Picanha (pronounced pee-kaa-nyuh) is a steak that is as common in South America, and in particular Brazil, as a NY Strip is here. Maybe even more so, but in the States, nobody sells it. Well, nobody pre-packages it and places it in the meat case. It’s just a piece of sirloin so every meat cutter in the country has access to it. Thus we have to plan a little ahead and special order it. The picanha is also known as the top sirloin cap, rump cover, or culotte. Technically speaking, it’s the biceps femoris and the fat cap. Don’t forget the fat cap! We as Americans are inclined to trim the fat cap. Don’t do it. More on that in a minute. Let’s get started on Fire Roasted Picanha with Compound Butter.
Fire Roasted Picahna with Compound Butter Ingredients:
- 2 sticks salted butter
- 1/4 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
- 2 tbsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp fresh ground cinnamon
- 1.5 tbsp granulated garlic
- 6 Picaha steaks, 12-16 oz each
- Salt to taste
- Your favorite steak rub
You will also need some sort of long skewer. Look for the ones that look a little like swords, because swords are cool!
If you are looking for other artisanal cuts of steak to maybe save a few bucks, check out these 7 Tips for Saving Money Buying Steak
How to make compound butter
We begin by making the compound butter because we will want it to firm up in the fridge for a little while. Melt the two sticks of butter in the microwave. We aren’t looking to turn the butter into liquid. Just soften it up so it will be easier to mix in some seasoning. Or leave the butter out for a a couple of hours like I did here:
Mix everything but the steaks, salt and steak rub in the bowl and blend it through:
Using a rubber spatula, push the butter onto a piece of wax paper or plastic wrap and roll up like a giant Tootsie Roll:
Place the compound butter back in the fridge for an hour or two and now let’s get to the picanha. The butcher precut these steaks to pretty standard portions, but they can certainly be sliced thicker.
How to prepare picanha
I did a criss cross pattern cut into the fat on each one:
Here is a close up of that:
The fat doesn’t look all that thick, but it puffs up nicely. More on that later:
Hit it with some salt:
For this rub I used the DB180 General Purpose Rub. I LOVE it on steaks. I can’t wait to try it on other proteins.
Next up I bent each of the picanha steaks into what looks like the letter C and skewered them:
And when you have big chunks of meat on some sword looking skewers, you are obligated to do at least one of these poses:
What is the best way to cook a picanha?
How to grill Fire Roasted Picanha
Now let’s spark up the grill. I went with my Hooray Grill which is a Santa Maria Style cooker. That means it has a big open fire box with a grill grate that I can raise and lower. It also makes some MEAN s’mores. I can’t rave about this grill enough. Soooooo over engineered and an absolute marvel of craftsmanship. Did I mention it is entirely made in the U.S.A.?
How I usually set up the Hooray is by making a “box” out of oak firewood and set a lit charcoal chimney in the middle:
Then I dumped the hot coals in the middle. As the coals burn, they cause the wood to smolder, giving a constant dose of that wonderful smoke:
Then I took the middle grill grate out and placed the skewers of meat on the fire. The grill grate rack is about a foot or so above the raging hot coals:
It didn’t take long for my picanha to brown up, particularly along the edge of the fat, so I flipped the grilled picanha over:
Once we get some browning on both sides of the grilled picanha, we are looking at a nice rare:
I can’t recommend a good probe thermometer enough. It made me a MUCH better griller. Instead of guessing, I know when the food is done. No more apologizing for over cooking or apologizing AND having to take the meat back out to the grill to finish up. My go to is the Thermapen. They aren’t cheap, but the peace of mind is worth it and they last practically forever. The first one I got 10 years ago is still going strong. I know, it’s odd to hear about products that are built to last these days.
While the steaks rest for about 5 minutes, go grab that compound butter and cut a slice off to top each steak:
And here is the steak we carved a slice off of to do a taste test:
Yeah, it was good. And I mean REALLY good.
And here it is sliced so we get a bit of fat with each bite:
But what about that fat?
Give the Fat a Shot
For some, that it too much fat. Some of the crew (me) ate the steak with the ribbon of fat at the end, and others used the fat as a handle, bit off the meat and discarded the fat. Do whatever you want. I would suggest leaving the cap on during prep and cooking though as it does baste the meat a little.
Fire Roasted Picanha with Compound Butter Summary
I have to say, grilled picanha was an inexpensive way to feed a crowd some absolutely amazing steak. Because it was indeed that. The only thing I would change is that I would’ve held the skewers over the coals fat side down for a minute or two to crisp up that fat more. I had meant to do that, but completely forgot. Other than that, the only downside to this dish is having to special order the picanha. BUT, if we all start special ordering picanha, meat departments across the country would start carrying it in the meat case. We can do this!
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Fire Roasted Picanha with Compound Butter
- long skewers
- 16 tbsp salted butter (2 stick)
- ¼ tsp fresh ground nutmeg
- 2 tbsp chili powder
- ½ tsp fresh ground cinnamon
- 1.5 tbsp granulated garlic
- 6 Picanha steak 12-16 oz each
- Salt to taste
- your favorite steak rub
- Mix softened butter with ground nutmeg, chili powder, cinnamon, and garlic
- Spoon the compound butter over a sheet of wax paper or plastic wrap and wrap tightly
- Place the butter in the fridge to harden
- Cut a criss cross pattern in the fat on the outer edge of the picanha
- Season with salt and the steak rub, making sure to not just hit the top and bottom but the sides and get into those slits in the fat cap
- Form the picanha into a C, with the fat cap on the outside, and skewer
- Place over a medium fire and roast until the fat begins to brown
- Flip over and roast the other side
- Once the picanha steaks are roasted on both sides, brown the fat over the fire but tilting the skewers 90 degrees and holding the fat caps over the coals for a couple minutes
- When the fat along the outside crisps up, remove from the heat, let rest for 5 minutes and serve with a pat of the compound butter on each steak