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What is Picanha?

What is Picanha?

Picanha, Coulotte, Sirloin Cap-- The steak so nice they named it thrice! Whichever name you choose to use, the results are always delicious. Picanha hails from the outermost muscle of the sirloin primal-- Essentially the very top of the hind leg closest to the spine. Technically speaking, the picanha is the M. biceps femoris, the same muscle that the bottom round comes from, but the picanha is much more tender. 


In Brazil the picanha is the king of the churrascaria. Prepared by skewering thick strips (2’’ wide or so) of meat with a large metal skewer, seasoning liberally with extremely coarse salt, then grilling over very high heat until charred on the exterior and medium rare/medium in the center. Traditionally, the meat is sliced from the skewer for serving. Side Note: True Picanha always has the fat cap on. Sometimes processing conditions don’t allow us to keep the fat cap on; use these cuts for coulotte steaks.


The french version, coulotte, is best prepared as a larger roast but can be cooked as a steak as well. I prefer to score the fat, season the roast with salt and pepper, then place the fat side down into a lightly oiled skillet over medium heat until the fat has begun to render. As fat begins to accumulate in the pan, tip the skillet and baste the picanha continuously until a delicious golden crust has formed on the fat side.If you want to spice up your coulotte a bit, feel free to throw a  clove of gently crushed garlic, extra butter and a handful of your favorite herbs into the fat while you baste. Flip the roast over and place into a 325 degree oven the meat reaches an internal temperature of 120-130 degrees depending on your tastes. Always rest your meat after you remove it from the heat source-- 10-12 minutes in this case. Slice thin, and enjoy! 


While the picanha/coulotte typically has a nice fat cap, keep in mind that it is still a sirloin cut and is quite lean. I would recommend that you do not cook this beyond medium or you risk drying out the meat. If you prefer a rare steak, cook until an internal temperature of 120, 125 for medium rare, and 130 for medium.