Picanha Vs Tri Tip

Picanha Vs Tri Tip — What’s The Difference?

When it comes to selecting the perfect steak, the variety of options available can be overwhelming. Beef lovers will tell you that sirloin is one of the best cuts of meat in the world, and we agree! This tender and succulent cut of beef is bursting with rich, juicy flavor, making every bite a savory taste sensation.

But what is the difference between picanha and tri tip? Both of these beef cuts are derived from the sirloin muscle, but tri-tip is typically slow-cooked in a smoker, whereas picanha steaks can be seared over high heat. Unlike tri-tip beef, which is typically marbled with connective tissue, picanha has a distinct layer of fat on the surface of the joint. Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about picanha and tri-tip to learn about their similarities and differences!

What Is Picanha?

If you like juicy steaks, you probably already know about many favorites like ribeye, tenderloin, sirloin, rump, and so forth. While we often stick to what we are familiar with, a good butcher will also have a variety of other, less common beef cuts available. The top sirloin subprimal, also referred to as the rump cap muscle, is the source of the beef cut known as picanha. It has a triangular shape and is frequently topped with a thick cap. Many butchers, however, remove this cap to expose the delicious red meat underneath. You might also encounter picanha, also known as “top sirloin cap” and “coulotte,” among other names. Picanha is the Brazilian name for this meat cut, and Brazilian steakhouses highly value this prime cut of beef.

What Is Tri-Tip?

The tri-tip is another cut of beef with an intriguing history. For many years, butchers thought this cut was too difficult to bother with, and it was usually ground for hamburger meat. In the 1950s, however, a man named Bob Schultz began to change all of this! Shultz, a California native, realized that this part of the beef carcass made an excellent steak and began selling it at his Santa Maria Market.

This is why tri-tip is sometimes referred to as a “Santa Maria steak,” though it is also known as a “Newport” or “triangle steak.” Tri-tip steak is triangular in shape and is cut from the bottom sirloin subprimal muscle. It is a boneless muscle that is quite lean, with beautiful fat and connective tissue marbling.

Similarities Between Picanha And Tri-Tip

Picanha and tri-tip are frequently confused, and it is understandable why. The large sirloin muscle, a substantial band of tissue situated between the ribs and the rump, is where both are cut. Starting at the top of the back, where sirloin steaks are cut, the sirloin curves around the cow’s waist and descends. Our two featured steaks originate from the top and bottom sirloin subprimal muscles, which are located in the lower section of the animal.

Both the tri-tip and picanha cuts weigh about 2.5 pounds and can be purchased whole or cut into steaks for roasting. Because the subprimal sirloin muscles are located in a labor-intensive part of the body, subprimal sirloin steaks are typically less tender than premium cuts like ribeye or tenderloin.

But they can still melt in your mouth and have an amazing flavor if they’re cooked properly! The cost-effectiveness of tri-tips and picanhas in comparison to expensive steak cuts is their final similarity. Since they are reasonably priced, you can afford to treat yourself and eat steak more frequently!

Differences Between Picanha And Tri-Tip

While picanha and tri-tip are both types of sirloin, claiming they are the same is akin to claiming all cheeses are the same! There are numerous distinctions between picanha and tri-tip, so let’s explore them all.

Type Of Cut

Picanha originates from the sirloin’s top round and is a lean cut of meat with minimal marbling. Tri-tip originates from the bottom sirloin and is delicately marbled with connective tissue. Picanha steaks are typically cut thicker than tri-tip steaks. Tri-tip is flatter, thinner, and has a more pronounced triangular shape than picanha. Picanha is topped with a thick layer of fat, although the butcher frequently trims this off. Tri-tip may have a small amount of fat or none at all around the edges.


There is very little flavor difference between these two types of sirloin, but tri-tip would probably win a taste test. However, neither cut of sirloin would disappoint a steak connoisseur! Tri-tip contains more fatty marbling, which will melt into the meat as it cooks. Tri-tip is said to taste like a beautifully slow-roasted prime brisket joint because fat adds flavor and moisture to the meat. Picanha has a flavor similar to rump steak, especially if the fatty cap is left on.


Although they are not nearly as tough and sinewy as brisket, tri-tip and picanha are both made from relatively labor-intensive cow muscles. Tri-marbled tip’s connective tissue can become chewy and unpleasant if it isn’t cooked properly; therefore, you should opt for a slower, longer cooking method to allow the sinews to melt and infuse the meat with flavor. Picanha is better suited for quick cooking over high heat because it is less prone to toughness. This is because the muscle has a smooth texture and a thin fatty layer to protect it.

Cooking Technique

The main distinction between picanha and tri-tip is how they are traditionally cooked. Picanha is ideal for quickly cooking over high heat — it is typically cooked to the point where it is seared on the outside and slightly rare in the center. Picanha should ideally be cooked without the thick fat cap. This keeps the meat juicy and tender while imparting an incredibly rich flavor. The meat is typically sliced into thick steaks ranging from 1 to 12 inches thick. These should be seared on a hot grill or griddle before being cooked on low heat until the internal temperature reaches 130°F.

Always allow the steaks to rest before serving! When it comes to tri-tip steaks, slow cooking is the best method. Flash-frying a tri-tip steak can yield good results, but the beautiful marbled connective tissue that makes this meat so delicious can also cause it to become tough and chewy. In fact, if you enjoy slow-cooked beef brisket but find the preparation time-consuming, try tri-tip instead! A tri-tip joint can be cooked in the same way as a beef brisket, but in much less time. This provides an excellent alternative to brisket that is ideal for a busy modern lifestyle!

Nutritional Comparison

The amount of fat, which varies greatly from one cut of meat to the next, is the main nutritional difference between picanha and tri-tip. Picanha is renowned for its fatty cap, which gives the meat flavor and moisture. If you want to avoid eating fatty foods, you might prefer it if the butcher trims this away. However, you should proceed at your own risk as the flavor might be affected!

Picanha and tri-tip are loaded with nutritional advantages, like all cuts of sirloin, but they also each have drawbacks. Nutritionists recommend limiting our consumption of red meat, such as beef, to no more than 18 ounces per week, divided into 3–4 portions.

How To Cook Picanha

Picanha is traditionally cooked on a churrasco, a traditional Brazilian barbecue. The meat is sliced into thick steaks before being threaded onto long metal skewers. Each piece of meat is folded over and seasoned with salt and pepper. The skewers are cooked over charcoal for about 20 minutes, turning over 2-3 times. Picanha is served to order after it has been cooked. If you’ve ever been to a traditional Brazilian restaurant, you’ve probably noticed waiters walking around with massive skewers of meat, carving them directly onto the diners’ plates. Absolutely delectable!

How To Cook Tri-Tip

To bring out the best in this beautifully marbled cut of meat, tri-tip was traditionally cooked in a smoker. This meat joint is prepared whole and cooked to medium rare before being sliced into steaks. It should be cooked for about 45 minutes in a smoker or on a low heat setting in an oven until the internal temperature reaches 130°F. A hot grill or griddle is then used to sear the outside of the cooked meat. Slice the meat into 1-inch-thick steaks for serving after allowing it to rest for 5–10 minutes.

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