Picanha vs Tri Tip – What’s the Difference?

Picanha Versus Tri Tip

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Picanha and Tri tip are two amazing steaks that come from the sirloin primal section of a steer. Many people find these steaks confusing because there are many similar aspects of each cut of beef.

But, what are the similarities and differences between these two mouth-watering cuts of meat? 

Well, we intend on telling you all about it in this guide to the similarities and differences between Picanha and Tri Tip. 

What Do Picanha and Tri Tip Have In Common?

Both of these steaks are actually roasts that can be cut into steak. You could even say that they are 2.5 pounds of a whole muscle. So, both the Picanha and Tri tip are cut from the sirloin primal which has a ton of flavor.

This is because this muscle is a working muscle. But on the flip side, they do not tend to be as tender as other steak cuts like filet mignon, ribeye, or NY Strip.

The Picanha and Tri tip are very similar when it comes to taste despite the fact that they are different cuts. 

These cuts of beef are not super expensive, especially when you compare them to the price of more expensive steaks like tenderloin or ribeye.

Despite this, they are both not easy to come across due to the fact that the grocery store does not always have these steaks in stock. 

You might have better luck visiting a butcher if you are keen to try one or both of these steaks.

How Do Tri Tip and Picanha Differ?

Both of these steaks are very similar but despite this, they are still inherently different. A lot of the differences can be attributed to the cultural approach to these meats, how they are cooked and how they are served. 

With all of that in mind, let us take a more in-depth look at why these steaks are so similar and yet different. 

Tri Tip Overview

The Tri tip comes from the bottom sirloin sub-primal as opposed to the Picanha which comes from the top sirloin sub-primal. The Picanha also has several names, but the Tri tip only has one alternative name which is Santa Maria steak.

Tri tip steaks get their name because of the very identifiable triangular shape that the muscle has. You are probably wondering where the name ‘Santa Maria’ comes from.

Well, that story starts in the city of Santa Maria in California back in the 1950s where somebody named Bob Schutz popularized this delicious cut of meat. 

As it happens, this cut of steak is actually tough to harvest from a steer and because of this a lot of the butchers would just grind the meat and make hamburgers.

That is where Bob comes in, he realized that this cut of meat was actually incredible as a steak and that part of the cow could be bought relatively cheaply.

He started buying and cutting the meat himself at his own store in Santa Maria where the Tri tip quickly became a favorite of the locals. 

There are a ton of videos online that talk about the origin of this steak and even show you how to remove it from the hindquarter of a steer. So, if you are interested in learning more feel free to check out some amazing videos on YouTube.

How To Cook Tri Tip

There is no real wrong way to cook a Tri tip steak, it is all down to personal preference. But, one of our favorite ways to prepare it is with our Santa Maria Tri-Tip recipe.

If you want to make a delicious medium-rare Tri tip from the comfort of your own home, you can now easily do it by following this recipe. 

The ingredients you will need to make this dish are as follows: 

  • Tri Tip
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • Farlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Dried oregano
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Dried rosemary
  • Dried sage
  • Oil

Other than these three simple ingredients, you will need to set aside 25 minutes of your time. Start with preheating your oven to about 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Take your steak out of the packaging and put it on a cutting board where you rub it with oil and season it with the rest of your rub ingredients.

Next, you should heat up a pan, keep it on a medium heat, then sear your steak for 3 to 5 minutes on each side before you put it on a baking tray.

Put it in your preheated oven in the middle and leave it for between 10 and 15 minutes. Once this time has elapsed you will need to reduce the temperature down to 135 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cover the steak with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes before you serve it. And make sure to cut your tri tip against the grain!

It is as easy as that!

Note, you can also cook this tri tip recipe on the grill, of course!

Picanha Overview


This cut of meat is cut from the top sirloin primal and often has a layer of fat along the top. The Picanha goes by several names, but this usually changes based on where in the world you are and what their description of this steak cut is.

For example, Picanha also goes by the name ‘top sirloin cap’ and this makes a lot of sense when you consider the appearance of the steak.

Another name it goes by is ‘coulotte’ this name originated from France and also refers to the ‘cap’ that is so heavily associated with this steak.

But, if you look at the name ‘Picanha’ you will find that this name refers to a group of ranchers that are used to move cattle from place to place. 

This steak cut has a vaguely triangular shape which is why it is sometimes confused with the Tri tip. Because of the large layer of fat on the Picanha, a lot of the American butchers remove it.

If you are fortunate enough to find one of these steaks at your local butcher shop or in the supermarket it is a good idea to trim some fat but leave some of it on because it is key in adding that extra flavor to your Picanha. 

This piece of meat is relatively easy to separate from the top sirloin. There are a ton of great tutorials online you can view to get a better idea of how this is done. So, if you want to learn how to cut a top sirloin Picanha steak you can easily do that. 

How to Cook Picanha

Much like the Tri tip steak, there is no wrong way to cook a Picanha steak. In fact, it is deceptively simple. Farmison has a delicious Picanha steak recipe you can easily follow from the comfort of your own home. 

The ingredients you will need for this recipe are as follows: 

  • Picanha Steak
  • Seasoning of Choice

So, you have the ingredients, now you just need 10 minutes you can set aside. Start by taking your steak out of any packaging and allowing it to get to room temperature before you move on.

Next, you will need to preheat your griddle pan or another heavy frying pan. It needs to be sizzling hot before you proceed. Season your steak before you put them in the hot pan.

Make sure not to overcrowd your steak pan. When you put your steak in the pan you will need to put them in with the fat side facing down. This allows the steak to render before you sear the other flat sides. 

You should only turn your steak when the fat is a lovely golden brown. Once this happens, turn your heat down to a medium heat before you cook each side of the steak for 4 to 5 minutes.

Once your steak is cooked you should leave it to rest for about 5 minutes before you start carving your delicious, juicy steak. 

It really is just that easy to cook a delicious Picanha steak.

Another traditional way to cook picanha is to make large skewers and to serve with Chimmichuri sauce. Yum!

So, Which One Is Actually Better?

The answer to this question boils down to personal preference. The Tri tip is the winner when you smoke it for about one hour and then sear it on a high heat for a minute.

Medium rare is the perfect way to enjoy the Tri tip. Once your Tri tip is off the steak, you can cut it into large slices and enjoy a delectable, tasty, and juicy steak. 

Picanha is a brilliant steak for grilling. It is a tasty cut of meat and one that is sure to have your mouth watering once you get a taste.

But as we have said, there is no real right answer to this question. The best steak is entirely dependent on what your personal tastes are. So, try each one and let us know which one you prefer. 

Final Thoughts

That is all for this article, we hope that you have enjoyed reading it. We hope that you have learned everything you need to know about these delicious steaks.

It is tough to pick a side when it comes to the Tri tip and the Picanha steak cuts. They are both equally delicious and each one has its pros and cons. Your preference also comes down to whether you prefer grilling or smoking on lower temperatures.

If you have not tried either one. Head down to your local store and try to get hold of a Tri tip and a Picanha steak, so you can see which one you prefer. 

We would love to hear back from you guys, so please feel free to comment below.