The Picanha is a bit of a secret cut, known to aficionados and surprisingly, unknown to many butchers. You may know it by its other names such as culotte, rump cap, rump cover, sirloin cap. Whatever you call it, it is delicious.
What is the Picanha cut?
It is a highly prized cut in Brazil, where the name comes from and a nice fat cover is always desirable. A picana was a pole used for herding cattle in Spain and Portugal and the name was given to the area on the body where the cattle would be prodded to move them along. Immigrant farmers that came to Brazil brought the name with them.
How to buy Picanha at the butcher shop
Ask your butcher for it by the various names it goes by. Your best bet is to find a whole animal butcher who has the knowledge of all the muscles in the beef carcase. If they don’t know what cut you are referring to, show them one of these photos. Ask how long the Picanha has been maturing. A minimum of 14 days is required with 28 days being the ideal. Get the butcher to leave the fat covering on the picanha (this is important) and if you want to buy the whole cap and butcher it yourself, there is a how-to video to show you just that at the end of this article.
The Picanha is not the most expensive cut and should fall somewhere between sirloin and striploin prices. Because it is not so widely known in other countries, many Brazilian expatriates are pleasantly surprised that it is sold at those prices in other countries. But don’t tell the butcher you think the price is good. You want it to remain good value, don’t you?
How to Butcher the Picanha
The rump cap is one of the four main muscles in the rump and when it is sliced in the traditional manner, it is sliced along the grain. If you take the cap off the rump, turn it 90 degrees and cut across the grain, you get a much more tender steak. The proper name is the M. biceps femoris muscle and its fat cap is an essential element
Lay the meat on your cutting board or worktop.
Remove the silverskin layer by inserting a sharp knife under the silver skin and peeling it away.
Orient the Picanha so you are cutting across the grain.
Slice to your favoured thickness. Too thin and it will dry out, give it a bit of depth.
There will be a small amount of trimmings left over that you can use to make gravy or stock. Or jus , if you are so inclined.
Q: What is the difference between a jus and a gravy.
A: About 15 dollars.
How to Cook Picanha
Be wary, overcooking this cut makes it tough, so medium rare is as far as you should take it to appreciate its finer qualities. It has a great robust beef flavour, the fat is delicious, and adds juiciness to the steak. Cook it with all the fat on, discard the fat afterwards if you like, but leave it on for cooking.
You can cook the whole picanha on the grill and slice it into steaks afterwards and this allows you to have it fairly rare. You can tie it up and roast it whole. Either way, it is delicious. Whichever method you choose to cook with, take off the silverskin from the meat side. This is fairly tough and when the heat makes it tighten up, changing the shape of the cut. Roasting a Picanha is simplicity itself. Preheat the oven to 180C (400F) and while the oven is heating up put a cast iron frying pan on the hob at high heat. Score the fat cap in a diamond pattern but don’t cut into the meat.
Put the Picanha, fat side down into the hot pan, you don’t need any oil, it has all the fat it needs, and sear it all over for about 7 minutes.
When the oven reaches the required temperature, place the Picanha on the cast iron pan in the oven and cook for 45 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 50C 120F for rare.
- Blue (bleu) 80 to 100 degrees F , 26 to 38 degrees C
- Rare 120 to 125 degrees F, 49 to 51 degrees C
- Medium Rare 130 to 135 degrees F, 55 to 57 degrees C
- Medium 140 to 145 degrees F, 60 to 63 degrees C
- Medium Well 150 to 155 degrees F, 65 to 69 degrees C
- Well Done 160 degrees F and above, 71 degrees C
Save any juices from the pan to make a gravy or jus to pour over the meat when serving.
How To Make Picanha Burgers
You can also use the Picanha to make very flavourful burgers. Trim off the silverskin layer, leave the fat on, dice up the beef and mince it. You can make the burgers without any other ingredients or you can add onions, salt, pepper and your favourite burger seasonings, but I recommend trying it just as it is. You will really appreciate the flavour. This is the quality you will get in high-end restaurants selling signature burgers. If you make your own you will never pay those restaurant prices again.
Try this recipe.
- 500 gms Picanha minced
- 30 gms breadcrumbs
- Medium onion, finely chopped
- Your favourite seasonings
- Tomato puree
- Salt and pepper
- 1 egg
- Mix all ingredients together by hand but don’t overwork the mixture. That makes the burger too dense. Wet your hands and divide the mixture into 4 even portions. Shape into burger patties and allow to sit for 30 minutes in the fridge.
- Melt some beef tallow in a cast iron frying pan and cook for 4-6 minutes on each side. Serve on toasted burger buns with chimichurri on the side. Or whatever your favourite dressings are. But take my advice, taste it without dressings to appreciate the hearty beef flavour of the Picanha.