Skip to main content

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

Ingredients:

  • 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

Method:

  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.

Farofa

Ingredients:

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

Method:

  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.

Seasoning

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.

Editors' Recommendations

Hunter Lu
Hunter Lu is a New York-based food and features writer, editor, and NYU graduate. His fiction has appeared in The Line…
How to cook with rosé wine, according to chefs
A guide to cooking with rosé wine
rose wine cooking recipe kitchen

Wine plays an integral role in many different international cuisines, both as an accompaniment to a meal and as a crucial recipe ingredient. It’s easy to find dishes that incorporate white wine or red wine ... but rosé, the blush vino that’s experienced a major popularity renaissance in recent years, tends to get the short shrift from a culinary standpoint. So that leaves the question, can you cook with rosé wine? The answer is yes, according to our expert sources, rosé has just as much relevance as a cooking wine as its red and white counterparts. But for any skeptics about cooking with wine out there, we’ve got 4 solid reasons to try cooking with rosé, along with rosé-centric recipes.

Reasons to cook with rosé
Rosé provides remarkable versatility when used for cooking
In terms of weight, texture, and -- in many cases -- flavor, rosé often seems to have more in common with white wine than with red wine. However, because rosé is made from red grapes (rather than a mixture of red and white wines, as many folks mistakenly believe), it can substitute for either type of vino during the cooking process, as long as the person in the kitchen knows what they’re doing.

Read more
How to make apple-infused bourbon
Apple-infused bourbon recipe
Applie bourbon

If you’re a bourbon fan and have never infused it with other flavors, what are you waiting for? A whole world of whiskey flavor combinations is just waiting to be discovered. Peaches, berries, raisins, and apples are all great flavors to infuse your favorite whiskey with (or enhance a lesser whiskey).

There are a few reasons why infusing your whiskey is a great idea. When bourbon is distilled, it’s clear and similar to moonshine. It’s not until it’s aged that it gets the caramel, vanilla, oak, and spice flavors from the charred oak. When you add fruit and other ingredients to bourbon, a similar process takes place. That’s why infusing your favorite bourbon gives it bold, delicious, complex flavors and aromas.

Read more
Yes, bourbon can be aged too long – here’s how to pick the best-aged bourbon
Why bourbon over 15 years old might be too old
Whiskey in a glass

We all know the general bourbon rules and regulations. To be called a bourbon, it must be made with a mash bill of at least 51% corn, aged in new charred oak barrels, made in the US (not just Kentucky), distilled to a maximum of 160-proof, barreled, at a maximum of 125-proof, and bottled at a minimum of 80-proof and a maximum of 150-proof. But none of these rules explain how long a bourbon must be aged.

Technically, there are no rules about how long a bourbon must be aged. However, the whiskey must mature for at least two years to be called a straight bourbon. On top of that, bottled-in-bond bourbon spent at least four years aging in a federally bonded warehouse.

Read more