The other night I was lucky enough to get talking about meat with a Brazilian friend. She said a cut called picanha (also known as top sirloin in the States) is where it’s at. And where’s that exactly? The rump of the cow, or more precisely, the rump cap. Although not the tenderest cut, it is proclaimed for its super-beefy flavour and is traditionally barbecued.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a barbecue in my flat, but I decided to give it a go anyway and ordered a picanha from a company new to me called Pampas Plains, which imports beef from South America.
Looks-wise, it is a magnificent cut – a thick band of creamy fat sitting on top of blood red flesh. However, I was a little concerned by the lack of marbling in the flesh, for – as any meat lover knows – it is the marbling that gives meat its flavour. The outer layer is great of basting the meat during cooking, but what you really need is a cobweb of fat running throughout for both flavour and mouth-feel.
Still, in for a penny. This is not the most expensive cut of beef I’ve ever had and I reckoned that I could cut it down into at least two pieces to make two dinners for my wife and I.
The first one is depicted here – 1 cm-thick picanha, cooked on the hob in a white hot pan for 3 minutes each side (the Brazilians prefer their meat more well done, according to my friend), served with thrice-cooked chips tossed in grated Parmesan, with some steamed asparagus on the side.
The verdict: Yes, very beefy in taste, but I found the texture a bit on the mealy side. Perhaps it’s better cooked as chunks? Perhaps better thinly sliced? I used it in this Thai Beef Salad recipe and it worked a treat.