What is picanha beef?
Where does picanha come from?
If you’ve been doing some research around beef cuts for grilling or BBQ meat in general, you might have seen picanha mentioned and with good reason. It’s a unique beef cut that has been growing in popularity over the last decade. It would usually only be attainable in specialist steakhouses, but now it’s making its way into the displays of local UK and online butchers.
In this blog, we’ll be talking about picanha – where it comes from, its global significance, and, of course, how best to cook it.
Picanha is a beef cut that comes from the top section of the rump at the back end of the animal. It sits above the butt on a thick layer of fat. The meat itself is similar to sirloin, lean, coarse and slightly marbled. Depending on where you go, Picanha can also be labelled as rump cap, sirloin cap, or coulette steak.
If you were to get an entire picanha, it’s a large triangular cut (around 1.5-2kg). You can then cut this into steaks yourself or get your butcher to do it for you. However, picanha steaks differ from almost all the other steaks out there as they should be cut with the grain. This produces the signature ‘C’ shape with the red meat and white fat clearly visible.
What makes picanha so special?
There’s a popular theory that picanha beef got its name from a group of Brazilian cowboys. It’s said they would tell people that they needed to prick the cows to get them to move, with ‘picana do bicho’ meaning ‘prick the animal’ in Portuguese. In addition, the cowboys allegedly pricked the cows on the rump – exactly where picanha beef is located.
Ever since, picanha beef has been a staple in Brazilian cuisine that’s eaten in multiple south American countries. Here, it would exclusively be barbecued over direct heat and carved from a skewer. These traditional Brazilian barbecues are known as churrasco, with picanha often being carved at the table for maximum flare and theatricality.
How to cook picanha beef
As picanha is a large meat cut that can be cooked in a variety of ways. For instance, if it’s broken up into individual steaks this will lend itself to different cooking than if the whole picanha was still intact. However, as we mentioned earlier, picanha is very lean and so if you aren’t careful the meat will become tough.
In preparation, we recommend a simple seasoning of coarse salt. This is because picanha contains an abundance of beefy flavour, in part thanks to its large fat cap. It’s completely up to you if you eat the fat cap or cut it off once it has been served. Do not remove the fat cap before cooking.
A picanha steak is typically sliced to a thickness of between 2 and 2.5 inches with the grain. That way, they’re cut with the grain when comes to times to serve. The fat cap should make up 1-1.5cm. If you’re slicing the steaks yourself, it’s easier to lay the picanha on the chopping board fat side down.
Once the steaks have been prepared with a little oil and salt, they can be cook like you would any other steak. First use a hot pan or grill to render the fat, then brown on each side for 3-4 minutes each. For medium rare, the internal temperature should register around 55°C. If you’re using an outdoor charcoal grill, picanha steaks can be cooked covered on medium heat (120°C) for around 6 minutes a side. They can then be quickly finished on the burning hot part of the grill.
A whole beef rump cap picanha can be roasted and then cut into steaks afterwards. This can help you recreate the feel of a steakhouse in the comfort of your own home. Start by:
- Searing the fat side of the meat in a hot cast iron pan.
- Once the picanha has taken on a strong brown colour and some amount of beef fat has been released, flip and baste.
- Then transfer the pan to a preheated 180°C oven and cook for 30 minutes.
- Check the internal temperature registers around 50°C using a meat thermometer.
- Remove and let rest covered for 10-15 minutes.
This traditional method sees the picanha cut into slices, skewered, and grilled over direct heat. Here, the slices are thicker than the steak method to allow for skewering. This also means a longer cook time. Picanha skewers should take around 15 to 20 minutes, turning often to ensure they’re cooked evenly. After the meat reaches the desired doneness, it can be carved and served.
Online butchers Essex
If you’re looking for high quality picanha for sale, The Village Butchers has you covered. Our range BBQ meats includes a wide variety of speciality beef cuts available throughout the year. As a result, you don’t have to worry about guaranteeing quality when buying a cut, you don’t have any experience with. At The Village Butchers, our quality assurance process is designed to put your interests first.