If you've had the pleasure of tasting smoked picanha steak before, you know what I'm about to tell you. It's one of the beefiest cuts of steak I've ever tasted. Before we dive into this tasty cut of meat, let's talk about what picanha is.
What is Picanha?
If you've never heard of picanha steak, you're probably wondering what it is, and where it comes from.
Picanha is also called culotte, or sirloin cap. It's a popular cut of beef in Brazil. In fact, picanha is the most popular cut of meat down there!
In the United States, this cut is typically separated out into smaller steaks and the fat cap is removed. If you can get your hands on one of these whole, do it! I got mine from Snake River Farms, and it was well worth it.
How to Cook a Picanha Steak
There are a few different ways to cook picanha steak. The most common method is to cut the steak into thick strips that are skewered and then cooked over an open fire to medium (just a hint of pink).
Others will sear both sides of the whole picanha steak first and then cut into strips and skewer.
Both methods are great, but anytime I have a gorgeous cut of wagyu beef, I want to get it some low and slow time in my smoker. The first thing we have to deal with is the fat cap.
One of the first things you'll notice on this rare cut of beef is the large fat cap on side of it. A lot of people will just trim this off the picanha steak before they cook it. Don't do that! Use a sharp knife and make some cuts into the fat. Make cuts parallel to one another about an inch apart, and then come back and make more cuts perpendicular to the first ones.
While the picanha steak smoked this fat won't really melt away, but it will protect the meat from drying out. Adding the cuts into the fat allows us to season the fat cap side, and get some seasoning down into the tasty beef.
How to Season a Smoked Picanha Steak
With the fat cap side down, sprinkle a layer of coarse kosher salt on the meat. Place the steak in your refrigerator and let it rest for about 90 minutes. Doing this brings the salt deep into the meat, and imparts some serious flavor. I employ a similar method when I cook a tomahawk steak.
When you're ready to get started with the cook, set up your smoker to smoke at 180 degrees using indirect heat. Oak or Mesquite pellets work well here.
Generously season the steak on both sides using my beef rub, or if you don't have that, your favorite bbq rub. Make sure you pick one that isn't loaded with salt and keep the extra flavors to a minimum. You want the rub to enhance the flavor of the meat, and my beef rub does just that.
Smoking a Picanha Steak
Place the seasoned steak directly on the grill grates with the fat cap facing up. I'd recommend setting up your Thermoworks Smoke to monitor the internal temperature of the picanha as well. We want to smoke the picanha steak until the internal temperature reaches 110. At 110 remove the meat from your smoker and tent it loosely with foil. Adjust the smoker to cook at 450 degrees.
When your smoker is up to temp place the picanha steak back on the grill grates with your temp probe inserted, and cook until the internal temperature reaches 125. This lean cut of beef can be overcooked and tastes best when it's cooked to medium-rare.
At 125 pull the steak from your smoker and let it rest for 15-20 minutes. The internal temp will rise about 10 degrees during the rest, leaving you with a perfectly cooked medium-rare steak.
Use a sharp knife to slice thin pieces to serve. Try it on its own, or pair it with a chimichurri sauce which is the traditional way to eat picanha steak.
I hope you give this recipe a try! Smoked Picanha Steak is definitely one of the best steaks I've ever had, and I hope your tastebuds get a chance to experience the tender and beefy flavor this cut of meat is known for.
Smoked Picanha Steak
- 2-3 lb Picanha Steak Culotte
- 1 Tbsp Coarse Kosher Salt
- 3 Tbsp BBQ Rub Nick's Beef Rub is Perfect Here
- Place the fat cap down on a sheet pan and sprinkle the meat with a layer of kosher salt.
- Place the steak in your refrigerator for 90 minutes
- After 90 minutes remove the picanha from your fridge and cross thatch the fat cap.
- Season the steak with the rub on both sides
- Put the steak in a smoker setup to smoke at 180 degrees - fat cap up.
- Let the steak smoke until the internal temperature reaches 110 degrees.
- Adjust your smoker temperature up to 450 and continue cooking the steak until the internal temperature hits 125 degrees.
- Remove the steak and tent it with foil and rest for 15 minutes before slicing thin against the grain.
Roger Trevor says
Ate tons of picanha when in Brasil, and eat it whenever I can find it on a menu here. Recently discovered Frankie's Free Range Meat as an awesome online soource for super high quality meats, including legitimate picanha. Tough to decide whether grilled or smoked is better.
hi!! about how long will it take to smoke and then finish cooking? wanting to make it for dinner, so trying to time it right
Hi Lindsey! I plan on about 2 hours of cook time when I'm smoking a picanha.
Sean McCullough says
2pm-6pm Start to finish with time in between to make sides and set table
Outstanding recipe. Being Brazilian, picanha is the ultimate BBQ for me (haven’t find anything similar among the US traditional BBQ cuts) but I had never tried smoking it before I saw this recipe. It really enhances flavor and concentrate the juices.
Try smoken a tri tip you can either smoke it to medium rare or smoke it till it 200% & you for chopped sandwiches tastes amazing I do inject it if I do that. It's got a strong beefy flavor like piranha & a fat cap on one side.
Hi Nick, how does picanha go cut into steaks then reverse seared? Do you recommend removing the fat cap in that instance?
Confused about your Temperature values. Are they listed in Degrees Celsius.
temps are in Fahrenheit
Dawn B says
Thank you so much for this recipe. I so appreciate you explaining what to do with the fat cap and letting it rest in the fridge for a while. I'm a newbie to smoker cooking and was glad this was a success. I have a ton of meat in my freezer that I don't know what to do with. I googled Sirloin cap smoker recipes and am sooooo glad to have found your's. It was DELISH!!! Will definitely be making this one again. 🙂
Hey! This recipe looks great! Is there a link to your rub? I couldn’t seem to find it.
Tony Santos says
Had an amazing smoke! I used the new Masterbuilt gravity fed smoker to cook, and seasoned with a barbacoa wet rub, and absolutely blew it out the water! Thank you for the base!!
I just got one for Christmas. Tried it out last weekend since we have a huge gathering tomorrow.
I smoke a picanha last year on my Masterbuilt 1050 and loooove this cut of meat. Smoking Waygu picanha right niw over cherry smoke….. Sliding the probe in was buttery tender - can’t wait till it’s done!!!
This was my 3rd time using my pellet smoker grill. I followed the direction to a T except I pulled the meat at 135 and let rest for 30 minutes just cuz I have little ones. It is probably the best thing I’ve cooked in years. I have camp chef pellet smoker grill and set at 185 on smoke 3 then 450.
Made it today, it was delicious and everyone loved it.
Edward Folliard says
You talked me into it. Trying it today for the first time.
As a Brazilian picanha is a cut of meat I'm very familiar with and grill it often. The traditional way to make picanha and how Brazilians do it, is to cook over a charcoal fire (not gas) and only season with coarse salt (just before grilling and not before to avoid drying the meat) and nothing else. We need the meat flavor to be the center piece!
I will try your recipe today using my in my recteq pellet grill, and see if adding BBQ seasonings change the flavor or if its just a new way to make picanha! 🙂 I'm sure we can't it will delicious!
Jeff Mohler says
"Adding the cuts into the fat allows us to season the fat cap side, and get some seasoning down into the tasty beef."
This is pointless, as the silver skin below that fat prevents any salt from coming in..and also, fat does NOT penetrate meat. Ever.
smoking this bish right now hope it's amazing!