How to Pan Sear Picanha Steak

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Photo by Jun Seita licensed under CC BY 2.0

Picanha steak is cut from the top of the rump area, giving it an excellently blended texture with the right amount of chew and tenderness. The added fat cap covering the top of each picanha cut is an extra perk, adding more flavor and tenderizing the meat.

This cut may be best known in Brazil, but it’s becoming more popular here in the United States, especially for cooking on a grill. However, picanha steak can also be pan-seared to yield just as delicious results.


Remove picanha steak from the refrigerator and place it on a clean cutting board. If it’s already sliced, salt the separate steaks on each side. If it’s still in roast form, slice the roast into 1-1 ½-inch steaks first before salting. Leave the steaks at room temperature for 45 minutes. Then, preheat a skillet with a drizzle of oil over medium-high heat.

Cooking Time

Picanha steak cooked to medium-rare takes about 10-12 minutes to cook, followed by a 5-10-minute rest time. If you prefer to cook your steak past medium-rare, you’ll need another 5-15 minutes to finish it off in the oven.

Picanha Steak Pan Searing Tips

Below, we list a few tips to guide you as you learn how to pan sear picanha steak.

Slice Before Searing

If you bought a picanha roast, you’ll want to slice the roast into picanha steaks. Alternatively, ask your butcher to do this for you. Be sure to request each steak to be sliced so that they include part of the fat cap. The fat cap is what picanha is most known for. As the steak cooks, the fat renders down, giving the steak more flavor and juiciness, so it’s best to leave it in place.

Baste with Butter

Picanha soaks in butter well, and butter can boost the steak’s flavor when seared. After adding a drizzle of oil to the pan, add one tablespoon of butter. Let it melt completely as the picanha steaks sear. Flip the steaks over to the other side to sear, and spoon butter over the steaks a few times as they cook. The steaks will continue to soak up the butter in the pan, adding savory flavors.

Check the Temperature

The following temperature guide is helpful to follow as you sear picanha steak. Use a thermometer to check the steak after searing. It should read about five degrees below the temperature range for your desired doneness level. If not, turn the pan’s heat to low and continue cooking for a few more minutes until it does. After resting away from the heat, the steak will rise to the proper temperature range.

  • Medium-rare: 130°F-135°F
  • Medium: 140°F-145°F
  • Medium-well: 150°F-155°F
  • Well-done: 160°F-165°F

Choosing the Right Cut of Picanha Steak

The most important thing to look for when choosing picanha steak is its fat cap. You want that fat cap intact because it’s a crucial part of picanha’s cooking process. Look for a good portion of fat and meat with marbling — thin white strips of fat throughout the steak — and a rich, red color. You can choose either a picanha roast that you cut yourself or have your butcher slice the roast into steaks for you. 

Picanha Steak Pan Searing Instructions

Learn how to pan sear picanha steak by following the steps below.

Step 1: Preparation

Salt both sides of the picanha steak generously. Then, leave it at room temperature for 45 minutes. When the resting time is almost over, preheat a skillet over medium-high heat with a drizzle of oil in the pan. Also, preheat the oven to 425 degrees if you plan to cook to medium or above.

Step 2: Searing

Sear for 3-4 minutes on each side, flipping just once. Add one tablespoon of butter to the pan, basting the steak occasionally as it cooks. If cooking to medium-rare, turn the heat to low and continue cooking for another 1-2 minutes until the steak reaches 125-130 degrees. 

Step 3: Finishing in the Oven

If cooking to medium or above, transfer the steaks to a lightly greased baking sheet to finish cooking in the oven for 5-15 minutes. Use a thermometer to check that the temperature reaches 5 degrees below the final temperature range for your preferred doneness.

Step 4: Wrapping Up

Remove steaks from the heat and move them to a clean cutting board or plate tented loosely with foil. Rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. 

Picanha Steak Pan Searing FAQs

Should I pan sear the fat cap on picanha steak?

Yes, we recommend keeping the fat cap in place as you pan sear picanha steak. As the steak cooks, the fat renders down, adding more flavor and tenderness to the meat. You can always trim any remaining fat off after cooking if you prefer not to eat it.

How long does it take to cook picanha steak on the stove?

Picanha steak typically sears in 3-4 minutes on each side. Then, it takes another 5-15 minutes in the oven, depending on how well done you like your steak. 

What kind of pan should I use for picanha steak?

We recommend using a cast-iron skillet to cook picanha steak. These pans are oven-safe, so you can move the pan straight from the stove to the oven for convenient cooking. 

Should I slice picanha steak before searing it?

It’s best to slice picanha roast into steaks before searing it. This allows more of the steak to sear and helps it cook faster and more evenly.

Summing Up: How to Pan Sear Picanha Steak

Searing picanha steak is as straightforward as searing other thick cuts of steak, like ribeye. The most important part of the process is finding the right cut to start with. Remember to choose picanha with its fat cap attached, slicing it into 1-1 ½-inch steaks before searing. When you’re ready to learn how to pan sear other popular cuts, head to Steak University for all the details.