The « picanha » is a cut of beef highly valued in the kitchen for its excellent quality and its juiciness. It is typical of South America, more specifically of Brazil, being the reason for the origin of the name in Portuguese.
In other countries where it is also tasted, such as Argentina, it is known as “picaña” or “colita de cuadril”, while in Spain it is called “hip corner” or “nock”.
What is picanha?
The “picanha” is triangular in shape and is located right at the back of the back of the beef, that is, on both sides of the spine, so each of the cattle has two.
It is estimated that a whole calf, ready for sale, weighs between 180 and 200 kilos. The “picaña” only weighs between 1 and 1.2 kilos, being only 1% of the total of the cow.
Calves from 8 to 12 months of age have a more tender and less fat “picanha”. Meanwhile, the “picanhas” from 4-year-old cattle usually weigh about 1.8 kilos and have a greater amount of fat.
Although it is eaten in different countries, “picanha” is very popular on Brazilian grills and its name comes from the stick used by ranchers in the state of Rio Grande do Sul and Mato Groso.
What makes this cut a delight is its juiciness and a very particular flavor from a thin layer of white fat that covers one of its sides. This is why, whether grilled, baked, charcoal or grilled, “picanha” is a cut that will almost always come out well.
Although in Argentina and Uruguay it is simple to obtain it, in Spain the opposite happens. This is because in many butcher shops the “picanha” is not separated from the “butt”, so everything is delivered together. Thus, when cooked, its flavor is almost imperceptible.
The “picanha” was a rod used to direct cattle and that had a tip made of iron at its end, with which cattle were pricked from the back of the lumbar area. Over time, this area of the beef was also called “picanha”.
However, others indicate that the name comes from the north of Argentina, where the ranchers punished the cow with the “picaña”, a long stick with a nail at the end that they drove into the cow’s hind quarter.
Still, it didn’t catch on until Brazilian billionaire “Baby” Pignatari spotted it on a grill in Sao Paulo prior to a flight. At that time, he had asked for an Argentine “tail of a rump”, but the barbecue, not having that cut, gave him a “picaña”.
The diner was fascinated by its flavor and from then on began to order it. Given the entrepreneur’s fame, Sao Paulo restaurants began to offer it and it was in the 1980s to 1990s that it reached its peak of popularity.
How to prepare it?
Here is one of the ways to prepare an excellent picanha taking into account that 1.2 kilograms will be roasted.
– We will heat the grill with a good amount of embers (approximately 4 kilos of coal).
– The “picaña” should be placed with the fat layer facing down.
– Cover the outer face with salt (something that will be done once).
– Let it cook for 40 minutes over moderate heat (renew the embers every 15 minutes).
– Turn and let it cook on the other side for about 20 minutes.
After this procedure, a juicy “picanha” will be obtained, crispy and golden on the outside, but juicy on the inside. As long as you are looking for a more cooked point, it would be good to serve from the finer side of the piece.
Serve by cutting slices of about 3 centimeters. In Brazil it is typical that it is served in several pieces inserted in a sword.
- Cattle prod. (2019). Recovered from: lavacaargentina.net
- Cattle prod. (2019). Recovered from: hacerasado.com.ar
- History of the Brazilian court: picaña. Recovered from: argentinalivestock.com.ar