Outside of devoted meat-lovers, not many people in America have heard of the picanha steak. Its lack of popularity in the US is truly a tragedy, as this cut of beef is affordable, tasty, and easy to prepare. Now that you’re hooked, this article will answer the ever-burning questions: What is picanha steak, and where did it come from?
The picanha comes from the very top of the cow’s rear and is covered in a thick layer of fat. That hunk of fat is exactly what makes this cut of beef so popular, as it retains all the juice and makes the meat itself incredibly succulent.
In stateside markets, butchers often remove the fat unless the customer specifically requests otherwise. So if you happen to find this steak in a market near you, make sure you ask the butcher to keep the fat on! However, finding this cut of meat at a regular butcher store is nearly impossible, as it’s often broken down to make round steaks and loins.
If you do happen to find a cut of picanha steak from a specialty butcher or Brazilian market, there are few qualities to look for. Ideally, you want the steak to be no more than three pounds to avoid the cut containing other cuts of meat that may be tougher. In addition, the fat cap should be no fewer than 1.5 centimeters thick, with little liquid and fat running through the actual meat portion of the cut.
You may have actually heard of picanha before: here in the United States, it’s usually referred to as top sirloin cap or rump cover.
Originally, this cut of beef became popular in Brazil and later came to Portugal, where it became just as famous. But even dedicated grill-masters aren’t sure of the origin of the name. The most popular theory is that the name came from Brazilian cowboys, who would tell their colleagues to prick the cows to get them to move: picana do bicho which means “prick the animal” in Portuguese. Not coincidentally, cowboys would prick the cow on the rump—exactly where the top sirloin cap is located.
Luckily, due to the fat content of the cut, picanha steak is easy to prepare. You can pan-sear, roast, or grill it with just a little bit of salt and olive oil to bring out the rich flavors. Typically, you want the heat to reach no higher than 250 degrees Fahrenheit if you’re grilling or 350 degrees Fahrenheit if you’re oven roasting. Cook until both sides have a nice crust and the internal temperature is 130 degrees Fahrenheit to keep the cut medium rare.
Now that you know what picanha is and where it comes from, you can impress any dinner guest with your newfound knowledge. If you don’t want to have to scour your local market for this coveted cut of beef, we offer picanha for sale online that we can deliver fresh right to your doorstep—you’ll never have to leave the comfort of your own home to find your new favorite cut of beef!