the best Churrascaria-Style Picanha recipe

Churrascaria-Style Picanha

5/5 (1)
Vadim Rachok
27.12.2023
29.12.2023
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9 / 10
Health score
Dairy FreeEgg free dishGluten free dishLow Carb DishNut Free DishPaleo Dish

WHAT IS PICANHA STEAK?

A picanha steak comes from the rump cap, which is a triangular muscle that sits atop the sirloin.

Embark on a flavorful journey with Churrascaria-Style Picanha, a dish that transcends the boundaries of taste and tradition. Originating from the rich grilling culture of Brazil, this Picanha steak showcases the perfect harmony of marbling, tenderness, and a generous fat band that elevates it to a sublime culinary experience. Grilled over lump charcoals, the smoky aroma and sizzling sound make each bite an authentic churrasco delight.Embark on a flavorful journey with Churrascaria-Style Picanha, a dish that transcends the boundaries of taste and tradition. Originating from the rich grilling culture of Brazil, this Picanha steak showcases the perfect harmony of marbling, tenderness, and a generous fat band that elevates it to a sublime culinary experience. Grilled over lump charcoals, the smoky aroma and sizzling sound make each bite an authentic churrasco delight.

ABOUT THIS GRILLED PICANHA STEAK RECIPE (CHURRASCO STEAK)

The cut of beef is known as picanha in Portuguese. It is traditionally cooked skewered over charcoals.

This is why the Brazilian churrasco steak, known as grilled picanha, is so popular. The meat has excellent marbling and a generous fat band which makes it tender and juicy. The thick layer of fat slowly melts during cooking, adding to the rich beefy flavor.

The only thing this picanha recipe needs, in addition to the notes imparted during grilling, is some salt, making it as authentic as it gets.

Churrascaria-Style Picanha step by step recipe

WHAT IS CHURRASCO?

Churrasco is a Portuguese term used to refer to barbecue. In Brazil, it specifically pertains to skewered meat that is spit-roasted over hot embers or near an open fire. The cooked meat is then directly cut from the skewers and shared among people. This grilling method traces its origins back to the late 1800s with the gauchos of Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost state of Brazil. As many of them migrated northward, the churrasco tradition spread throughout the country, and eventually, barbecue restaurants known as churrascarias opened up everywhere.

Traditional Brazilian churrascarias do not typically use grill grates. Instead, they place long, sturdy skewers with comfortable handles on specially designed frames above hot embers. The skewers are rotated, cooking the meat evenly and infusing it with the aroma of smoke created by the dripping fat as it hits the hot coals.

In a Brazilian steakhouse, modern rodizio grills are equipped with an automated skewer rotation system to make it easier to cook churrasco.

WHAT SEASONING TO USE?

Picanha, a cut of beef popular in Brazil, is typically seasoned with coarse sea salt called sal grosso.

A good alternative to table salt in the US is kosher salt. Since a generous application of salt is customary, we suggest using the Diamond Crystal brand. It is the least salty of all flaky salts commonly available in supermarkets, so you can use it generously in this picanha steak recipe.

A tradition of the gauchos is to hit two cooked skewers of churrasco against each other before slicing the meat, causing some salt to fall.

HOW TO COOK PICANHA STEAK

The most authentic and delicious way to cook a Brazilian picanha steak is by using lump charcoals over high heat, just like the gauchos and modern churrascarias do. If you use a gas grill, stove-top skillet, or oven broiler, the taste will not be the same.

Here are a few important tips:

  1. Skewer the steak against the grain so it’s more tender to slice later.
  2. The charcoal should be burnt completely until no black fumes are visible, and the embers should be glowing with white ash covering them.
  3. To cook your food properly, position the skewers approximately 10 to 12 inches above the hot embers.
  4. For the best picanha, keep the grill lid open and use open-flame grilling.
  5. Cook until the fat bubbles and both meat and fat turn brown.

Churrascaria-Style Picanha

STEP-BY-STEP HOW TO GRILL PICANHA IN TRUE CHURRASCO STEAK STYLE

There are three different ways to fire-roast picanha steaks.

1. Traditional churrasco skewers. For the most authentic churrasco method, remove the grill grates and suspend the skewers end-to-end over the charcoals using long skewers.

2. Elevated solution. To grill meat properly, it is important to keep it above the grill grate and at a safe distance from the charcoals. You can use a grilling tool or aid to elevate the meat, like the ones shown in the picture collage above. If your grill has an adjustable charcoal bed, make sure to lower it enough to create a distance of 10-12 inches between the picanha and the charcoals. This will help to cook the meat evenly and prevent it from burning.

3. Directly onto the grate. One untraditional way to cook skewered picanha is by grilling it over indirect heat and then finishing it over direct heat. To do this, begin by placing the skewered steaks on a well-greased grate, away from the hot embers. Turn the skewers frequently, until the internal temperature reaches about 120°F. Once the temperature is reached, move the skewers over the direct heat to finish the cooking process.

How to make Churrascaria-Style Picanha

WHAT TEMPERATURE TO COOK PICANHA STEAK TO?

Picanha tastes best when cooked medium-rare to medium. The corresponding steak doneness temperatures are 130-135 F to 145 F. But taking temperature is not common for picanha, so set your meat thermometer aside.

In South Brazil, cowboys invented a technique of fire-roasting skewered picanha. They closely monitor the meat and regularly turn the skewers to ensure that all sides are evenly exposed to the heat. Once the external fat cap turns golden brown, the skewered steaks are removed from the churrasco. The cowboys then carve thin slices from both sides and sprinkle salt on them. After that, the remaining beef is placed back over the embers to continue cooking.

WHAT TO SERVE WITH GRILLED PICANHA CHURRASCO STEAK

For a classic Brazilian fire-roasted top sirloin cap steak meal, serve with a green salad lightly dressed with oil and vinegar, potato salad, yucca fries, cheese bread, and freshly baked bread rolls. Add molho campeiro for a flavor boost.

Before beginning to actively charcoal grill, prepare the side dishes. This way, when the steak is ready for its first carving, the sides will already be prepared. Then, continue cooking and carving and enjoy the shared experience of churrasco.

This is almost a benchmark meat dish for healthy eating. It not only provides the body with a good dose of quality protein but also serves as a remedy for anemia. Thanks to the marinade containing vitamin C, it enhances the absorption of iron from the meat. Bake some light potatoes or vegetables as a light side dish for Churrascaria-Style Picanha, and voilà - a wonderful healthy lunch is ready!

Jenny Dobrynina
Jenny Dobrynina
Nutrition Editor
Health score:
9 / 10
Churrascaria-Style Picanha
5/5 (1)
Author:Vadim Rachok
Learn how to prepare mouth-watering picanha steak using the traditional Brazilian churrasco method.
the best Churrascaria-Style Picanha recipe
Prep Time:
15 mins
Cook Time:
15 mins
Additional Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
1 hr
Servings:
5
Yield:
5 to 3 ounce portions
The ingredients you need
3 cloves garlic cloves, crushed, or more to taste
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
1 pound beef top sirloin, trimmed of excess fat
¼ cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil, or as needed
Let’s start !
1

1 To prepare garlic paste, mix crushed garlic and salt in a bowl until they are well combined.

2

2 Rub garlic paste onto meat until it is covered. Then place the meat into a bowl and cover it with lemon juice. Let it marinate for 30 minutes to 4 hours, until the meat has absorbed the desired flavor. Finally, remove the meat from the lemon juice and baste it with olive oil.

3

3 To prepare for grilling, preheat an outdoor grill to high heat and lightly oil the grate.

4

4 To cook meat on a grill, preheat it first. Then, grill the meat by turning it frequently until the outer edges are charred and the center is uncooked. This should take about 5 minutes. Next, remove the meat from the heat and slice off the charred edges by cutting against the grain. After that, return the uncooked center portion of the meat back to the grill. Cook it until the meat begins to firm up and is hot and slightly pink in the center. This should take about 5 minutes per side. Finally, use an instant-read thermometer to check if the center of the meat has reached a temperature of 140 degrees F (60 degrees C).

Nutrition Information
Servings Per Recipe: 5
Calories: 143
% Daily Value *
 % Daily Value *
Total Fat 8g10%
Saturated Fat 2g12%
Cholesterol 39mg13%
Sodium 417mg18%
Total Carbohydrate 2g1%
Dietary Fiber 0g0%
Total Sugars 0g 
Protein 16g 
Vitamin C 6mg31%
Calcium 16mg1%
Iron 1mg6%
Potassium 220mg5%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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Embark on a flavorful journey with Churrascaria-Style Picanha, a dish that transcends the boundaries of taste and tradition. Originating from the rich grilling culture of Brazil, this Picanha steak showcases the perfect harmony of marbling, tenderness, and a generous fat band that elevates it to a sublime culinary experience. Grilled over lump charcoals, the smoky aroma and sizzling sound make each bite an authentic churrasco delight.

Vadim Rachok
Vadim Rachok
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