Every king has his queen. The same thing happens in the kingdom of beef.
People automatically give the rib-eye the crown “King of meats”. Then, do you wonder what is the queen, then? - Tenderloin, brisket,... Maybe
But I can tell, for Brazilians, this cut is the most popular and definitely the queen in their heart, Picanha (“pee-kahn-yah”). This is among the most flavorful beef steaks available.
If you bet it must be expensive, I have to gently deny. Despite the magnificent appeal of a picanha, it is such a reasonably inexpensive cut that you can simultaneously feed a large number of people and dazzle your guests without worrying about your wallet. Sadly, you generally won't find it anywhere, picanha is only accessible at any reputable butcher.
If you are reading this article, I have to insist that you do get one on your hands and mumble how lucky you are. Then, I’m about to introduce you to the queen and how to treat her beautifully.
1. What cut of meat is picanha?
To have the best start, let’s carry out a quick lesson about our picanha.
The beef cut known as picanha is obtained from the top of the rump, which is the cow's back end. Therefore, it is often referred to as a rump cover, rump cap, sirloin cap, or even a culotte steak.
Picanha has a triangular form and is encircled by a substantial amount of fat known as a fat cap. This cut retains its wonderful tenderness and juicy quality due to the fact that it is not an abused muscle. Thus, producing a fantastic flavor when cooked.
The reason for its uncommon appearance in American grocery shops is that it’s usually divided into smaller portions like loin or round steaks.
If you have an intention to buy a picanha, there are three things to take into your shopping note: the size, the fat composition, and excess liquid.
In general, cuttings that weigh between 1 kilogram and 1.5 kg are the best. Anything bigger is probably going to include bits of other wounds too, such as the tougher outer thigh area that runs below the rump.
The size of an excellent picanha is never too great. Additionally, a 1.5 cm fat cap is ideal, and there shouldn't be an excessive amount of liquid in the container.
2. How to preliminary prepare your picanha perfectly?
Got a cut of picanha on your hand? Let’s learn how to prepare this picanha for your steaks.
Firstly, prepare your mentality, since you are going to “destroy” a delectable, juicy, meaty piece of art.
Yet, we know it’s worth it. When correctly prepared, it has a flavor and texture that are similar to sirloin: it is lean, buttery, and delicious.
There is a tip for you: It will be simpler to slice if you place the fat side down.
And remember, always cut across the grain when slicing a full picanha into steaks. Cut the meat in the same direction as the fibers, in other words.
Adhere it to the deepest of your mind. Never slice against the grain.
The final cut of the steak, which will be sliced against the grain for optimal tenderness, is what actually matters once it has been cooked and rested (although this probably goes against every knowledge you know about cooking a steak).
3. How to cook picanha
You may grill it, roast it whole, or use a traditional barbecue rotisserie. They are all wonderful.
Just remember to bring the meat to room temperature and dry it with a paper towel before cooking it (just similar to you would a typical steak).
Then, trim any skin or membrane that is exposed on the bottom or sides (because they are flammable parts, which can be easily burnt and then destroy the flavor of your dishes).
About seasoning, it’s better not, because Picanha is a coveted cut of meat that generates a powerful meaty taste. But If you want a bold flavor, just a minimum amount of coarse salt truly works best.
If nothing about how to cook it ever occur to you, let’s me show you these techniques:
Simple restaurant-quality steaks at home
Place seasoned steaks over high heat in a heavy-bottomed frying pan, fat side down first to render, then sear on both sides. Reduce the temperature to medium and cook for 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium rare after a rich, golden crust has developed on both sides. That is for your kitchen.
Then, what if you’re going to have a barbecue and want to cook outside?
Make sure the outside grill is as clean and warm as possible before cooking on it.
(A Pro tip: To prevent burning yourself when wiping it, use tongs with a damp paper towel.)
Then rub a little piece of fat, or oil on the grill to prevent the steaks from sticking.
And don’t worry about overcooking. Just arrange your picanha steaks in a circle on the edges farthest from the intense heat.
The steaks should be cooked for 6 minutes with the hood closed, then flipped.
Bring the steaks to the middle of the grill and sear them on both sides after another 6 minutes.
(Another tip: It’s nice to have a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of your meat; medium rare is around 54°C/130°F.)
Whole roast method
First, set a cast iron pan over high heat and heat the oven to 180°C / 355°F.
Rub coarse salt into the fat cap after making a small cut in it. Without any additional oil, sauté the picanha with the fat side down.
Beef fat will keep dripping into the pan as it cooks. Render the fat until the outside is delightfully crispy. Drain off some of the fat and save the rest, which we use to baste the meat after turning it over.
Place the picanha in the oven, and bake it for 30 minutes, or until it reaches a temperature of 50°C (122°F) inside. After removing the steak from the oven, give it 10 to 15 minutes to rest. After it has rested, slice each steak against the grain before serving.
Indigenous Brazilian picanha steak
If you are tired of common steaks, how about trying something Latin? - The traditional Brazilian barbecues, or known as churrasco.
Picanha is cut, skewered, and cooked over a charcoal grill. Then, the meat is divided into three or four thick pieces, each of which is folded in half and impaled with a long metal skewer. Just imagine it to be a more gigantic version of Japanese yakitori.
The seasoned skewers are roasted for 15 to 20 minutes over a churrasqueira (charcoal stove), rotating them twice or three times to guarantee equal cooking, and then they are cut to order.
So, you are knowing all things about “The queen of the meat”, I assumed. Picanha has great flavor, texture, and presentation no matter how it is prepared. Your dinner guests will beg you for more of this very flavorful steak if you serve it with a vividly colored chimichurri sauce and a great glass of red wine. If you are having one in your kitchen, cook it now!