Picanha vs Tri Tip: What’s the Difference?


Your preparation for dinner is almost complete. The only thing missing is the protein, and you have decided on two of Brazil’s most popular cuts of beef – picanha and tri-tip. When it comes to Brazilian steakhouses, these two types of meat are typically what you will find on the menu. You can choose one or the other, or get a little of both.

But sometimes you may find it difficult to choose between picanha and tri-tip. Here are some tips to help you make the best decision for your next cookout.

What is Picanha?

Picanha, also known as sirloin cap, is a popular cut of beef that originates from Brazil. It is known for its rich flavor and tenderness, making it a popular choice for grilling and roasting. It is also one of the cheapest cuts of beef, making it a luxurious treat for special occasions.

Picanha is typically sold as a whole steak, which can be cut into smaller pieces for grilling or roasting. It can also be ground up and used for burgers or tacos.

What is Tri-Tip?

A tri-tip is a cut of beef that comes from the bottom sirloin. It’s a triangular-shaped piece of meat that’s well-marbled and full of flavor. Tri-tip is a popular cut of beef for grilling, smoking, or roasting. It’s also a relatively lean cut of beef, making it a healthier option than some other cuts of beef.

Tri-tip is a versatile cut of meat that can be cooked in a variety of ways. It’s often grilled or roasted, but it can also be braised, smoked, or even stir-fried. Tri-tip is a relatively lean cut of beef, so it’s important not to overcook it. When cooked properly, tri-tip is juicy, tender, and full of flavor.

Picanha vs Tri-Tip – Whats The Difference?

You need to know the difference between picanha and tri-tip if you want to cook either of these two cuts of beef correctly. This will help you ensure that your steak is cooked to perfection, and it will also help you understand why each cut is so popular. The following are the key differences;

1. Cut Thickness

Picanha is typically cut much thicker than tri-tip. This is because it is a tougher cut of beef that benefits from longer cooking times. Tri-tip, on the other hand, is a more tender cut that can be cooked quickly.

The thickness of the picanha steak is usually around 1.5 to 2 inches (3.8 to 5.1 cm). The tri-tip steak, on the other hand, is usually around 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick.

2. Cooking Method

They use different cooking methods, picanha is better suited for grilling or roasting, while tri-tip is better suited for pan-frying, broiling, or grilling. Picanha has a high-fat content, which makes it ideal for grilling or roasting.

The fat will help keep the steak moist during cooking. Tri-tip, on the other hand, has a lower fat content. This means that it can dry out easily if not cooked correctly.

3. Fat Content

Picanha has a higher fat content than tri-tip. This is because picanha comes from the loin, which is a fattier area of the cow. The extra fat gives picanha a juicier, more flavorful taste.

Also, the higher fat content makes picanha better suited for grilling or smoking, as the fat will help to keep the meat moist. Thus, if you are looking for a steak to grill or smoke, picanha would be a better option than tri-tip.

4. Shape of the Steak

Picanha is typically shaped like a triangle, while tri-tip is more rectangular. The difference in shape is due to the different cuts of meat that are used to make each type of steak.

Picanha is made from the loin, which is a triangular-shaped muscle. The tri-tip, on the other hand, is cut from the sirloin, which is a long, rectangular-shaped muscle.

5. Cut Location

Picanha is cut from the loin, which is located in the back of the cow. The tri-tip, on the other hand, is cut from the sirloin, which is located in the front of the cow. This cut location is important because it affects the taste and texture of the steak.

The Picanha has a more intense flavor because it is closer to the fat and bone. The Tri-Tip, on the other hand, has a milder flavor because it is further away from the fat and bone.

Texture-wise, the Picanha is a tenderer because it is a leaner cut of meat. The Tri-Tip, on the other hand, is slightly tougher because it has more connective tissue.

6. Cost

The cost of a picanha or tri-tip steak can range depending on the quality of the meat. Higher quality meats will cost more, but they will also be more tender and flavorful. Lower-quality meats will cost less, but they may be tougher and not as flavorful.

When choosing a picanha or tri-tip steak, it is important to consider the cost concerning the other factors.

7. Marbling

Marbling is simply the fat within the muscle of the meat, and it’s this intramuscular fat that melts during cooking to give steak its unique flavor. The more marbling a steak has, the higher it will be on the quality scale.

Picanha and tri-tip are both very well-marbled cuts of meat, which means they’re packed with flavor. If you’re looking for a steak that’s both juicy and flavorful, these are two great options.

8. Cooking Temperature

Picanha and tri-tip are best cooked at a high temperature, so they can develop a nice sear on the outside while remaining juicy on the inside. The best way to achieve this is to cook them on a grill or in a cast-iron skillet.

While both use different methods of cooking, they will both require you to preheat your grill or skillet to a high temperature.

Picanha can be cooked at a lower temperature than tri-tip, so if you are cooking both at the same time, you will need to keep an eye on the picanha and make sure it doesn’t overcook.

Picanha vs Tri Tip: Which is Better?

When it comes to choosing between picanha and tri-tip, it depends on what you’re looking for. If you want a steak that is juicy and full of flavor, then picanha is the way to go. However, if you’re looking for a steak that is leaner and has less fat, then tri-tip is the better option.

Picanha is a Brazilian steak that is made from the rump cap, which is the muscle that covers the cow’s rump. This steak is extremely juicy and full of flavor, making it a popular choice for steak lovers.

Tri-tip, on the other hand, is a leaner cut of beef that comes from the bottom sirloin. This steak is leaner because it doesn’t have as much fat marbled throughout the meat.

So, which is better? It depends on what you’re looking for. If you want a juicy, flavorful steak, then picanha is the way to go. However, if you’re looking for a leaner option with less fat, then tri-tip is the better choice.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to Cook Picanha on Gas Grill?

Picanha is a cut of beef that is popular in Brazil. It is a tri-tip steak that has a lot of marbling, which makes it very juicy and flavorful. Picanha is typically cooked over an open fire, but it can also be cooked on a gas grill.

To cook picanha on a gas grill, follow these steps:

  • Preheat the grill to high heat.
  • Place the picanha on the grill and cook for about 3-4 minutes per side, or until it reaches the desired level of doneness.
  • Once the picanha is cooked, remove it from the grill and let it rest for a few minutes before slicing into it.
  • Enjoy!

How To Smoke Picanha on A Traeger?

Picanha is a cut of meat that comes from the rump of a cow. It is a popular dish in Brazil and is often served at churrascarias or Brazilian steakhouses. The meat is well-marbled and has a lot of flavors. It is typically grilled over charcoal or wood, but can also be cooked in a smoker.

If you’re cooking picanha on a Traeger grill, you’ll want to use the indirect cooking method. This means that you’ll set the firebox to one side and place the meat on the other side, with the lid closed. You’ll want to preheat your grill to 400 degrees Fahrenheit before you start cooking.

Once the grill is preheated, place the picanha on the grates and close the lid. Cook for about 45 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

After the picanha is cooked, let it rest for a few minutes before slicing into it. Serve with grilled vegetables or a salad.

How to Cook Tri-Tip on the Grill?

Tri-tip is a lean and flavorful cut of beef that is perfect for grilling. The key to cooking tri-tip on the grill is to first cook it indirectly over low heat until it is nearly cooked through. Then, finish cooking it over high heat to char the exterior and create a juicy and flavorful steak.

To cook tri-tip on the grill, follow these steps:

  • First, preheat your grill to low heat.
  • Place the tri-tip on the grill and cook it indirectly for about 20 minutes.
  • Turn up the heat to high and cook the tri-tip for another 5-7 minutes, or until it is nicely chargrilled on the outside.
  • Finally, remove from grill and allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Why Is Picanha So Cheap?

Picanha is a cut of beef that is popular in Brazil. It is also known as the “rump cap” or “fatty rump.” Picanha is a relatively inexpensive cut of beef, which makes it a great choice for budget-minded shoppers.

The low cost of picanha is because it is not a very popular cut of beef in the United States. As a result, there is not a lot of demand for it and the price is relatively low. In addition, picanha is not a particularly tender cut of beef, so it is often less expensive than other cuts of beef that are more tender.

If you are looking for a cheap cut of beef that is still relatively tasty, picanha is a good option. It is important to note, however, that picanha is best cooked using a slow cooking method such as braising or stewing. This will help to tenderize the meat and make it more flavorful.

Why Is Tri Tip Hard to Find?

If you don’t live in California, you may be wondering why tri-tip is so hard to find. This tough little piece of meat is quite popular in the Golden State, but for some reason, it hasn’t caught on in other parts of the country.

There are a few theories as to why this is the case. One theory is that tri-tip is simply too tough for most people to eat. This may be true, as the tough texture of the tri-tip can make it difficult to chew. However, if you’re willing to give it a try, you may be surprised at how delicious this piece of meat can be.

Another theory is that tri-tip is too expensive for most people to afford. This may also be true, as tri-tip can be quite pricey. However, if you’re willing to spend a little extra, you may be able to find a tri-tip at your local butcher or grocery store. Whatever the reason, tri-tip is a delicious piece of meat that is well worth trying.

How Much Picanha Per Person?

The amount of picanha per person will depend on how big the steak is and how hungry everyone is. For example, if you have a group of four people and each person is very hungry, you might want to get four small steaks. However, if the steaks are very large, you might only need two.

Ultimately, it is up to you to decide how much picanha to get per person. Just make sure that everyone can get their fill!


While picanha and tri-tip are both delicious cuts of beef, they are quite different from each other. You can just select any of these two steaks, depending on your preference. Picanha is well-marbled, tender, and juicy, while tri-tip is less fatty but still flavorful.

It all comes down to what you’re looking for in a steak. Both picanha and tri-tip are great options, so it’s really up to you to choose which one you like better.

Bobby Johnson

When he's not writing about barbecue, you can find Bobby smoking meat for friends and family. He's been a backyard pitmaster for roughly half his life, and has worked with nearly every cut of meat. Not everyone has a hands-on guide to teach them BBQ, but that's what Bobby hopes to do with Electric Smoker HQ. He wants to help people create amazing food that they can be proud of.