What’s the Secret to a Succulent Brazilian Picanha Steak with Farofa Topping?

If you’ve ever savored a succulent Brazilian Picanha steak, you understand why it’s one of the most cherished cuts in the world of grilling. Featuring a robust layer of fat cap that envelops the meat, Picanha boasts a unique flavor that will have your tastebuds dancing the Samba. But the question begs, what’s the secret to cooking this prized Brazilian beef cut? Let’s delve into the art of grilling Picanha and explore how to top it with a traditional Farofa.

The Magic of Picanha

Picanha is a special cut of beef revered in Brazilian cuisine. It is named after the ‘picaña’, a long pole used by Brazilian cowboys to herd cattle. This cut of beef is the rump cap or the top sirloin cap, recognized by its triangular shape and the thick layer of fat on one side. This fat cap is the star of the show, as it will render during the cooking process, adding to the steak’s rich flavor.

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In the United States, you might know this cut as the rump cap, sirloin cap, or coulotte. Regardless of the name, it’s a cut of beef that yields delicious steaks. Picanha is lesser-known in American barbecue circles, but it’s certainly worthy of your grill space.

When choosing a Picanha cut, look for a piece with a thick, even layer of fat. The fat cap should be at least about an inch thick, providing plenty of flavor and juiciness to the steak. This fat will melt over the heat, infusing the meat with richness that you won’t get from leaner cuts.

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Grilling the Perfect Picanha Steak

To start, you will need a good quality grill. Whether you’re using charcoal or gas, the key is to have both a hot side for searing and a cooler side for indirect cooking. This will allow you to first sear the meat on high heat and then let it cook through on the cooler side without burning the delicious fat cap.

When preparing the Picanha, slice the meat into steaks, making sure to cut against the grain. This will make the meat more tender once cooked. The steaks should be about 1.5 to 2 inches thick, a good size to ensure they don’t overcook on the grill.

Sprinkle the steaks with coarse salt on both sides, and let them sit for a few minutes before placing them on the hot grill. Sear each steak on the hot side of your grill for about 3-4 minutes per side. Then, move the steaks to the cooler side of the grill and cook for another 10-15 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches your desired level of doneness.

The Delight of Farofa

Farofa is a traditional Brazilian side dish typically made from manioc flour, also known as cassava flour. It’s toasted in fat (typically butter, but can also be bacon or sausage fat) until it becomes golden and nutty, then flavored with various ingredients like onions, garlic, eggs, bananas, or nuts.

Farofa is a Brazilian food staple, served with a variety of dishes, but it goes exceptionally well with grilled meats like Picanha. It provides a gritty, crumbly texture and a rich, smoky flavor that complements the juicy, succulent Picanha.

To make Farofa, melt butter in a pan and sauté onions until they become translucent. Then add the manioc flour gradually, stirring constantly until it becomes golden brown. You can then add in your choice of ingredients to flavor the Farofa.

Topping the Picanha with Farofa

Now that the Picanha steaks are beautifully grilled and the Farofa is ready, it’s time to bring both together for a mouthwatering experience.

Lay out your juicy Picanha steaks and sprinkle a generous helping of Farofa over the top. The crunchy texture of the Farofa contrasts delightfully with the tender, juicy Picanha, making every bite a gastronomic adventure.

Remember to rest your Picanha steaks for a few minutes after they come off the grill before cutting into them. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, making every bite as juicy and flavorful as possible.

Understanding the Picanha cut, grilling it properly, and pairing it with an authentic side like Farofa is the secret to enjoying a truly Brazilian gastronomic experience. With these tips, you can bring the flavor of Brazilian barbecue right to your backyard.

The Secret Sauce: Chimichurri and Pão de Queijo

No Brazilian Picanha steak experience would be complete without the addition of chimichurri sauce and Pão de Queijo, a delightful cheese bread.

Chimichurri, an Argentinean sauce, has found its way onto Brazilian tables. It’s a tangy, vibrant sauce made from finely chopped parsley, minced garlic, olive oil, oregano, and white vinegar, and it pairs beautifully with Picanha. The freshness of the herbs and the acidity of the vinegar cut through the richness of the fat cap, balancing the flavors and enhancing the beef’s inherent deliciousness.

To make chimichurri sauce, simply combine the ingredients in a bowl and allow them to sit, letting the flavors meld together. Although it’s traditionally served with steak, Chimichurri also works well with chicken, fish, or vegetables.

Brazilian cheese bread or Pão de Queijo, small, baked, cheese-infused rolls, make a delightful side dish to go with your Picanha steak. The chewy, cheesy texture and mild flavor provide a perfect counterpoint to the robust, meaty flavors of the Picanha. When pulled fresh from the oven, these rolls are a touch of savory heaven.

The Final Stage: Serving Your Picanha

Having grilled your perfect Picanha steaks, prepared your delicious Farofa topping, whipped up your Chimichurri sauce and baked your Pão de Queijo, it’s time to serve up the feast.

The golden rule of serving steak is to let it rest. Resting your Picanha steaks for a good few minutes after they come off the grill allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat. This means that every bite will be as juicy and flavorful as possible.

To serve, slice your Picanha steaks across the grain. This ensures that the fibers in the meat are shortened, making the steak more tender. Lay out the juicy steaks, drizzle them generously with chimichurri sauce, and sprinkle with the crunchy Farofa.

Accompany your steaks with the warm Pão de Queijo and perhaps a green salad or some grilled vegetables. Not forgetting to offer a selection of vibrant, refreshing Brazilian drinks, such as Caipirinha or Guaraná soda to wash it all down.


The secret to a succulent Brazilian Picanha steak is understanding the importance of the fat cap, knowing how to grill the steak to perfection, and pairing it with the right sides and toppings, notably the traditional Farofa. Brazilian cuisine places a strong emphasis on the quality of the ingredients and the care with which they are prepared.

Remember to choose a Picanha cut with a good layer of fat, grill Picanha to your desired internal temperature, typically aiming for medium-rare for the juiciest results, and serve it with a generous sprinkle of Farofa. Complement these with the tangy Chimichurri sauce and the delicious Pão de Queijo.

With all these elements in place, you’ll bring the authentic taste and experience of the Brazilian steakhouse to your own backyard. Whether you’re a grilling novice or a seasoned pro, the flavorsome and festive world of Brazilian barbecue is sure to impress. Happy grilling!