Picanha: Its Location, Other Names, Size, and Flavor Profile

Picanha is a versatile cut of beef. While Picanha is relatively popular as a steak in the US, not every store carries it. The best places to look for it are reputable local or online butcher stores. However, remember that picanha is available under many different names, but I will explore this topic further in the following paragraph.

What is Picanha?

Picanha is a triangular cut of beef from the top sirloin section of a cow. It’s a large and versatile cut of meat with a strong beefy flavor. It becomes tender and juicy when cooked properly, and its texture reminds one of a strip steak. Generally, Picanha is available as a whole roast that weighs several pounds or as an individual steak. While it holds a special place in the culinary hearts of Brazil and many Latin American countries, it’s also making quite a mark in the United States.

Whether you choose a roast or steak, this cut suits various cooking methods, from Churrasco-style cooking, pan-searing, and oven roasting to smoking and grilling.

raw picanha steak
One characteristic of picanha steak is the thick layer of fat called a fat cap

What is Picanha’s Term Origin?

The origin of the term ‘picanha’ is quite mysterious, with various possible explanations. One theory suggests that “picanha” comes from the word “picana”, originally used to describe a pole used by cattle ranchers in Portugal and Spain. Over time, this word traveled to Brazil, where the gaúcho cowboys started using it for the now-popular ‘picanha’ cut. If you’re curious about other interpretations of ‘picanha,’ check out this article.

How to Pronounce Picanha?

The correct pronunciation of picanha is PEE-KAHN-YAH.

raw coulotte steak

What Are the Other Names for Picanha?

Other names for picanha in the United States are top sirloin cap, rump cap, coulotte, sirloin cap, triangular steak, and coulotte steak. Out of these, picanha, coulotte, and top sirloin cap are the ones you’re most likely to come across in stores. For a lot of people, “picanha” just sticks in mind more than “coulotte” or “top sirloin cap.” That’s probably one reason why the name picanha has become so popular and well-loved here in the States. Anyway, please remember that all these different names point to the same delicious cut of beef. 

What Part of The Cow is Picanha?

Picanha comes from the cow’s rear, specifically from a part of the top sirloin butt subprimal in the sirloin primal area. You can spot this cut by its unique triangular shape and the thick layer of fat on top, which people call the fat cap.

Picanha location on cow

Picanha Nutrition Facts

Picanha Steak Nutrition facts per 100g (About 3,5 oz)

NamePortion size: 100g = About 3.5 oz
Total Fat13.4 g
Saturated Fat5.08 g
Protein19.7 g
Separable lean only, trimmed to 1/8″ fat, choice, raw Source.

Where to Buy Picanha?

Buying a good picanha is not difficult if you know where to look. Reputable butchers typically offer it as a whole roast or cut into individual steaks trimmed with a thick fat cap. You can always order online if your local butcher doesn’t have it in stock. Just a heads up: sometimes it’s labeled as top sirloin cap or coulotte steak – different names, but they’re all the same delicious cut.

When choosing your picanha, it’s best to go for a smaller size, ideally weighing around 2-2.5 lb. Why? Because larger cuts can sometimes contain parts of other muscles.

picanha roast
Picanha roast

What Are the Best Methods for Cooking Picanha?

Picanha stands out as one of the most versatile cuts of beef. In Brazil, this cut is usually the star of the grill, especially when cooked churrasco style. If you’ve never tasted it, you really should hit up a local Brazilian restaurant or steakhouse to get a feel for the traditional churrasco way of doing things. But picanha isn’t just about churrasco. You can pan-sear it like a regular steak or grill it using the reverse searing technique, much like you would with strip or ribeye steaks. And for those who prefer a different approach, picanha works wonderfully with sous vide cooking.

Is Picanha Tender or Tough?

Picanha, when cooked just right, is both tender and juicy. It has a rich, beefy flavor similar to a strip steak. But remember, since picanha is a pretty big cut of meat, how tender it is can change depending on where exactly the steak comes from within that cut.

What Does Picanha Taste Like?

Picanha has a rich, beefy taste, much like a strip steak. When cooked right, this cut is very juicy. I recommend cooking picanha to medium rare to achieve the best balance of tenderness, juiciness, and flavor.

What is The Picanha Average Weight?

On average, a whole picanha weighs between 2 and 3 pounds. From such a cut, you can expect to get around 5 to 8 steaks, each varying in size and with thicknesses ranging from 1 to 1.5 inches.

Five 1.5-inch thick Coulotte steaks
Five 1.5-inch thick Coulotte steaks

Is Picanha Expensive? 

Picanha isn’t one of the more expensive cuts. But it’s no longer as cheap as it used to be because of its growing popularity recently. Prices can vary based on location, but picanha is usually less expensive than premium cuts like the new york strip or ribeye.

Discover Other Steak Cuts

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Written by: Adam Wojtow

Adam Wojtow is a Polish entrepreneur and writer who founded Steak Revolution in 2020 because of his passion for steaks. Adam has been cooking steaks for over five years and knows a lot about them, including the different types of steak cuts, how long to cook them, and the best ways to cook any steak.

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