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Secrets revealed: Chef shares his best tips for cooking a picanha steak

An expert's guide to cooking picanha steak.

Brazilian picanha on plate with sides.
The Picanha Feast at Berimbau Brazilian Kitchen. Berimbau Brazilian Kitchen

If you’ve had the pleasure of dining at a Brazilian steakhouse, one of the best beef cuts you’ll taste is the amazing picanha steak. The most popular cut in Brazil, this steak is a perfect combination of juicy, lean beef encased in a natural fat cap that bastes the meat while it grills. Simply put, this steak is a must-have for many Brazilian social gatherings.

At Berimbu Brazilian Kitchen, Executive Chef Victor Vasconcello is showcasing the festive nature of Brazilian-style picanha by introducing the Picanha Feast. A communal shared platter, the feast comes with not only enough picanha and sides for 2-3 diners, but it also features classic Brazilian BBQ condiments like farofa (toasted yuca flour) and an acidic vinaigrette.

“Brazilian picanha is more than just a cut of beef; it’s deeply rooted in Brazilian culture,” said Vasconcello. “It’s a symbol of Brazilian barbecue traditions and a source of national pride.”

Sliced picanha steak on plate.
The sliced picanha at Berimbau. Berimbau Brazilian Kitchen

Brazilian steak vinaigrette


  • 1 pound heirloom tomatoes
  • 1/4 pound white onion
  • 1/8 pound red and yellow bell pepper
  • 2 ounces rice vinegar
  • 1 ounce olive oil
  • Salt (as you like)
  • Pepper (as you like)
  • A pinch of basil, chives, and scallion


  1. Cut the tomatoes into slices. Small dice the bell peppers and white onion. Slice the herbs very thin.
  2. Combine everything and season with salt and pepper. Let it rest for at least 10 min and serve.



  • 8 ounces sliced bacon
  • 1 pound yuca flour
  • 16 ounces olive oil
  • Salt (as you like)


  1. Toast the bacon with olive oil on medium heat until it gets nice and crispy.
  2. Add the yuca flour and toast until crispy.
  3. Add salt to taste.
Hand slicing picanha steak on cutting board.
The Berimbau picanha being sliced tableside. Every Picanha for the Picanha feast is hand sliced tableside. Berimbau Brazilian Kitchen

Picanha tips and tricks

Cooking and how to render the fat

One of the keys to preparing a picanha correctly is rendering the fat cap. The last thing you want is partially raw, rubbery fat. To achieve that crispy and melty butteriness, Vasconcello advises slowly roasting the steak fat cap down at a low temperature for 25 minutes in a cast iron pan. Then, take out the meat and rest for at least 15 minutes before blasting the steak again at a higher temperature for a golden crust. Vasconcello also likes to cook a whole picanha roast (around 38 ounces).

However, if you’re worried about too much fat, Vasconcello suggests removing the fat cap or trimming it down. But in our opinion, removing the fat cap negates one of the best things about the picanha. So you’re worried about fat, there are plenty of other cuts of beef to choose from.


For seasoning the beef, ideally, you’ll want to use sal grosso rock sea salt. This extremely coarse salt provides a great crunch to the beef that’s wholly distinctive. Finally, to enjoy the farofa and vinaigrette, spoon a bit of each atop your picanha slice. The acidic vinaigrette is perfect for cutting through the beefy richness, and the smoky farofa provides an interesting grain-like texture to the beef.

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Hunter Lu
Hunter Lu is a New York-based food and features writer, editor, and NYU graduate. His fiction has appeared in The Line…
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