This picanha roast turns out so tender and flavorful that you might never want to use another whole top sirloin cap recipe. It is an authentic Brazilian approach to the delicious cut.
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Read on for relevant information, step-by-step pictures and video (3 mins)
What is Picanha Roast? About This Top Sirloin Cap Recipe
A picanha roast, aka beef top sirloin cap, rump cover, rump cap or coulotte, is supremely flavorful while very easy to prepare.
The cooking method we use is a combination of low temperature baking followed by high temperature broiling. Both phases are quite short – you might almost doubt that the beef will taste as good and finish as juicy as it does.
The approach is perfectly suited to the exceptionally tender and well marbled meat of top sirloin cap and its distinctly tasting waxy fat cap.
Origin of ‘Picanha’. No one knows for sure how the Portuguese name came about, but one Brazilian story seems to provide an almost perfect explanation for the origin of the word picanha. Years ago, in the Pampas grasslands of South America where the influences of the continent’s Spanish and Portuguese heritage meet, an Argentinian gaucho enjoyed some exceptional grilled meat prepared by a Brazilian parrillero. He asked what part of the animal the meat had come from. The Brazilian said that it came from ‘donde se pica la aña‘ or from ‘where you brand the cow‘ referring to the location of the sirloin cap – between the end of the loin and the leg. Pica la aña became picanha.
What’s the Best Way to Cook a Top Sirloin Cap?
Given its unique qualities the best ways to cook sirloin cap involve dry, high heat.
- grilling – cut into steaks or into smaller pieces that are skewered shish kebab style; charcoal is far superior to gas grilling when it comes to these fat capped steaks
- pan searing – picanha steak is excellent when pan fried in a very hot skillet (use this coulotte steak recipe)
- oven roasting – such as the method we use here, excellent for rump cap
NOTE: Top sirloin cap roast (picanha roast) is often confused with tri tip roast due to the similarity in shape, each having three distinct tips. Tri tip is harvested from the bottom sirloin butt and is smaller, the meat not nearly as tender as that of picanha. The picanha rump cap consists of the upper front part of the bíceps femoris muscle which covers the rump and is easy to separate from it along the natural seam.
Picanha The Brazilian Way
Roast picanha in oven (in Portuguese picanha assada no forno) is not the typical way of preparing the iconic cut of churrascarias.
If you are envisioning a C-shaped picanha steak, threaded on large metal skewers and sizzled over charcoal grill the authentic Brazilian way – this is the grilled picanha steak recipe you are searching for!
It is seasoned only with sal grosso and perfumed by the smoke created as the melting fat drips over the glowing embers. As a teaser – see the picture above.
How to Cook Top Sirloin Cap Roast (Rump Cap Roast)
- Ingredients. Besides the prized cut of beef, salt – and not just any kind of salt, is very important to this recipe. The large, greyish crystals you see in the pictures are known as sal grosso. It is a thick barbecue sea salt harvested from the South Atlantic coast of Brazil. Otherwise your best bet is kosher salt. This alone would be sufficient as any Brazilian will tell you. Because this is a roast and not the traditional churrasco picanha we also add black pepper and dried oregano. Feel free to modify the spices as you see fit.
- Prep. Before you follow the simple workflow steps shown below, make sure that the sirloin top cap is at room temperature. If needed you can use a small sharp knife to trim any excess fat, making sure the remaining layer has a uniform thickness of about half an inch. Pat it dry.
- Rub the top sirloin cap with salt, pepper and oregano on both sides, making sure there is plenty of salt covering the fat cap.
- Place it over a lightly greased baking sheet and bake at 275 F for about 25 minutes or until the internal temperature of the beef registers 110 to 115 F when a meat thermometer is inserted in the center. Neither the meat nor the fat will look particularly appetizing at this point.
- Remove the picanha roast from the oven, tent it with foil to keep warm and switch the oven settings to broil at 500 F. Once ready, broil the picanha to create the flavorful crust. The fat will bubble enthusiastically underneath the strong radiant heat, gradually turning a deep golden brown. The meat will cook fully and take on mahogany brown hues.
- Watch the roast very closely while broiling – it can begin to burn in an instant. The roast will finish medium-rare. Rest it onto a cutting board for about 10 minutes before carving slices against the grain.
TIP: Be sure to broil the picanha roast about 10 inches below the heating elements on top of the oven. Adjust the placement of your oven racks accordingly before you begin cooking.
Serve Picanha Roast
Anything that comes to mind that you would enjoy with a juicy beef roast will be a great side dish for roast top sirloin cap.
As most beef roasts rump cap goes well with a number of sauces. The generous fat cap and its exceptional taste saturating the meat essentially eliminates the need for butter based steak sauces, but the ones listed below are wonderful fresh tasting options.
- Horseradish sauce with sour cream and garlic (as pictured above)
- Chimichurri sauce – the Argentinian classic for grilled meats that has taken all of South America
- Persillade – French parsley sauce which is excellent with beef (among other affinities)
- Scallion ginger salsa – unexpected flavors that truly uplift a roasted top sirloin cap
- Molho Campeiro vinagrete – a classic Brazilian condiment for beef (see picture and notes below)
Molho Campeiro Brazilian Vinaigrette
To add fresh taste and vegetable crunch to your roasted picanha consider the popular Brazilian condiment Molho Campeiro (pictured below, recipe included in card).
Although the sauce is called a vinaigrette this does not have the meaning of a salad dressing in Brazil.
Instead, it is considered a salsa – a molho, to accompany grilled meats and if needed lend some much needed juiciness to any overdone cuts. There are numerous regional variations of Campeiro, but one ingredient that is essential is fresh, ripe tomatoes.
How to Reheat Leftover Picanha
The principal quality of roast picanha is its tenderness. Expect that as you reheat it it will cook past the desired medium-rare but will still be juicy, tender and flavorful.
- To reheat a chunk of leftover picanha roast we recommend that you wrap it in tin foil and place onto a baking dish for a 7 to 10 minutes long stay in a 350 F preheated oven.
- To reheat sliced picanha roast use a skillet over medium heat on a stove top burner. Allow some of the fat to melt, the meat will soak it up. About 3 to 6 minutes is enough, depending on the size of your frying pan and how much meat you are reheating. Flip over as soon as you feel that the bottom side has gotten enough exposure to the direct heat.
You Might Enjoy
- 3 1/2 lbs top sirloin cap roast (picanha) with fat cap*
- sal grosso or kosher salt, as needed (use generously)
- ground black pepper, as needed
- dried oregano, as needed
MOLHO CAMPEIRO SALSA
- 2 ripe tomatoes, medium sized, seeds removed, diced
- 1/2 white or yellow onion, medium sized, diced
- 1/4 large green bell pepper, diced
- 1/4 large yellow bell pepper, diced
- 3 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- black pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 275 F. Lightly grease a baking sheet that is large enough to fit the top sirloin cap.
- Rub the entire picanha generously with sal grosso (or kosher salt), black pepper and dried oregano. Place onto the baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes or until the internal temperature measured with a meat thermometer inserted in the center of the roast registers 110-115 F.
- Take out the picanha and tent it with foil to keep warm. Switch the oven settings to broil at 500 F. Once the broiler is ready place the picanha back in the oven, at least 10 inches away from the top heating elements**.
- Broil for 7 to 12 minutes. The fat cap will bubble enthusiastically. Do not take out the picnaha roast until the fat has turned deep golden brown and the meat looks a deep mahogany brown on the sides.
- Once you take out the top sirloin cap roast allow it to rest for about 10 minutes, tented, then carve.
MOLHO CAMPEIRO SALSA
- In a mixing bowl add the water, vinegar, oil, salt, oregano and pepper. Whisk to combine.
- Add the diced tomatoes, onion, bell peppers and chopped parsley. Mix well together and refrigerate for an hour to allow the flavors to meld.
*This is the average weight of a top sirloin cap picanha with the fat cap. The cut is also known as rump cap. If needed trim excess fat from the top to leave an even 1/2 inch thick layer. Use a small sharp knife to do so. Bring the raw picanha to room temperature before you begin cooking.
**It is very important that you arrange your oven rack accordingly beforehand. Watch the picanha closely as it broils to be able to get it out at just the right time.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 550Total Fat: 34gSaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 2gUnsaturated Fat: 18gCholesterol: 191mgSodium: 254mgCarbohydrates: 2gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 59g