How to Sous Vide Picanha Steak

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Photo by Wesley Fryer licensed under CC BY 2.0

Picanha steak is unique in that it has a layer of fat, known as a fat cap, on its outer side. Although many cuts get the fat trimmed off, this cut of steak is known for it. Therefore, we leave it intact and work with it while cooking, allowing the fat to render down to create a juicy, flavorful steak.


Picanha steak usually gets cooked on the grill, especially in its traditional Brazilian culture. However, sous vide picanha works, and we’re going to show you exactly how to sous vide picanha steak at home in this step-by-step guide. 

Preparation for Sous Vide Picanha Steak

To sous vide picanha steak, you’ll need a water bath, sous vide bags, seasonings, and a skillet for searing. 

Prepare the water bath based on the temperature chart below, setting the temperature to the cook temperature for your preferred doneness. To prepare the steak, trim some of the fat cap off, down to about a ¼-½ inch thick. Then, season generously with salt and pepper. Add steaks to the sous vide bags and seal, removing as much air as possible.

Cooking Time

Sous vide picanha takes about 2-3 hours with preparation and resting time. However, you can leave the steak in the water bath for up to 4 hours if you prefer. 

Final Temperature

The chart below lists the cooking temperature and final temperature ranges for each level of steak doneness to help you gauge the cook on your sous vide picanha steak. 

Steak DonenessCook TemperatureFinal Temperature
Medium-rare130°F130°F-135°F
Medium140°F140°F-145°F
Medium-well150°F150°F-155°F
Well-done160°F160°F-165°F

Cooking to Medium Rare

Set a water bath to 130 degrees to cook picanha steak using the sous vide method to medium-rare. Cook in the water bath for 2-4 hours. When finished, remove steaks from the bags and sear them in a cast-iron skillet for a few minutes on each side, starting with the fat-cap side. Rest for 5-10 minutes on a foil-tented plate. Use a thermometer to ensure that the steaks reach 130°F-135°F. 

Picanha Steak Sous Vide Tips

Use the following tips to get the best results for sous vide picanha steak.

Sear the Fat Side First

You know the fat cap we mentioned that sits on one side of picanha steak? Be sure to sear that side first after you sous vide the steak. Place steaks fat-side down and sear until the fat cap renders down, usually 5-6 minutes. This adds flavor and juiciness to the steak.

Top with Chimichurri

Picanha steak is often served with chimichurri, which is a blend of parsley, vinegar, and other herbs and spices. It adds extra flavor to picanha steak and incorporates tradition into your dish. Try our easy chimichurri recipe.

Use a Thermometer for Accuracy

Although sous vide is known for its accurate cooking temperatures, it’s still a good idea to double-check that your steak is the right temperature for your desired doneness. Use a thermometer to check the temperature after using the sous vide method. Then, check it again after searing using the temperature chart above to find the correct range. 

Choosing the Right Cut

There’s no more important feature to look for in picanha steak than a fat cap. The fat cap is left intact on picanha to boost its flavor while it cooks. Once that fat begins to cook down, its flavor runs into the meat to add flavor and a little tenderization. Look for a cut that has a fat cap running along its length for best results.

Also, choose quality steak. Look for picanha steak marked with Premium Angus, USDA Prime, or Wagyu labels. Aging is also important, as the process leads to better quality steak overall. Choose wet-aged or dry-aged picanha steak for meat that’s aged over several weeks to improve its flavor and texture.

Sous Vide Picanha Steak Instructions

Follow along with these steps to learn how to sous vide picanha steak. 

Step 1: Prepare to Sous Vide

Set the water bath to 130 degrees for medium-rare, or use the chart above to find the right temperature for your liking. Then, trim the fat cap down a bit, leaving about a ¼-½ inch on the steak. The fat won’t render down while you cook it sous vide, so this helps it do so during the searing process. Season generously with salt and pepper on both sides before putting the steak in a sous vide bag and sealing. 

Step 2: Cook with Sous Vide

Use tongs to transfer the bag to the water bath, carefully lowering it into the water to avoid splashing. Cook for 2 hours or a maximum of 4 hours.

Step 3: Sear and Rest

Remove steak from the bag and let it rest. Meanwhile, heat a skillet with a drizzle of oil. Pat the steak dry before transferring it to the skillet. Add steak fat-side down to sear that side first for about 5-6 minutes. You should notice the fat shrinking a bit. Now, flip to the other side and sear for another 3-4 minutes until golden brown. Move steak to a plate, tent it with foil, and rest for 5-10 minutes.

Sous Vide Picanha Steak Recipe

Serves: 2

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 2 ½ hours

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 1 ½ pounds of picanha steak
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Set a sous vide water bath to 130 degrees. Trim the fat cap down to about a ¼-½ inch thickness. Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of the steak. Add to sous vide bag.
  2. Submerge the bag in the water. Cook for 2 hours or up to 4 hours, maximum.
  3. Remove steak from the bag and transfer it to a clean plate. Preheat a skillet with olive oil over medium-high heat. Pat steak dry. Sear on the fat-cap side first for about 5-6 minutes until fat renders down. Then, flip to the other side and sear for 3-4 minutes. Rest for 5-10 minutes on a foil-tented plate. 

Sous Vide FAQ’s

How do I sous vide picanha steak to medium-rare?

Set the water bath to 130 degrees for a medium-rare picanha steak, and sous vide for a maximum of four hours. Then, sear on each side. 

Should I cook picanha steak sous vide vs. on the grill?

While picanha steak is traditionally cooked on the grill, you can also cook it sous vide if you prefer a more even cook and hands-free cooking method. Cooking sous vide allows you to let picanha steak cook without monitoring it, similar to slow cooking.  

How should you sear picanha after sous vide?

After removing picanha steaks from their sous vide bags, allow them to rest for a couple of minutes. Preheat a skillet with a drizzle of oil. Pat the steaks dry before transferring them to the skillet. Then, sear on each side, searing the fat-cap side first. 

How long should you sous vide picanha?

You can sous vide picanha steak for up to four hours. However, we recommend between 2-3 hours if you like a little more chew on your steak.

sous vide picanha steak

Sous Vide Picanha Steak

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 2 hrs 30 mins
Course Main Course
Servings 2 people

Ingredients
  

  • 1-1.5 lbs picanha steak
  • salt
  • pepper
  • olive oil

Instructions
 

  • Set a sous vide water bath to 130 degrees. Trim the fat cap down to about a ¼-½ inch thickness. Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of the steak. Add to sous vide bag
  • Submerge the bag in the water. Cook for 2 hours or up to 4 hours, maximum
  • Remove steak from the bag and transfer it to a clean plate. Preheat a skillet with olive oil over medium-high heat. Pat steak dry. Sear on the fat-cap side first for about 5-6 minutes until fat renders down. Then, flip to the other side and sear for 3-4 minutes. Rest for 5-10 minutes on a foil-tented plate