Grilled Rump Cap Steak (Picanha)

Perfect medium-rare picanha steaks grilled over charcoal and served with crispy Brazilian cilantro garlic bread.
grilled picanha steaks

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I don’t know about you but whenever someone mentions Picanha I think of steaks skewered onto a rotisserie and grilled over fire, then sliced right onto your plate by waiters at the restaurant.

Although a popular option, it is more popular for the tourists, as the Brazilians prefer their rump cap sliced into steaks, salted, and char grilled.

Who am I to argue, so I researched the best way to cook authentic rump cap or Picanha steak. Here’s what I’ve found works best.

Grilled Rump Cap Steak

Normally when I’m buying any cut of beef, bigger is always best. This is not so when it comes to rump cap. The rump cap is normally only around 2.5 pounds in weight. If it is much larger than that and you are more than likely paying for the cheaper and harder cut of silverside.

The issue with silverside is that it needs to be cooked low and slow. If you cook silverside using this method not only would the end pieces be tough to eat, they would have cost a lot more, than if I was to buy the two cuts separately.

uncooked rump cap picanha on a plastic board
Look for a rump cap that is 2.5lbs or less

Now I wish I had this information a few years ago as I have been cooking rump caps for a long time and always going for the largest I could get my hands on.

As I always say, we are always learning on our BBQ journey.

So the best rule of thumb is, when selecting a rump cap, buy them when they weigh less than 2.5 pounds and also look for a nice even fat cap.

As you also do not want to be paying top dollar for extra fat. Now with that said, you do still want a good quarter to a half-inch fat cap on the rump cap. Again, keeping this whole process as traditional as we can.

A good butcher should be able to help you out here, or treat yourself to an American Wagyu Picanha from Snake River Farms cut in the traditional way.

Items that will help you cook these are:

How much fat cap is too much? 

Since I’m sticking with traditional methods, I wanted to find out if there was an exact amount of fat that should be left on the rump cap.

Unfortunately I haven’t found a definitive answer on this.

raw picanha steaks on a plastic board
¼ to ½ inch seems to the optimal thickness of fat on a rump cap

Most references I found stated anywhere between a quarter of an inch, to a half-inch. There were others that stated less and more but on average it was between a quarter and a half of an inch that was the clear winners. So that is what I went with.

Seasoning our rump cap, go hard, or keep it simple? 

Well traditionally the Brazilians would only use a coarse sea salt.

Now I have nothing against this, I feel most people don’t understand just how powerful a seasoning salt is, or can be.

raw picanha steaks seasoned with salt
Coarse sea salt is all the seasoning you need

Just recently someone questioned why I would salt a steak and put it in the fridge overnight, would it not dry it out was the main query. 

So I had to go through and explain how long dry brining had been around and the fact the salt, yes, does help draw out moisture from meat, then the salt dissolves and is drawn back into the meat, this then helps not only flavor throughout the cut, not just the outside but it also acts as a tenderizer.

Again, someone learning along their BBQ journey.

So just the coarse sea salt for this cook.

Garlic Bread Side

I was looking at making a side dish to go with these picanha steaks. The only thing that came to mind when I thought Picanha and Brazilian side dishes was chimichurri. Now, as much as I love it I felt surely the Brazilian people ate more than steak and herb dressing.

I stumbled upon a few recipes for this Brazilian garlic bread, perfect.

brazilian cilantro garlic bread ingredients
If you are not fond of cilantro, just use basil instead

Now I left out one word in its name, mainly because when you read this name, there is a good chance fifty percent of you will not like it, but, I have a substitute that will solve this issue. 

It’s actual name is Cilantro Garlic Bread. Now, if you are on the of these people that has the mutated gene that makes cilantro taste like soap, fear not, use basil as an alternative in this recipe.

cooked brazilian cilantro garlic bread on a wooden board
Brazilian Cilantro Garlic Bread is a great side dish for a grilled picanha steak

I also had to make another very Brazilian element to this recipe called Sofrito, it is a very garlic heavy paste that is required in the mix. Not to worry, I have included the ingredients and instructions in the step by step recipe below.

Setting up the BBQ for grilling the Picanha

I’m using a 22” Weber kettle for this cook and how I’ll set my Weber up for dual zone cooking is by lighting up a nearly half filled chimney starter with briquettes.

When the coals are all white, I’ll transfer these to one side of the cooking grate and add a chunk of pear smoking wood for some extra flavor. I’ll place the grill back in and the lid on. I’ll leave the lid vent wide open but close the bowl vent down to about a third open. I’m aiming for a temperature around 225°F to start the cook off.

After the grill has had time to warm up for ten minutes, I’ll place the steaks on the opposite side of the grill to the lit fuel. 

picanha steaks on a grill
We’re using a dual zone cooking set up for this recipe

I’ll put the lid back on, keeping the lid vent directly over the steak. This will draw the heat and smoke over the meat.

When the steaks reach an internal temp of 80°F, I’ll turn them over and track their internal temp to 115°F. This is when they will come off for a rest, I’ll add some garlic and butter soak thyme on them and loosely tent them with some foil for ten minutes.

picanha steaks with thyme and butter on a wooden board
When resting steaks, we’ll add some thyme, butter and garlic

I’ll open up the bowl vent to allow the charcoal to heat up and place the foil wrapped garlic bread onto the cooler cooking zone and place the lid back, once again keeping the lid vent over the food.

Once ten minutes has gone by, I’ll check on the garlic bread, if it needs it, I’ll keep uncovered and allow the top to crisp up a little.

Then we can put the steaks directly over the hot coals, this will create smoke, fire and flavor.

grilled picanha steaks on a weber kettle
Be ready to see some fire when putting the steak steaks directly over the hot coals

Just keep an eye on the steaks and turn them regularly and keep track of their internal temps with an instant-read thermometer. Once they hit that perfect 130°F medium rare, they can come off the heat.

sliced rump cap grilled picanha steaks
Once the steaks hit the perfect 130°F medium rare, all you have left is to slice them up and enjoy

There is no need to rest the steaks, as they have already been rested. So slice them up and enjoy. Try some steak on a slice of the garlic bread and you be in heaven.

Serving suggestions 

I ended up slicing the steak and seving it on the garlic bread. If you can’t be bothered doing garlic bread you could just slice it and drizzle chimichurri over the top.

grilled picanha steaks on garlic bread
Grilled Picanha Steaks on Brazilian Cilantro Garlic Bread is the true gourmet heaven

Steak is also great with grilled, roasted and steamed vegetables.

grilled picanha steaks

Rump Cap Grilled Picanha Steaks

Perfect medium-rare picanha steaks grilled over charcoal and served with crispy Brazilian cilantro garlic bread.
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Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Brazilian
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Resting Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Author: Dean “Schuey” Schumann

Ingredients

  • rump cap (no heavier than 2.5lbs)
  • coarse sea salt

Cilantro Garlic Bread:

  • 1 loaf of white crusty bread
  • 4 tbsp salted butter
  • 4 tbsp mayonnaise
  • cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tbsp Brazilian Sofrito (ingredients and method below)
  • cup cilantro (or basil)

Brazilian Sofrito:

  • 1 large white onion
  • 2 full heads of garlic
  • ½ cup olive oil

Instructions

Grilled Picanha Steaks:

  • Clean up the rump cap by removing any silverskin and unwanted extra fat.
  • Cut into one inch thick steaks, following the grain of the meat.
  • Season with coarse sea salt.
  • Set BBQ up for indirect dual zone cooking with a temp of 225°F.
  • Place steaks on cooler zone and cook until internal temp reaches 80°F.
  • Turn steaks over and cook until internally 115°F.
  • Take steaks off the heat and rest with thyme, butter and garlic and loosely tent with foil for 10 minutes.
  • Open vents of BBQ and bring coals up in temp.
  • Place bread wrapped in foil in a cooler cooking zone and cook for 10 minutes.
  • Check bread after 10 minutes, if not crunchy to touch, leave foil open and put the lid back on for a couple of minutes.
  • Take bread off and put steaks directly over the searing coals.
  • Turn regularly and keep an eye on the internal temp with an instant read thermometer.
  • Once steaks reach 130°F, take them off the heat and slice up and enjoy.

To serve:

  • With cilantro garlic bread
  • With chimichurri
  • With roasted vegetables
  • With mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables
  • On their own

Brazilian Sofrito:

  • Add all ingredients into a blender.
  • Pulse until a smooth consistency.

Cilantro Garlic Bread:

  • Preheat BBQ to 250°F-300°F
  • Slice bread, making sure not to cut all the way through.
  • Put other ingredients into a food processor and mix.
  • Spread mixture into each slice of the bread.
  • Spread any left over on top.
  • Wrap in foil, place some baking paper down first to help stop sticking.
  • Bake for 10 minutes, open foil and check bread. If it needs it, leave it open for a couple of minutes to allow the top of the bread to get crunchy.

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