by TANNER JOHNSON
If you’re a meat lover, you’ve probably heard of Picanha, a popular cut of beef in Brazil (and Brazilian steakhouses here in the states) that is known for its flavor and tenderness. It is also known as a top sirloin cap or a rump cap. This has become a favorite for me and many other home cooks and grill enthusiasts. I love reverse searing this cut – just like I like doing for almost every larger cut of steak. There are a few different ways you may see these sold at the butcher, either as a whole (roast) or sliced into individual steaks. I typically get the whole roast from my butcher, cook it and slice it into small slices once it’s done. But you can slice the whole roast into steaks before cooking, requiring less cooking time. The traditional way you’ll see these served is sliced into steaks on large skewers (that look like swords almost) cooked over an open fire and sliced straight off of the skewers onto your plate.
First and foremost, I like to let the Picanha come to room temperature for about 30 minutes before cooking. This is a crucial step in ensuring that the meat cooks evenly. Then, I like to score the fat cap (cross hatch) so the final sear can really render that fat nicely. Next, I rub down the Picanha with olive oil and season it heavily with Hatteras Saltworks Black Pepper sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper. This adds flavor and helps the crust develop when the meat is seared. For this cut, you don’t need anything more than salt and pepper.
Next, I insert a Meater+ temperature probe (in the middle of the thickest part) to monitor the internal temperature of the meat. Then I put it in my pellet smoker, running at 225 degrees for about an hour (you could cook it in the oven for this first part too, or any kind of grill that will run at low heat like this) – or until the temperature probe alerts me that it has reached 115 internal. This slow and low cooking method allows the meat to cook evenly and retain its moisture, before we finish it off with a blazing hot sear.
After the Picanha has reached the desired internal temperature (115 degrees), it’s time to pull it out and let it rest for at least for 10 minutes and up to 15 minutes (while you get the searing grill up to heat). Then it’s time to sear it for a couple minutes per side to get that beautiful crust and get it to the final desired temp. I like to do my searing on a blazing hot charcoal grill, I open up all of the vents and get it as hot as it will go – usually around 900-950 degrees. With the huge fat cap on this cut, when you’re searing on that side you’ll definitely see some flames come up, so be careful with this part and make sure you don’t overcook it. After the sear – since we rested before it’s good to slice up – but you can let it sit before slicing if you need to get your side dishes ready. I like to serve this up with some asparagus and baked sweet potatoes or sweet potato fries.
Overall, this method of cooking whole Picanha is a great way to bring out the flavors and tenderness of this delicious cut of beef. The reverse sear allows for some amazing smoky flavor while keeping it super tender, and the sear at the end with this big fat cap gives it some phenomenal crust. So next time you’re looking for a new recipe/cut of beef to try, consider giving Picanha a chance – you won’t be disappointed!