Picanha steak comes from the top of the rump area of the cow, which is why it’s sometimes referred to as a rump cap. This piece of steak has a fat cap that covers its full length and typically stays intact while cooking. Incredibly popular in Brazil, picanha steak is known for its tenderness and tasty flavor, much of which comes from the fat cap.
When grilling, it’s important to understand how to grill picanha steak to ensure that the fat cap does its job and you get the texture and flavor you expect.
Preparing The Grill
Learn how to prepare a gas or charcoal grill to grill picanha steak:
Brush the grill grates with olive oil to prevent sticking during the cooking process. Then, fire up the grill over high heat (450-500 degrees) about 10-15 minutes before you’re ready to grill picanha. If you’d prefer further doneness than medium-rare, consider lighting another area of the grill to low heat, if possible, so that you can cook your pieces of picanha more.
Brush a small amount of olive oil onto the grill grates before lighting the grill. Then, use your preferred lighting method to light the grill (lighter fluid, chimney starter, etc.). Be sure to allow about 15 minutes for the grill to preheat before you’re ready to grill picanha steak.
Expect medium-rare picanha steak to take about 10 minutes to cook on the grill if you use the skewering method we’ll explain in this guide. This is a popular way to cook picanha because it allows the fat cap to remain on each piece of steak. If grilling a cut of picanha whole, it may take closer to 20 minutes for a thorough medium-rare cook on the grill.
We recommend cooking picanha steak to medium-rare for the best texture on the grill. However, you can grill picanha steak to your liking by following the temperature chart below. Pull the steak from the grill when it’s within the first temperature range listed. After it rests, it should reach the final temperature range for your desired doneness level.
|Doneness||Temperature to Remove from Heat||Final Temperature|
Medium Rare Picanha Steak
For a medium-rare picanha steak, cut the steak into strips before grilling and add them to skewers. This allows each strip to get some of the fat cap, so its flavors and texturizing ability can make its way into each piece. Grill skewers for 4-5 minutes on each side, flipping just once. Check that the temperature reaches 125-130℉ before pulling from the heat. Then, rest at room temperature for five minutes before serving.
Picanha Steak Grilling Tips
Before you learn how to grill picanha steak, read through these tips for a few pointers:
Leave the Fat Alone
Perhaps the #1 rule of grilling picanha is to leave the fat cap in place. With a lot of other steak cuts, it’s normal to remove excess fat, which can flare up on the grill when it cooks. However, picanha relies on that fat to reach its optimal texture and flavor. Because we skewer it when grilling it, the fat cap isn’t as likely to flare up the grill, either. Always make sure your grill is nice and clean before grilling picanha to help avoid flare-ups.
Cut It Into Strips
Picanha is traditionally grilled in skewered strips rather than as a full roast (although you can do it this way, too). This method helps each strip get an excellent sear on both sides and thorough cook to your doneness level while allowing the fat to seep into each piece during the grilling process. Plus, picanha cooks quicker this way, so you’ll get to enjoy it faster.
Top It Off
In Brazilian culture, topping picanha steak off with some chimichurri is a popular way to add even more to its already delicious flavor. Try our simple chimichurri recipe with just seven ingredients.
Choosing the Right Cut
The most important thing to look for with picanha steak? The fat cap. This piece of fat covers the entire length of the steak. When it breaks down during cooking, it tenderizes and flavors the steak. Look for a fat cap that’s about a ½ inch thick and stretches across the whole piece of picanha.
As for the steak itself, the ideal picanha is about two pounds. Larger picanha steaks are available, but those that are three pounds or more may include other cuts from the animal, too. If you want pure picanha, smaller is actually better.
Consider looking for USDA Prime or Premium Angus picanha steaks like you would other cuts. These labels denote a high quality in coloring, marbling, and texture.
Grilling Picanha Steak Instructions
Ready to learn how to grill picanha steak? Here are the step-by-step instructions. Then, take what you’ve learned and try out our grilled picanha steak recipe below.
Step 1: Prepare for Grilling Picanha Steak
Place the steak on a cutting board with the fat cap facing up. Score the fat cap to make a crosshatch pattern. This will let the seasoning and heat work its way into the fat and meat to keep it tender and flavorful as it cooks on the grill.
Season picanha steaks with salt on both sides, being sure to rub it into the fat cap. Keep at room temperature for 45 minutes to create a brine.
About ten minutes before you’re ready to grill, brush olive oil on the grill grates. Then, preheat the grill to high heat between 450-500 degrees.
Step 2: Grill Picanha Steaks
Sprinkle black pepper and your other favorite steak seasonings onto your picanha. Again, rub any seasonings into the fat cap. Slice the steak into strips along the grain that are about one-inch thick. Then, fold them into a C-shape and poke a skewer through them, placing two strips on each skewer.
Add skewers to the hottest part of the grill, and sear for 4-5 minutes until a crisp crust forms. Then, flip to the other side and sear for another 4-5 minutes.
Step 3: Check the Temperature and Doneness
Place the probe of a steak thermometer inside the thickest strip of picanha to check the temperature. The temperature should read between the “remove from heat” temperature range in the chart above for your desired doneness level. For example, falling between 125-130℉ will give you a medium-rare cook. If you’d like a higher level of doneness, continue cooking on a low-heat area of the grill for 2-5 minutes with the lid closed until they reach your desired temperature.
Step 4: Rest Steaks
Transfer picanha steaks to a clean plate tented with foil. Let them rest for five minutes to come to their final temperature before enjoying. If desired, top with butter sauce or chimichurri.
Grilled Picanha Steak
- 1 6-8oz picanha steak with fat cap intact
- olive oil
- Score the fat cap with a knife, making a crosshatch pattern. Season picanha steak with salt generously on both sides. Keep at room temperature for 45 minutes. Brush olive oil on the grill grates and preheat the grill to high (450-500 degrees on a gas grill) for about ten minutes before cooking
- Sprinkle pepper on picanha steak. Slice steak into one-inch-thick strips. Fold the strips into C shapes and thread them onto skewers (2-3 should fit on each skewer). Sear for 4-5 minutes on each side, flipping only once with tongs
- Check the temperature of the thickest piece of picanha with a digital thermometer to ensure doneness. If the steaks need more time, move them to a low-heat area of the grill, close the lid, and continue grilling for another 2-5 minutes
- Remove steaks from the grill and rest at room temperature on a foil-tented plate for 5-10 minutes before serving
Other Ways to Cook Picanha Steak
We love a delicious grilled picanha steak, but there are plenty of other ways to enjoy this premium cut of beef. Here are some of our favorites:
- Oven-baked picanha steak
- Reverse seared picanha steak
- Sous vide picanha steak
- Pan-seared picanha steak
- Picanha steak bites
Ready to start grilling steak at home? Browse Chicago Steak Company’s selection of premium wet-aged and dry-aged steaks, ready to ship to your door.