Brazilian Picanha Steak

Top sirloin cap or picanha recipe

The Spruce / Victoria Heydt

  • Total: 40 mins
  • Prep: 15 mins
  • Cook: 25 mins
  • Servings: 6 to 8 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
859 Calories
41g Fat
0g Carbs
116g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 859
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 41g 53%
Saturated Fat 16g 80%
Cholesterol 355mg 118%
Sodium 2866mg 125%
Total Carbohydrate 0g 0%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Protein 116g
Calcium 58mg 4%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

The top sirloin cap is also known as picanha (pronounced "pee-KAHN-ya")the specialty of a churrascaria or Brazilian steakhouse. The flavorful meat is skewered, grilled, and sliced before serving.

Picanha is not often carried on supermarket shelves, but it is usually available by request at a butcher or good meat counter. It's relatively inexpensive, especially when compared to ribeyes and other notable steaks, and is packed with beef flavor. This makes it one of the best cuts of meat for grilling. Tri-tip and sirloin steaks are often confused with the top sirloin cap, but a knowledgeable butcher will know exactly what you're looking for. Traditionally, picanha is grilled on long skewers, but for the home cook, it will be a lot easier to cut the steak into portions for smaller skewers.

Don't skip resting the steak for the juiciest results. Serve picanha with pão de queijo (cheese bread), garlicky collard greens, and crispy or creamy polenta for a Brazilian feast.

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Ingredients

  • 3 to 4 pounds picanha beef (top sirloin cap)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Kosher salt (divided)
  • Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
  • Oil (high heat, for greasing the grill)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for sirloin cap or picanha
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  2. If the steak has been refrigerated, take it out 1 hour before you preheat the grill and let it come to room temperature.

    Bring out steak
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  3. Lay the top sirloin cap flat on a cutting board or another work surface, fat-side up. Using a small sharp knife, cut the fat layer, without cutting to the meat, in a cross-hatch pattern, as you would do for a ham.

    Cut into sirloin
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  4. Massage 1 tablespoon of salt into crevices of the cross-hatched fat layer of the steak.

    Massage salt into crevices
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  5. Season with freshly ground black pepper. 

    Season sirloin
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  6. If you want to skewer the steak, cut the steak lengthwise into three equal pieces.

    Cut steak
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  7. Roll each steak piece like a jelly-roll and, using a large metal skewer, secure the steak so it holds together rolled up.

    Roll steak
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  8. Sprinkle the remaining salt over the unseasoned sides of the steak.

    Sprinkle salt
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  9. Preheat the grill to high.

    Preheat grill
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  10. Clean the grates well and apply a thin layer of oil using a brush or paper towel.

    Clean grates
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  11. Lay the skewered picanha on the grill and turn off all heat except for the one burner furthest away from the steaks. Alternatively, heat a charcoal grill until very hot before carefully scraping the coals to the back of the grill. Immediately add the steak to the front side of the grill.

    Layer on grill
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  12. Cook the steaks—with the grill cover closed—for 20 to 25 minutes, turning them every 5 to 7 minutes to ensure even cooking.

    Grill steaks
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  13. When the internal temperature reaches 128 F to 130 F for medium-rare on an instant-read thermometer, take the picanha off the grill.

    Grill steak
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  14. Let the steaks rest 5 minutes, then remove from the skewer and slice against the grain and serve.

    Cut steak
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  15. Enjoy!

    Top sirloin cap
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt

Tip

  • Don't skip resting the meat. This step provides time for the meat to cool slightly and the muscle fibers to relax. Thus allowing the juices to redistribute throughout the meat and resulting in a tender, flavorful, juicy dish.

Do You Eat the Fat on Picanha?

The fat cap on picanha adds tons of delicious flavor as the beef cooks. Enjoy it along with your steak for even more flavor. If you don't like too much fat, you're welcome to remove it before eating.

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