Have you ever tried picanha steak? This picanha steak recipe is a make-at-home version of a Brazilian specialty.
This tender and delicious version is a pan-seared picanha to develop a nice crust before being finished off in the oven.
So grab a picanha steak from your local meat market and join me in making a Brazilian favorite!
What is picanha steak?
The picanha steak is a cut popular in Brazil. If you’ve been to a Brazilian BBQ restaurant, you may have seen it grilled on long metal skewers.
The picanha is cut from the rump with a thick fat layer across the top. That fat layer will be important in the cooking process, so don’t trim it off!
You might find this cut in your supermarket labeled as a sirloin cap with a fat cap or a rump cap, but you may have to ask your local butcher.
We order beef from a local farm, so we ask for the picanha steak cut specifically.
What to serve with this picanha steak recipe
The traditional way of preparing picanha steak is with salt alone as the spice. This minimalist method brings out the beefy flavor of the meat to perfection.
We decided to honor that here and couldn’t be happier with the result.
To keep with the Brazilian theme, try a bean stew made with pinto or black beans. For a Brazilian bean flavor, choose a recipe with onions, garlic, chilies, and cumin, or adapt one you know and love.
A side of fresh salsa would also work well. Brazilian-style salsa is made with fresh diced vegetables — tomatoes, red peppers, bell peppers, onions — with finely chopped cilantro in an oil and vinegar dressing.
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How to cook a picanha steak
Assemble your ingredients
- a 3-pound picanha steak (approximately)
- coarse sea salt
Cut your meat into steaks
The picanha has a natural half-moon shape with a thick layer of fat on the top. Don’t cut it off! We are going to sizzle that in the pan to create our own cooking oil.
The picanha tapers off at each end. We are going to trim those skinny bits off so the steaks are all the same thickness for even cooking.
Place the meat flat on a cutting board and use a knife to square up the ends of the steak, trimming off those tapered ends. As you trim, keep your knife parallel to the grain.
Next, cutting with the grain, cut the picanha into one and a half inch thick steaks. I use two fingers to measure the thickness. You need them thick enough to stand on their fat side in the skillet when you start cooking them.
Salt the meat liberally using a coarse salt, and let the meat come to room temperature.
Sear the fatty edge first.
Preheat a cast iron skillet on high heat. When it’s nice and hot, you are going to sear those fat edges!
Place steaks in the pan standing on their fat edges, and sear until a nice crust forms — this takes about a minute. You won’t need any oil, as plenty will be created while searing the fat.
Use tongs to hold the fat side down on its end to keep the meat from tipping over. This can be a little tricky, as the fat will start to render, but keep the heat high, and a nice sear will develop.
As it sears, the fat will create some delicious beefy oil which we will use to sear the sides of our picanha.
Don’t overcrowd the meat. If necessary, use two skillets or cook half at a time.
Please note, this will create a lot of smoke, so run your hood vent and open the windows if possible!
Once the fatty edge is crispy, lay the steaks flat on their sides. Cook for another 2 minutes, flipping once.
Finish off in the oven.
Transfer the skillet of steaks to the center rack of the oven and bake for about 5 minutes. This really depends on how thick you cut your steaks. We cut them about an inch and a half thick for us, and they required right at 5 minutes in the oven.
Carefully remove the hot skillet using oven mitts. Use an instant meat thermometer to check for the desired doneness. Don’t overcook! The internal temperature will increase a few degrees while resting.
Finally, transfer the meat to a cutting board to rest.
Rest before cutting
With inch-and-a-half-thick steaks, you will want to let the steaks rest on the cutting board for about 7 minutes before you cut into them.
It’s best to cover with a foil tent during the resting process. The juices get distributed throughout the meat as it cools, giving the best flavor.
Slice against the grain
Once cooled, it’s ready to slice and serve. The grain of the picanha steaks runs lengthwise, so cut across the grain to get the most tender results.
Serve with spicy Brazilian-themed sides. Leftovers can be stored in a covered container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Pan-seared picanha finished off in the oven, is both tender and delicious.
When cutting the meat into steaks, make sure they are all the same thickness for even cooking.
The resting stage is an important part of the steak-cooking process if you want tender, juicy results.
Let me know how your picanha turns out! I love to hear about your results, as I’m always looking for ways to improve my recipes.
Looking for more beefy goodness? Try one of these next:
- Marinated bottom round steak
- Cast iron beef tri tip recipe with a peppercorn rub
- How to perfectly cook cast iron skirt steak fajitas
- Tender dutch oven round steak
- How to make a flat iron steak
Tender Picanha Steak
- 3- pound picanha steak
- 1 tablespoon of coarse sea salt
- Use a knife to square up the ends of the steak, then cut the picanha, with the grain,
into 1.5 in thick steaks. I use two fingers to measure the thickness.
- Sprinkle with salt and let the meat come to room temperature.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Preheat a cast iron skillet on high heat.
- Sear the fat side down first until a nice crust forms (about 1 minute). You won't need
any oil, as plenty will be created while searing the fat.
- Then, lay the steaks flat on their sides to cook for another 2 minutes, flipping
- Transfer to the center rack of the oven to bake for approximately 5 minutes before
carefully removing the hot skillet with oven mitts and transferring the meat to
a cutting board to rest.
- Use an instant meat thermometer to check for the desired doneness.