserie style helps to baste the juices and give the meat a nice, even color throughout. I recommend lump charcoal for this recipe.
Where to Buy Picanha?
It can be a bit tricky to locate picanha steaks, so your best bet is to make nice with your local butcher and purchase from them. You might get lucky and be able to have your butcher prepare your steaks so they’re ready to go on the grill. If not, all it takes is a little extra effort to cut and prep these steaks for the skewer.
Here are some things to look for when purchasing picanha:
- It is commonly labeled top sirloin. A savvy butcher will know what you’re looking for when you ask for “picanha,” but to be safe, if you request top sirloin, you’ll be golden.
- The roast should have the fat cap still attached. When purchasing a top sirloin, you’ll receive a whole roast that will need to be cut into individual steaks for the skewers. The roast looks like a tri-tip with three points.
How to Cook Picanha
Here’s the whole process for cooking picanha. If you’re a visual learner, scroll below to view the video for this recipe in the printable recipe card.
- Prep and skewer the picanha. Cut the roast into 1.5-2″ steaks (if the steaks have already been prepared no need to cut them further). Fold the steaks in half into a C-shape and skewer through two metal skewers (this will ensure the meat doesn’t fall off while cooking).
- Fire up the charcoal grill. Preheat your charcoal grill for two-zone grilling to mimic that rotisserie experience (without actually having it on a rotisserie).
- Grill the steaks. Place the steaks directly between your hot and cool zones. Flip every 2-3 minutes, closing the lid in between flipping to help the steaks cook more evenly throughout. These steaks will take approximately 20-25 minutes to cook to medium rare. Begin checking temps 15 minutes in.
- Finish cooking. Remove the steaks when they reach a temperature of 125-130 degrees F. This temperature will have the middle of the steaks rare, with the outside medium rare. As you slice the steak off the skewers, most folks will get those medium rare outside cuts and a few will get more rare interior. Make sure you use an instant read thermometer to keep an eye on your temperature.
- Slice and serve. Serve your guests by slicing the meat right off the skewer directly onto plates.
There you have it! If you can’t get out to a Brazilian steakhouse anytime soon, no worries! You can bring these tasty flavors into your own backyard with just a little bit of effort.
More Grilled Steak Recipes
Once you’ve mastered these picanha steaks, try your hand at our other popular grilled steak recipes from Hey Grill Hey.
Grilled Picanha Recipe
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Grilled Picanha Steak
- 3 picanha steaks (approximately 2 lbs total)
- 2 Tablespoons coarse sea salt or coarse kosher salt
- Preheat your charcoal grill. You can also use a rotisserie, if you have access to one. Set your charcoal up in 2 zones and vents all the way open. You want the temp to be really hot, around 500+ degrees F.
- Prep the meat. Skewer the picanha with two metal skewers to secure each steak. Picanha has a fat cap on one side, so curve the steaks to make a C with the fat cap on the outside of the C. Season the steaks on all sides with the salt.
- Grill the steaks. Place the skewers directly on the charcoal grill right in the middle between the hot and cool zones. Stand by to flip every 2 minutes to recreate a rotisserie experience without actually having a rotisserie. Cook to your preferred doneness. I cooked my steaks for about 15-20 minutes to 130 degrees F medium rare.
- Rest, slice, and serve. Pull the picanha off the grill and let them rest. Use a heating pad to hold the skewers, then secure the skewer underneath and run knife on the outside of the steak to slice into thin slices.