Picanha and Tri-Tip: a note on terminology


The picanha is a prized cut in Brazil, notable because tradition calls for the muscle (the sirloin cap) to be sold with its very thick fat cap still attached (the fat cap is often around an inch thick). American processing convention calls for the fat cap to be removed from the sirloin cap, with the muscle then broken down into smaller cuts like the rump and loin. American diners rarely see picanha outside of Brazilian churrascarias (steakhouses). The sirloin cap muscle is also known as the coulotte, and was previously labeled on the R&F store under that term. Moving forward, the “sirloin cap muscle with fat cap” on our site will be labeled “picanha,” in light of the Brazilian tradition.

Shop picanhas.

Grilled picanha steaks



Previously, we used “picanha” to label an adjacent muscle, one which is commonly known in America as the “tri-tip.” The tri-tip takes its name from its triangular shape and is associated with barbecue from the California coast. In a tradition known as “Santa Maria-style barbecue,” owing to its origin in the coastal town of Santa Maria, the tri-tip is seasoned with a rub and grilled, then thinly sliced. Read our chef’s recipe for Santa Maria tri-tip here.     

Shop tri-tip.

Grilled Tri-Tip Roast ready for slicing.

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