Delicious smoked picanha for a taste of Brazilian BBQ! Smoke this beef sirloin top cap cooked with the iconic fat cap left on, before serving with refreshing chimichurri.
If you’re looking to impress your guests with a unique BBQ experience, the best place to start is with this smoked picanha recipe. It’s a Brazilian classic that’s not commonly found in the U.S., though once you try it you will certainly see why it is so popular.
Picanha, or culotte, is the sirloin top cap that comes from the cap muscle. It is typically procured with a multi-centimeter layer of fat known as the fat cap. As the picanha cooks, that thick layer of fat melts around the meat, adding a mouthwatering flavor and softening its texture.
Keep reading to learn the ins and outs of a South American classic, plus, how to pair it with a refreshing chimichurri sauce.
Picanha is a cut of meat most commonly found in Brazil, where it is grilled over an open fire over a spit, also known as Brazilian churrasco.
In North America, this cut is more commonly divided up between the loin and round steaks. However, if you are able to procure one from your local butcher, you will understand why it is a Brazilian favorite.
One of the reasons picanha is sought after is that the thick fat cap renders as it’s cooked low and slow, infusing the meat fibers with added flavor. Not only this, but the muscle fibers within the meat itself loosen, helping turn picanha into a beautifully tender beef cut.
While the tradition is often to grill picanha steak, the sirloin cap cooks just as beautifully when we go low and slow on the smoker.
Smoking is not common in Brazil, but it is nonetheless an excellent cooking method that will accentuate the earthy flavor while imparting a not-so-subtle smoke flavor you and your guests will love.
Times & Temperatures
Each smoker is different, so always be sure to refer to the manual for specific smoking instructions. That being said, there are some good rules of thumb when it comes to timing and temperatures.
The length of smoking time generally depends on the type of meat, its thickness, and your preferred level of doneness. For picanha, medium rare is achieved at 130°F, which typically takes 1 hour per pound at 250°F.
How Long Should You Let Picanha Rest?
With your picanha just shy of target internal temperature, pull it from the smoker and transfer to a chopping board to allow it to rest. While you might want to tear into the meat, meat resting is an integral step in meat cooking that allows the meat to maintain its structure and lock in all its precious juices.
Plan on removing the picanha from your smoker when it is still a couple of degrees below your preferred level of doneness.
The reason is because of carryover cooking, which is what happens when the heat generated during the cooking process continues to slightly cook the meat after it is removed from the smoker. This process can lead to accidental overcooking.
Timewise, you will want your picanha to rest just long enough to solidify these juices without getting cold. Around 10 minutes usually does the trick.
As mentioned above, picanha is wildly popular in Brazil, which typically serves this meat medium rare with sides of either black beans, rice, or potato salad, to name a few.
It never hurts to include a sauce to top your picanha, such as chimichurri. Chimichurri is an Argentinian green sauce composed of parsley, garlic, olive oil, and spices. The fresh herbaceous quality of this sauce makes it the perfect accompaniment to your smoked picanha.
When slicing, you will want to slice against the grain and consider removing the remaining fat cap before serving.
- If the fat cap is especially thick, trim it off so only ¼-½ inch remains, as this will guarantee all of the fat melts off the meat in the smoker.
- Place the picanha in the smoker with the fat cap facing down so that the bark can develop all over the meat
- Score the fat cap deeply enough to penetrate the silver skin, as this will allow the fat to melt deeply into the meat.