What Is Picanha?

If you are looking for a beef cut that offers a juicy flavor, the famous Brazilian picanha will impress you. In this post, we will include all essential details about picanha and what makes this cut so special.

What Is Picanha?

Picanha is a flavorful cut of beef that comes from the top of the rump. The cut is very popular in Brazil and other Latin American countries. In recent years, picanha has also become trendy in the US.

The word picanha (pronounced PEE-KAHN-YA) comes from Portuguese. English-speaking butchers most commonly know this cut of beef by the names rump cap and sirloin cap.

In specialty butcher stores, picanha is sold as a full roast or cut into individual steaks. The steak is triangular, surrounded by a thick fat layer called a fat cap.

raw picanha steak on wooden board
raw picanha steak

Picanha is very common in Brazil, where it is served as a barbecue with steak fries. Usually, picanha steaks are prepared on a skewer known as Churrasco de Picanha. It is a go-to dish in Brazilian steakhouses and restaurants where they serve fancy meals. If you want to try it, you can visit a local Brazilian restaurant or purchase it from a well-equipped butcher shop.

Local butcher shops break it down into smaller cuts, making them look like round pieces. Some say that butchers sacrifice the highly prized cut of fat during this process, which makes up for the tenderness and fantastic flavor.

Origins of Picanha

The term “picanha” is of unknown origin, which means it has many potential definitions. 

The first definition suggests that picanha may be derived from the word “picana,” which literally means a pole used by cattle ranchers in Portugal and Spain. The word was then imported to Brazil by gaúcho cowboys, who used this term to describe the cut popular under its current name; Picanha.

For two more exciting definitions of the term Picanha, check out this article: https://streetsmartbrazil.com/picanha-brazilian-brand-meat/

Other Names for Picanha Steak

In the United States, you can find picanha referred to as the sirloin cap or rump cap. It may also be known as top sirloin cap, culotte (french) or rump cover.

Most common names for picanha in US:

  • top sirloin cap,
  • sirloin cap,
  • rump cap,
  • rump cover,
  • coulotte or coutlotte.

Most common names for picanha in other countries:

  • Brasil: Picanha,
  • Spain: Picaña,
  • Panama: Punta de palomilla,
  • Colombia: Punta de Anca,
  • Puerto Rico: Punta Cadera.

What Part of The Cow is Picanha?

The picanha comes from the cow’s rear—more specifically, from the rump cap muscle. That is why many know picanha in the United States as the rump cap. The cut is easily recognizable by its triangular shape, a thick layer of fat called a fat cap and lean muscle meat with a deep red hue.

In this area from the cow, there aren’t many active muscles, meaning the meat is rich in marbling and fat. The fat layer makes picanha perfect for grilling, especially when seasoned with salt and pepper.

Is Picanha Tender?

Properly prepared picanha is a tender and juicy piece of meat. It has a flavor and texture similar to sirloin. The cut comes from the muscle area of the cow, which is not overused. As a result, the meat has a generous marbling and fat that gives it a delicious flavor.

What Does Picanha Steak Taste Like?

Many agree that picanha steak tastes like sirloin steak in that it is tender and juicy. When cooked right, it brings out a unique flavor that impresses everyone at the table. Compared with other beef cuts, picanha retains more tenderness, especially if you cook it on the grill.

Picanha Nutrition Facts

Compared with other steak cuts, picanha is higher in calories. For example, a 3-ounce cooked picanha steak contains approximately 206 calories and 12.8 g of total fat. The cut is rich in protein (22.1g), zinc (8.5 mg), potassium (307 mg), vitamin B-6 (0.337 mg), and vitamin B-12 (2.35 µg).

Source: USDA

NutritionPortion size: 3 oz = 85 g
Total Fat12.8 g
Protein22.1 g
Zinc8.5 mg
Potassium307 mg
Vitamin B-60.337 mg
Vitamin B-122.35 µg
Nutrition facts based on cooked 3-oz picanha steak

Where to Buy?

A good picanha is usually available at any reputable butcher. If your local butcher doesn’t have this cut, you can always order it online.

When buying picanha, you should always check the fat content, size, and excess liquid. Make sure that there is not too much liquid in the package. The fat cap should be at least 1.5 cm thick.

Smaller cuts are always better, so make sure to order around 1kg-1.5kg of picanha. The risk with large cuts is that they may contain small parts of other cuts. More precisely, this may include parts from the tougher outer thigh area.

How Much Does Picanha Cost?

Beef lovers pay an average of $10 to $30 per pound for picanha (regular grade).

For Wagyu Picanha, prices typically start at $40/lb and rise depending on the specific cut grade. For example, the price for Picanha A5 Miyazakigyu Japanese Wagyu can be as high as over $100/lb.

Last Thoughts on Picanha

What meat-eaters love most about picanha is how flavorful it is. It’s cheaper than other beef cuts, yet the taste is impressive.

For more information on any steak, don’t hesitate to check out our other articles, including the cuts category, which contains essential information on many cuts of beef.

Photo of author

Written by: Adam Wojtow

Adam is the founder of Steak Revolution. He loves sharing his knowledge of steaks with everyone, ensuring you get the perfect steak every time.