If there was ever a cut of meat perfectly suited to cooking over fire, then it’s picanha. A traditional South American ‘churrasco’ grill cut, it’s one of the tastiest pieces of beef you will find and ne that many grillmasters would name as their favourite. It’s taken from the top of the rump so has all the flavour associated with rump steaks yet is a fairly underused muscle so remains beautifully tender. A whole picanha (between 1-1.5kg) is a great size to share, easy to cook, great value and a real showstopper.
Often cut thickly and loaded onto skewers before, I prefer to start things off keeping the joint whole, gently rendering out some of the thick layer of fat before slicing and returning to the fire to sear the individual pieces.
I cooked this piece in my wood oven, but the recipe is equally great on the grill. There are advantages to both. The wood oven method allows me to add butter and herbs etc directly to the cooking dish but arguably the grill method builds a denser crust. Both ways are delicious and it’s really down to personal preference
Here’s my preferred technique:
1 whole Picanha 1-1.5kg- Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper or a your favourite beef rub (make sure sugar free)- Cooking oil- 100g butter- 4-5 cloves of garlic- Sprig of fresh rosemary
– Prep- Remove all packaging and pat the meat dry, allow to reach room temperature- Score the fat layer every cm or so- Rub lightly with oil and then generously season with Maldon and black pepper
– Cooking- With the wood oven running fairly gently, slide in the picanha on a pre-heated cast iron tray, fat side up, to start rendering out the fat. If you are using a grill, cook directly over a medium flame turning regularly and taking care not to burn the fat. Move to the indirect side of the grill if it starts to catch before you have achieved a good all-over sear.- Once you have achieved a decent crust and the fat hasstarted to crisp up, remove the meat from the heat and cut into three thick slices lengthways, cutting WITH the grain not across it, so you end up with three long steaks of roughly similar thickness and width.- Return each piece back to the heat and cook to you preferred level of doneness using a meat probe for accuracy, again turning regularly for an all-over-sear.- 5-10 mins before your meat is done, add the butter, garlic and rosemary to the tray and baste the meat regularly, turning it often in the delicious meaty, buttery, aromatic juice.- If you are using a grill, set a small cast iron pot on the heat with the butter, garlic and rosemary and baste the steaks as they cook- Once the steaks are done, remove from the heat and allow to rest uncovered for 10-15 mins- Slice each steak across the grain into 0.5 – 1cm rounds, pour over the remaining pan juices, sprinkle with Maldon salt and serve
A popular alternative to the herby, garlicky baste is to serve with a classic chimichurri as it would be in South America.
A good recipe for this is to finely chop and combine the following ingredients:- 4–5 anchovies in oil from a jar – 1 small handful of capers, drained- 1 clove garlic, peeled- 2 tbsp white wine vinegar – 1 tbsp Dijon mustard- juice of 1 lemon- big bunch of parsley, roughly chopped- big bunch of basil, roughly chopped- 100ml olive oil- freshly ground black pepper
Either add the mixture to the serving platter before you lay down the beef, or drizzle it over the top once plated.