What is Beef Picanha? A Juicy, Flavorful Cut of Meat

Beef picanha, pronounced “pee-kawn-yuh”, is a delicious and increasingly popular cut of beef that originates from Brazil. It’s known by a few different names, but they all refer to the same triangular shaped muscle from the top of the sirloin region. This prized cut is tender, flavorful, and becomes exceptionally juicy when cooked correctly with the fat cap intact.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about picanha, including:

  • What part of the cow it comes from
  • Different names for picanha
  • Flavor and texture
  • How to cook picanha
  • Serving suggestions
  • Where to buy it

What Part of the Cow is Picanha From?

Picanha comes from the sirloin region of the cow, specifically the top part of the sirloin. It sits on top of the rump and round sections, right beneath the spine of the cow.

The picanha is a thick, triangular shaped muscle that sits on a generous layer of fat. It’s this thick fat cap that sets picanha apart from other sirloin cuts and gives it a distinctive flavor when cooked.

Different Names for Picanha

While it’s known as picanha in Brazil and other South American countries, this cut goes by a few different names in the US:

  • Sirloin cap – The most common term for picanha in American butcher shops. Refers to the ‘cap’ of fat on top of the sirloin primal cut.

  • Coulotte steak – A French term that also means ‘cap’ and refers to the fat cap on top.

  • Rump cap – Refers to the location on top of the rump primal.

  • Top sirloin cap roast – Another term referring to the cap of fat on the top sirloin.

Flavor, Texture and Fat Content

The picanha is a well-marbled cut of beef that contains less connective tissue than other muscles. This gives it a tender, steak-like texture when cooked. The ample marbling provides plenty of flavor and moisture.

However, it’s the thick fat cap on top that really sets picanha apart. When cooked correctly, with the fat cap intact, the fat renders down basting the meat underneath. This produces an exceptionally juicy, savory and tender cut of beef.

The fat cap can be trimmed off before or after cooking if desired. But leaving it on during cooking allows the fat to permeate the meat, keeping it tender and adding buttery beefy flavor.

How to Cook Picanha

There are several excellent methods for cooking picanha:


Cooking picanha on a rotisserie is traditional Brazilian style. The fat cap helps keep the meat moist and adds smoky, savory flavor as it renders and drips.

  • Cut the picanha into 1-1.5 inch thick steaks
  • Season with just salt and pepper or use a steak seasoning
  • Skewer onto rotisserie rods and cook over indirect heat, fat cap up
  • Cook to 130F for medium-rare doneness
  • Rest, slice and serve with chimichurri or garlic herb butter


Grilling picanha steaks over direct high heat is a quick and flavorful cooking method.

  • Cut picanha into 1-1.5 inch steaks
  • Coat with olive oil and season as desired
  • Grill over direct high heat, 4-5 minutes per side
  • Cook to 130F for medium-rare
  • Rest and slice across the grain to serve


Broiling in the oven at high heat replicates grilling.

  • Cut into steaks, coat with oil, and season
  • Place steaks on a broiling pan or sheet tray
  • Broil on high heat 4-5 minutes per side
  • Cook to 130F for medium-rare
  • Rest, slice and serve

Pan Searing

Pan searing picanha steaks provides a nice crust in a skillet on the stovetop.

  • Cut picanha into steaks
  • Heat skillet over high heat
  • Add just enough oil to coat the pan
  • When oil shimmers, add steaks and cook 4 minutes per side
  • Cook to 130F for medium-rare
  • Rest, slice and serve

Slow Roasting

Roasting a whole picanha roast low and slow tenderizes while retaining moisture.

  • Season roast and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes
  • Place fat side up on a wire rack set inside a sheet pan
  • Roast at 275F in the oven until it reaches 130F internally
  • Rest, slice and serve

Serving Suggestions

Picanha pairs nicely with these sauces and sides:

  • Chimichurri sauce
  • Garlic herb butter
  • Compound butter
  • Steak sauce
  • Roasted vegetables
  • Rice pilaf
  • Roasted potatoes
  • Chimichurri rice

Slice picanha across the grain and serve it medium-rare to medium doneness to get those perfect pink slices topped with a bite of salty, fatty goodness.

Where to Buy Picanha

Picanha is becoming more widely available as it grows in popularity. Check at clubs stores like Costco or Sam’s Club, quality butcher shops, Latin markets, or order online. Some sources to find quality picanha include:

  • Local butcher shops
  • Costco – labeled “top sirloin cap”
  • Whole Foods
  • Porter Road Butcher
  • Snake River Farms
  • Rastelli’s

A Delicious Cut Worth Trying

Beef picanha is a uniquely flavorful cut of meat that’s perfect for steak lovers. With its abundant marbling and thick cap of fat, picanha delivers a tender, juicy and savory grilling experience. The fat cap helps keep it succulent and adds rich beefy flavor when cooked over high dry heat.

Look for this Brazilian steakhouse favorite at specialty butchers, clubs stores or quality online sources. Try cooking picanha on the rotisserie, grill, or pan sear for delicious results, sliced across the grain and served medium-rare.

What is Picanha?

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