July 12, 2024

How to Grill Picanha Steaks with Perfect Cut

how to cut picanha for grilling

1. Introduction

Picanha, a beloved cut of beef in Brazilian cuisine, is renowned for its rich flavor and tender texture. Grilling picanha steaks to perfection requires more than just a hot grill; it starts with proper cutting techniques. This guide will cover everything you need to know about how to grill picanha, choosing the right thickness, cutting picanha steaks, and preparing them for grilling.

2. Choosing the Right Thickness

The thickness of your picanha steaks plays a crucial role in how they cook and how flavorful they become. Here’s how to determine the perfect thickness for grilling:

Ideal Thickness for Grilling

  • 1 to 1.5 inches: For a traditional grilling experience, cut your picanha steaks to about 1 to 1.5 inches thick. This thickness allows the fat cap to render slowly, basting the meat and keeping it juicy.
  • 2 inches: For a thicker, more robust steak, opt for 2-inch cuts. These steaks require a longer cooking time but deliver a more pronounced beefy flavor.

Benefits of Different Thicknesses

  • Thinner Steaks (1 inch): Cook faster and are ideal for high-heat grilling. They develop a nice crust while remaining tender inside.
  • Thicker Steaks (2 inches): Offer a more substantial bite and are perfect for those who enjoy a medium-rare to medium doneness with a well-rendered fat cap.

3. Techniques for Cutting Picanha Steaks

Cutting picanha steaks correctly ensures even cooking and optimal flavor. Follow these steps to achieve perfect cuts:

Step 1: Prepare Your Tools

  • Sharp Knife: A sharp knife is essential for clean cuts. Ensure your knife is honed and ready.
  • Cutting Board: Use a sturdy cutting board with a non-slip base.

Step 2: Locate the Grain

  • Identify the Grain: Examine the picanha to find the direction of the muscle fibers. The grain usually runs lengthwise.
  • Cut Against the Grain: Cutting against the grain ensures tender steaks. Position your knife perpendicular to the grain.

Step 3: Make the Initial Cut

  • Score the Fat Cap: Lightly score the fat cap in a crisscross pattern. This helps the fat render more evenly during grilling.
  • First Cut: Slice through the scored fat cap and into the meat, creating your first steak. Aim for a consistent thickness.
how to grill picanha

Step 4: Continue Slicing

  • Consistent Thickness: Continue slicing the picanha into steaks, maintaining a consistent thickness for even cooking.
  • Final Touches: Trim any excess fat if necessary, but retain enough to enhance the steak’s flavor during grilling.

4. Preparing Picanha for Grilling

Proper preparation is key to grilling perfect picanha steaks. Here’s how to get your steaks ready for the grill:

Step 1: Seasoning

  • Simple Seasoning: Picanha is naturally flavorful. A generous sprinkle of coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper is often enough.
  • Marinades: If you prefer, marinate the steaks in a mixture of olive oil, garlic, and herbs for extra flavor. Allow them to marinate for at least an hour, or overnight for deeper flavor.

Step 2: Bringing to Room Temperature

  • Even Cooking: Allow the steaks to come to room temperature before grilling. This ensures they cook evenly.

Step 3: Preparing the Grill

  • Preheat the Grill: Preheat your grill to high heat. Ensure the grates are clean and well-oiled to prevent sticking.
  • Two-Zone Cooking: Set up a two-zone cooking area with direct and indirect heat. This allows you to sear the steaks over high heat and finish cooking them over indirect heat.

Step 4: Grilling the Steaks

  • Searing: Place the steaks fat-side down on the hot grill to render the fat cap. Sear for 3-4 minutes per side until a crust forms.
  • Indirect Heat: Move the steaks to the cooler side of the grill to finish cooking to your desired doneness. Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature (125°F for medium-rare, 135°F for medium).

5. Tips for the Best Results

Tip 1: Use a Meat Thermometer

  • Accuracy: Ensure accurate doneness by using a meat thermometer.
  • Resting: Let the steaks rest for 5-10 minutes after grilling to allow the juices to redistribute.

Tip 2: Maintain the Fat Cap

  • Flavor: The fat cap adds flavor and moisture to the meat. Avoid trimming too much fat.

Tip 3: Experiment with Flavors

  • Seasoning Variations: Experiment with different seasonings and marinades to find your preferred flavor profile.

6. Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Overcooking: Picanha steaks can become tough if overcooked. Monitor the temperature closely.
  • Inconsistent Thickness: Ensure consistent thickness for even cooking.
  • Skipping the Resting Period: Always let the meat rest after grilling to retain juices.

7. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What thickness should I cut picanha steaks for grilling?

  • Cut picanha steaks to about 1-2 inches thick for optimal grilling results.

Should I remove the fat cap before grilling?

  • No, the fat cap should remain intact to add flavor and moisture to the steaks.

How long should I marinate picanha steaks?

  • Marinate for at least an hour, or overnight for deeper flavor.

8. Conclusion

Grilling picanha steaks to perfection begins with proper cutting techniques and preparation. By choosing the right thickness, cutting against the grain, and preparing your steaks thoughtfully, you’ll ensure a flavorful and tender result every time. Share your grilling experiences or ask questions in the comments below, and enjoy the delicious rewards of perfectly grilled picanha steaks!


This article provides a comprehensive guide to cutting and preparing picanha steaks for grilling.