Picanha (Spit-Roasted Top Sirloin) with Country SalsaSteven Raichlen
Traditionally, Brazilian picanha is spit-roasted to take full advantage of the basting properties of the melting fat. You can also direct grill it—a technique used by grill masters in neighboring Argentina. Yes, more and more Argentineans and Uruguayans are discovering the virtues of this singular beef cut. I hope North America won’t be far behind.
See steps 1–4 for the rotisserie method, or steps 5–8 for the direct grilling method.
Picanha (Spit-Roasted Top Sirloin) with Country Salsa
- Yield: Serves 4
- A 1-1/2 pound slab of the top of a top sirloin with a thick cap of fat on top
- Coarse sea salt
- Country Salsa (optional)
Step 1: Rotisserie method: Set up your grill for spit-roasting and preheat to high. (To be strictly authentic, spit-roast over charcoal.)
Step 2: Cut the top sirloin crosswise (across the grain) into slices 3 inches wide. Skewer each slice on the spit through the ends in such a way that the fat forms a rounded curve on the outside like the letter “C.” Skewer the pieces one next to the other—you should have 2 or 3 in a row. Generously, and I mean generously, season the meat on all sides with salt.
Step 3: Attach the spit to the rotisserie motor and spit-roast the meat until darkly browned on the outside, but still rare to medium-rare inside (125 to 135 degrees), 20 to 30 minutes.
Step 4: To serve picanha Brazilian-style, carry the spit to the table and carve the meat into thin slices onto each person’s plate. Alternatively, transfer the picanha to a cutting board and thinly slice it across the grain, including a bit of fat and a bit of meat in each slice.
Step 5: Direct grill method: Here’s how picanha is grilled in Brazilian homes, not to mention at grill joints in neighboring Uruguay and Argentina.
Cut the top sirloin crosswise (across the grain) into slices 1-1/2 inches wide.
Step 6: Set up your grill for direct grilling and preheat to high. Brush and oil the grill grate.
Step 7: Arrange the meat pieces fat side down on the grill. Direct grill until fat is partially rendered, crisp, and brown, 2 to 4 minutes, moving the meat as needed to dodge flare-ups. Turn each piece of meat on its side and grill until browned, 2 minutes per side. Grill the bottom the same way. You’re looking for medium rare—an instant-read meat thermometer inserted in one of the narrow ends to the center of the meat will read about 135 degrees.
Step 8: Transfer the picanha to a cutting board, fat side up, and let rest for a couple of minutes. Carve it into thin slices across the grain, including a bit of fat and a bit of meat in each slice.