Picanha: Brazillian Barbecue

We’re well into Grilling Season and you’re probably looking for new ideas for a delicious BBQ!

SplitOak had the same problem and decided to address it directly to the world’s foremost barbecue gurus: Brazilians. The result: Picanha.


It’s the easiest cut to prepare, yet also the most delicious. We were blown away, within 2 weeks of discovery, we had grilled it 3 times.

A Little History: Brazilian BBQ - Churraso

South America has a long tradition of BBQ. The unique Churrasco grilling method started from cattle farmers, “Gauchos”, who would place the meat on over hot coal embers using long traditional knives. Once ready, they would cut thin slices to eat as they were ready.




Any great BBQ experience rests on 3 cornerstones:

  1. The Meat
  2. The Preparation
  3. The Grill

The Meat

For Step 1, we have to thank a well known Montreal Butcher: Alim-Pot

Now Picanha itself is tough to find in North American as it is not well known and typically divided into other types of cuts - thanks Wikipedia!

Luckily this quintessential Montreal butcher specializes in Brazilian cuts. The meat is always fresh and they have great service to help you pick out exactly what you need.

When picking out your Picanha cut, you want to aim for a size around 800 grams or less. Any more than that, and you’re probably not getting the pure Picanha cut anymore.

The Preparation

Coarse grained salt. That’s it. It is as simple as that!


We used to play around will all sorts of complex marinades that would take tons of preparation time, so I was pleasantly surprised when I received this answer. However, unfortunately I failed to ask: When do you put the salt on?

This started an internet search on the best time to salt your meat before grilling. It seemed after a small amount of research the there were a few schools of thought, namely:

  • Immediately before BBQ
  • 40 minutes or more before BBQ

However, everyone seemed to agree the less than 40 minutes was unacceptable. Always the experimenters, we thought to ourselves, let’s try both and compare.

We cut our Picanha in half, salted some of it and let it sit. The other half we left untouched until BBQ time.

A note on salting:

When salting, traditionally the Brazilians love their meat salty, so followed in that tradition and gave the meat a very generous salt coat. Hint: You can continue salting all along cooking… and eating.


Pictured above: Not enough salt


Heat the BBQ very hot and throw on the entire slab of meat. We’ve tried it both fat side down first and meat side down. Preference has been for the fat side down briefly at first, as this allows it to crisp up very nicely. Then flipping it to allow the juices to drip down and flavor the rest of the meat.


Following Gaucho tradition, we cut off pieces as they were ready to eat. We used Gude’s 21 centimeter slicing knife, which sliced through the cut easily. Cutting pieces off as they finish let’s you alleviate some hunger and  adjust the cooking, depending on how you prefer your meat.


Below, the cutest member of our crew hoping for a bite:

The Result

Amazing delicious meat.


What about our comparison between pre-salting and salting right before the BBQ? The results are in: DO NOT PRE-SALT. While it was still good pre-salted, having that crusted BBQ salt on the outside was significantly better and the meat was juicier.

With the pre-salted pieces you did not have that crust as the salt was more distributed throughout the meat.

Now grab some friends, Picanha and light up the BBQ - Enjoy!