Brazilian Picanha Steak

On a recent Friday, I found myself restless and in need of inspiration. Blame it on a full year of relative quarantine, or the recent ice storm that brought Austin to a screeching halt. Either way, I needed to break out of my daily orbit and see something, anything, new. So, I swung by Salt & Time, an upscale butcher shop, salumeria and restaurant that features fresh cut meat from sustainable Texas ranches (bonus: they were also selling fresh produce, and many of the grocery stores were wiped out after the storm).

Salt & Time features several “butcher’s” cuts that aren’t available at the supermarket, such as hangar steak and the top sirloin cap also known as picanha ("pee-KAHN-ya")—the skewered specialty of a churrascaria or Brazilian steakhouse. The most notable characteristic of the cut is a thick top layer of fat (it will add flavor during the cooking process, but never fully render out). I’d never prepared the cut at home, so, voila--I had my grilling adventure.

Even though you probably won’t find picanha steak on the shelves, any good butcher or meat counter can hook you up. The cut is worth seeking out, because it’s cheaper than strip steak, ribeyes and other premium steaks, and it has a distinctively rich, satisfying beef flavor.

The easiest way to prepare the cut is by slicing the steak into three equal portions and securing the roll on metal skewers. Steak King, one of our newest blends, is the perfect robust seasoning for this luscious cut. Basting the skewers with Cousin Vinegar, our Carolina-Style sauce, provides the perfect acid balance to the beef's rich flavor.

Brazilian Picanha Steak

Makes 4 to 6 Servings

Remove the beef from the fridge an hour before you plan to cook. 

Lay the top sirloin cap on a cutting board, fat-side up. Using a sharp slicing knife, score the fat (without cutting into the meat) in a ½-inch cross-hatch pattern. 

Season both sides of the meat with Steak King seasoning. Slice the steak lengthwise into three equal pieces. Roll each steak piece into a “C” shape, fat-side out, and secure with a metal skewer.

Coat the unseasoned sides of the beef with the seasonings that remain on the cutting board, or sprinkle with additional seasoning, if needed, and set aside to marinate at room temperature while you prepare the grill.

Prepare your grill for two-zone cooking and build a hot fire. Clean and oil the grates. When the coals are glowing red and covered with a fine gray ash, place the meat skewers over indirect heat. Close the grill, vent the grill for smoking, and cook for about 20 minutes, basting the meat with Cousin Vinegar and flipping and rotating the skewers for even cooking every 5 minutes or so, until an instant-read thermometer reads 125℉ to 130℉ for medium-rare. 

Allow the steak to rest at least five minutes before removing it from the skewer. Slice the meat against the grain and serve immediately with additional Cousin Vinegar sauce.

Grill-side banter provided by food writer, cookbook author and grilling enthusiast, Paula Disbrowe.

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