Grilled Picanha Steak cooked hot and fast with a flavorful chimichurri sauce. This Picanha Recipe is inspired by South American grilling, flavor, and technique, and is an awesome way to have an inspired backyard cookout.
What is Picanha? This amazing steak comes from the cow and is part of the sirloin primal. Also known as Coulotte.
The traditional way to cook Picanha is inspired from Brazil. Typically it is grilled over coals with a rotisserie on large skewers, and when done the meat is shaved from the skewer directly onto the plate. Our friend Christie from Girls Can Grill has an awesome round up of the cut as well with a lot more details on the traditional way of preparing and cooking it.
Inspired by the flavors of South America, we also slice up the Picanha and add to a large skewer in our version. We grill it hot and fast over direct heat and then finish over indirect heat until we get to our desired internal temperature.
Simply slice it off the skewer and add a dollop of Chimichurri Sauce to finish it off.
When purchasing Picanha, it’s important to know other names it may be called. In a butcher case it may be called Coulotte, or Top Sirloin Roast. The important thing to know when buying for this Picanha recipe is to buy the entire roast. The top will have a very distinct fat cap and they typically run 3.5 – 5 pounds. It will be somewhat triangular in shape when looking at it from a birds eye view and will taper on each end.
If you can’t find it locally as a roast it is also available online to be shipped directly to your house. Snake River Farms American Wagyu Coulotte (or Culotte) is amazing with an incredibly buttery flavor and and is super tender.
Preparing Picanha Skewers
There are a few steps when making this recipe that will return amazing results.
- Trim fat. Starting with the fat cap side, carefully remove excess fatty layers so the fat cap is about ¼ inch thick. Then flip the roast over and remove any silver skin or pockets of fat that are on the underside of the roast. This is a great boning knife from Dalstrong for doing any butcher work.
- Score the fat cap. Make X marks across the fat cap. This will not only allow the rub to get into the fat layer, it also helps when grilling the skewers as the fat renders and falls into the fire.
- Slice into steaks. This part is important because the slices should be about 2 inches thick and each slice should be even. It’s important to have already trimmed and scored the steak at this point. Likely you will get five steaks from one roast.
- Skewer. Fold the individual steak in half, with the fat cap facing out. Then slowly skewer so the Picanha Steak is shaped like a U and the skewer has gone through both folds. Having large thick gauge skewers helps. Place two to three of the steak cuts per skewer trying to keep the similar sizes on each skewer. The end cuts will be smaller and we typically make sure the smaller cuts are on a separate skewer as they will cook through first.
We always focus on the best quality meat we can find. Starting with high quality beef leads to amazing flavor. In this case we are simply adding our SPG beef rub. Salty and peppery with a little hint of garlic allows the beefy flavor to shine with just the right amount of savory note. We also are finishing with a chimichurri sauce which will also add a dimension of flavor.
Coat the skewers with extra virgin olive oil and the SPG beef rub and they are ready to go. This is a perfect time to start the grill and make the Chimichurri Sauce as the grill comes to temp.
How to Grill Picanha
There are two steps to grilling a Picanha: Direct and Indirect. First, preheat the grill and make sure it’s hot (like 500 – 550 degrees Fahrenheit over the direct heat). Lump Charcoal works great for this.
- Start with Direct Heat. Place the skewers over direct heat and close the lid. The fat on the fat cap will start to drip on the fire. That is to be expected. By closing the lid, the oxygen level is lower and the flare ups will be smaller. The flare ups (or flame from the rendering fat) will give the steaks a nice crust and grilled flavor. So avoid keeping the grill cover open because the flames will go from sear to burned very quickly with it open. After about 4 minutes flip the skewer, close the lid, and grill the other side over direct heat. Same principle, it’s about getting a nice balance of flame and the heat to sear the outside of the Picanha Steaks. You can go longer if you want, the key is moving to indirect when you like the color and crust on either side. (See this post if you are unclear on how to prepare a grill for Direct/Indirect cooking)
- Move to Indirect Heat. After four minutes (or your desired sear), move the Picanha to the indirect side and close the lid again. The smaller of the cuts should be furthest away from the fire. Continue grilling on indirect until the internal temperature of the skewers reaches 125 degrees F for rare, or your desired finishing temperature using a high quality instant read thermometer like the Thermoworks MK4 Thermapen. It is highly likely the smaller of the two skewers will be done first, so remove them at separate times as they come to the desired internal temperature.
- Let them rest. At this point the steaks are done and still on the skewer. After 10 minutes it’s time to start slicing.
Our Beef Temperature Ranges
- Rare: 120-130 degrees F
- Medium Rare: 130-140 degrees F
- Medium: 140-150 degrees F
- Medium Well: 150-160 degrees F
- Well Done: 160 degrees F (and not recommended)
The most dramatic way to slice Picanha Steak is right off the skewers. Simply hold one end of the skewer with one hand, place the bottom of the skewer over a wooden cutting board and then make thin slices directly to the cutting board table side. You will look like a pitmaster hero.
Have your guests then take their own portions and then they can top it with the chimichurri.
Chef’s Tip: To prevent the cutting board from moving while you are slicing (trust me it’s annoying), place a kitchen towel under it. That will provide some friction and prevent it from moving all over while slicing the meat off the skewer.
Serve with our Chimichurri Sauce or your favorite style of salsa verde.
Can You Grill Picanha on a Pellet Grill?
If you have a pellet grill that reaches up to 600 degrees F, like our MAK Two-Star General, then follow the same directions and grill direct and move to indirect cooking.
If your model only reaches 450 degrees, it will be difficult to get that sear. To best attempt to reach that higher temp, make sure the grill is set to your max temperature, and then add a cast iron griddle pan. Allow the griddle to get hot, it will concentrate that ambient heat and provide some sear.
Simply place the skewers on the hot griddle and then grill each side until you like the crust, and then finish them on the normal grates until the reach the desired temperature. Alternatively you can use grill grates, which do the same thing. But at a top range of 450, the sear just won’t lock down the same way as 550.
More Amazing Steak Recipes
- Coulotte Steak with Mushroom Cream Sauce
- Grilled Tri Tip with Zinfandel Wine Reduction Sauce
- Reverse Sear Ribeye Steaks
- T-bone Steaks on the Grill
- Tequila Marinated Flank Steak
- Or how about a Jalapeno Chimichurri to top it off
Picanha Wine Pairing
Picanha is very versatile with wine. For a classic pairing for this preparation I recommend reaching for an Argentinian Malbec. Otherwise the following would be great with this cut: Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, or red Bordeaux style blends.
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