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Picanha is claiming it’s place as the next big thing in American barbecue. The crispy crust on the outside holds in the juicy, moist, perfectly cooked meat on the inside. Sliced thin or thick, it doesn’t matter, the reverse seared picanha rules the cutting board.
This popular cut of beef is popular in Brazil and other Latin American countries. Typically roasted on skewers in a steakhouse, it’s served with a variety of sauces and sides. Picanha is meant to be an experience for the eater (that’s YOU). There’s a number of ways to cook it over the fire, this happens to be the method that I chose to highlight, and I’ll explain why!
What is Picanha?
This tender cut of beef is from the rump of the cow. The meat itself is quite lean, encased with a thick cap of fat. You may see this referred to as a “sirloin cap” from the butcher. The fat cap is important as it bastes the lean meat during the cooking process, keeping it very moist. Those that want to be healthy certainly don’t have to eat it when it’s sliced… but that’s the flavor!
Picanha is not easy to find in the US. Most butchers do not carry it, grocery stores have even less of a chance. I prefer to order mine online due to availability and quality. Omaha Steaks carries them (called Sirloin Cap Grilling Roast) at a very generous size. I’ve cooked multiple picanhas from Omaha Steaks as well, so this recommendation comes from personal experience. Check HERE to look for their picanhas.
Why Reverse Searing?
Choosing the best method for cooking a picanha all comes down to how you want to serve it, and the equipment that you have!
Want to slice it thin? Put it on a skewer or reverse sear it.
Want a thick steak? Slice the meat into thick steaks and grill them directly, or reverse sear it.
Pretty sure you get the idea. Reverse seared picanha has flexibility for your steak preferences AND equipment.
Picanha lends itself to being prepared many different ways in Argentina, so don’t worry about breaking rules. You’re here for deliciousness, not rules!
Preparing the Picanha
The biggest key with using the reverse sear method for cooking Picanha is to salt the fat cap, heavily. I will lightly score the skin, rub a generous layer of coarse salt into it, and let it rest for a couple hours in the fridge uncovered for a dry brine.
The authentic seasoning of picanha is usually just salt, sometimes garlic as well. In the photos on this page I used a rub that was a mix of black pepper, salt, garlic, and some chile. Simple is better, add the flavor with your chimichurri!
Reverse Searing Process
I have a comprehensive guide to the overall reverse searing process HERE.
Seasoning the meat is the first part. Smoking and roasting the meat is next, and very simple. Heat up your smoker to a lower temp (225°F suggested) and cook it until you’ve reached your target temperature:
|Doneness||Target Temp in the Smoker||Final Temp during sear|
Should I top it with something?
Yes you should! I love any kind of chimichurri you can get your hands on or whipe up. Try one of these for a nice acidic boost:
The crispy crust holds in the juicy, moist meat on the inside. Sliced thin or thick, the reverse seared picanha rules the cutting board.
- 2–2.5lb Omaha Steaks Picanha
- 3 Tbsp coarse salt
- 2 tsp garlic minced, dried
- 2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
- (optional) chile flakes to preference
- Pat down the meat to make sure that it’s dry from any excess moisture. Score the fat cap 1/8″ in a criss-cross pattern and generously salt. Season the meat side with your seasoning.
- (Optional) Dry-brine the meat. Allow the picanha to sit on a wire rack in your fridge for at least 45 minutes, up to overnight. This will benefit the flavor penetration and will help create a nice crust.
- Set your grill for indirect heat, or preheat your smoker. You want to maintain 225-250˚F. Warm the picanha for roughly 60-90 minutes until the internal temperature is 115°F (medium rare prep). Remove the meat from the grill, and turn the heat up to 450-500°F.
- Sear the meat, flipping frequently to control the momentum of the temperature. The fat cap may flare up (mine does every time) so be careful and stay nearby! Once you have the perfect crust and your internal temperature is ready (130-135°F medium rare) remove the picanha and allow it to rest for at least 10 minutes, tented under foil.
- Slice against the grain and enjoy!
Don’t leave the grill when you’re searing, you will most likely have some flare ups! If you’re hosting a party, this is the time to corral everyone to watch the action over the grill and crack a beer.
Keywords: grilling picanha beef