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Picanha BBQ is one of the prime cuts in the Brazilian Churrasco, a selection of barbecued beef. It is a very tender cut of beef, covered by a large layer of fat that gives the meat a very special taste.
What cut is the Picanha
It is located at the top of the leg just before the tail in English called Rump cover. It is a muscle that hardly moves, therefore it is very tender.
In some breeds, this cut is covered by a large layer of fat, in the picture below is the Picanha from Aberdeen Angus breed. The fat melts while cooking, giving a fantastic flavour to the meat.
If you want to find out more about what cuts of beef are good for barbecuing you can read the article: Cuts of Beef for Barbecuing (with names also in French and Italian)
Where do you buy Picanha
Picanha is a very special cut of meat and it is not easy to find on a regular supermarket. However, as it is becoming more popular is getting easier to find. Ask your butcher or look for it in large supermarkets.
Here in the Riviera, you can find it at Catering in Ventimiglia, but ask before you take the long ride.
Picanha in Brazil
My husband Robert was the expert in barbecue and learned how to cook the Picanha during our trips to Brasil, and this post is dedicated to him.
At the restaurants specialized in Brasilian Churrascaria, the Picanha is cut into slices with the fat on top of each slice. The slice was then folded at a U shape with the fat on the outer side and inserted into the skewer in the middle through the fat. The restaurant would have a large fire to cook those long skewers, so for us, it was easier to cook them directly on the fire without the skewer.
Marinating the meat
Robert used a very simple method to marinate the meat which enhances the flavour without overpowering it. We prefer our meat medium-rare, so he would cut the meat in thick slices that will not easily overcook in the centre.
Depending on the quantity of meat, Robert marinated it with:
• 1 or 2 tbsp of coarse salt
• 2 spoons of olive oil
• 1 tbsp herbs Provencal
He would then massage the meat for about 30 seconds to make sure it absorbed the seasoning.
Other cuts of meat for the barbecue
However, he marinated the Flank Skirt with stronger spices. It is a less tender and stronger flavoured piece of meat, so stronger spices will enrich its flavour. I recommend marinating for at least 1 hr before cooking it.
For the Fajita you can season it with:
• 2 cloves of garlic minced• 2 limes – the juice of the limes
• 2 jalapeño chilli
• 3 tbsp olive oil
• 1 tbsp chilli powder
• 1 teaspoon of cumin
In Brazil, the Flank steak is called Fraldinha and is also a popular cut used in the Brasilian Churrasco. it is typically seasoned with:
• 1/4 cup (60 ml) of soya sauce
• 1/4 cup (60 ml) of extra virgin olive oil
• 2 tbsp of water
• 2 cloves of garlic minced
When we bought our villa, there was already a ‘proper’ barbecue installed on the veranda, a solid barbecue with a built-in chimney and large metal doors. One addition we made was to add a custom-built height adjuster for the grill over the fire allowing us to regulate the intensity of the heat.
It is important to choose the right charcoal. Some burns very quickly so you will have to add more charcoal while cooking, disturbing the intensity of the heat. There are also some cheap brands that spark and they can be quite dangerous. We always buy a “Restaurant” quality charcoal.
When we have aromatic cuttings from the garden such as rosemary, laurel, oranges and lemon branches we mix them with the charcoal to add flavour.
Before putting them in the fire, we first steep them in water for 30 minutes and drain them well. They add a subtle smoky flavour to the meat.
Barbecuing the Picanha
It is not recommended to take the meat directly from the fridge for barbecuing, rather it should be kept at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before cooking.
Once the meat is cooking on the charcoal, it is best to turn it at regular intervals, this will ensure that the meat is cooked properly on both sides. Once the Picanha is on the barbecue be careful as the large layer of fat will melt triggering flames.
Depending on how you like your meat cooked i.e. rare, medium-rare or well done, you will need to continually check the temperature of the meat so that it does not overcook – there is nothing worse than an overcooked steak!
Serving the meat
Before serving, the meat should be allowed to rest for a few minutes, preferably covered with aluminium foil to retain the heat. Once this has been done, we then place the meat on a wooden board and cut into slices, ensuring the juices are poured back over the meat.
And if you want to be original, serve the beef on a Gaucho Asado Picnic kit as they do in Argentina!
What to serve with Picanha
As side dishes to a barbecue, you can serve the following:
- roasted peppers with garlic and basil
- potato salad with homemade mayonnaise
- Greek salad
- easy baked ratatouille
- wild mushrooms chanterelle with potatoes
Recipes you might also like
For more beef recipes, check out the category: Main Course
Also check the recipes below:
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📋Brazilian Picanha BBQ
- Marinate the picanha in salt, extra virgin olive oil, herbs and pepper. Massage the meat for about 30 seconds to make sure it absorbed the seasoning and let it rest for about 30 minutes to 1 hour
- Prepare the charcoal in the barbecue, add some branches of rosemary
- Cut the Picanha in thick slices making sure each slice has a layer of fat on top
- Once the fire is going put the Picanha on the barbecue, but be careful as the fat will trigger flames
- Turn the meat until it is cooked at the desired stage: rare, medium rare or well done
- Remove the meat from the fire and let it rest covered for a few minutes
- Cut the meat in slices, pour the juices on top and serve
- If you like your meat medium rare, cut the meat in thick slices so it will not easily overcook in the centre.
- When marinating massage the meat for about 30 seconds.
- Kept the meat at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before cooking.
- Once the Picanha is on the barbecue be careful as the large layer of fat will melt triggering flames.
- Continually check the temperature of the meat so that it does not overcook.
- Before serving, the meat should be allowed to rest for a few minutes, preferably covered with aluminium foil to retain the heat.
- Once the meat is cut into slices, pour the juices back over the meat