Picanha In The Air Fryer: The Perfect Way To Cook This Traditional Brazilian Cut

picanha air fryer recipe

If you’re a fan of Brazilian cuisine, you’ve probably heard of picanha. This traditional beef cut is renowned for its rich flavor and mouthwatering tenderness, and it’s a staple of Brazilian churrascarias (barbecue restaurants).

But cooking picanha can be tricky, and without the right technique, you risk overcooking or toughening the meat. That’s where the air fryer comes in – this versatile appliance is a game-changer when it comes to cooking picanha to perfection.

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into picanha and explore how to cook it in the air fryer. We’ll cover everything you need to know, from selecting the right cut to checking for doneness. So let’s get started!

What Is Picanha?

Picanha is a cut of beef that comes from the top sirloin area of the cow. It’s a triangular shape, with a thick layer of fat on one side and a leaner meat section on the other. The fat cap on picanha is what gives it its distinctive flavor and juiciness.

In Brazil, picanha is traditionally prepared as part of a churrasco (barbecue) feast, where a variety of meats are skewered and grilled over charcoal. The picanha is typically seasoned with salt and garlic, then cooked over high heat until it’s crisp and charred on the outside, but still tender and juicy on the inside.

Why Cook Picanha In The Air Fryer?

Air fryers are a recent addition to the kitchen, but they have quickly become one of the most popular appliances for home cooks. Using a combination of circulating hot air and a small amount of oil, an air fryer can crisp up foods like French fries and chicken wings without the need for deep-frying.

So why use an air fryer to cook picanha? Here are a few reasons:

  • Quick and efficient: An air fryer cooks meat much faster than an oven or stovetop, so you can have a delicious picanha meal on the table in no time.
  • Even cooking: The circulating air in an air fryer helps cook the meat evenly, ensuring that it’s perfectly tender and juicy.
  • No need for a grill: If you don’t have access to a grill or outdoor space, an air fryer is a great way to get that barbecue flavor at home.
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So whether you’re a seasoned picanha connoisseur or trying it for the first time, an air fryer can help you achieve perfectly cooked meat every time.

Selecting The Right Picanha Cut


When selecting a picanha cut for air frying, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Look for a thick layer of fat on one side: As mentioned earlier, the fat cap on picanha is what gives it its rich flavor and juicy texture. Look for a cut with a thick layer of fat on one side – ideally around 1/4 inch thick.
  • Choose a well-marbled piece: Marbling refers to the small pockets of fat distributed throughout the meat. Look for a picanha cut that has a good amount of marbling, as this will help keep the meat tender and flavorful.
  • Consider the shape: Picanha is a triangular-shaped cut, but the size and shape can vary depending on the butcher. Look for a piece that’s roughly 2-3 pounds in weight, with a wider base and narrower tip.

When it comes to choosing a quality picanha cut, it’s always a good idea to buy from a trusted butcher or meat supplier. They can offer guidance on the best cuts and preparation methods, and ensure that you’re getting a high-quality piece of meat.

Cleaning And Preparing Your Picanha Cut


Before you air fry your picanha, it’s important to clean and prepare the meat properly. Here’s how:

  • Rinse the meat under cold running water and pat it dry with paper towels.
  • Using a sharp knife, score the fat cap in a crosshatch pattern to help it render and crisp up.
  • Rub the meat with a generous amount of coarse sea salt and freshly minced garlic, massaging it into the meat to ensure even seasoning.
  • Let the picanha sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour to allow the seasoning to penetrate the meat.

Cooking Your Picanha In The Air Fryer

close up view of air fried picanha

Now that your picanha is cleaned and seasoned, it’s time to air fry it to perfection. Here’s how:

  1. Preheat your air fryer to 375°F.

  2. Place the picanha in the air fryer basket, fat cap side up.

  3. Cook for 20 minutes, then flip the meat over and cook for another 10-15 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 135°F for medium-rare.

  4. Let the meat rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing against the grain and serving.

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Tips And Variations

close up view of air fried picanha

Here are a few tips and variations to help you get the most out of your air-fried picanha:

  • Use a meat thermometer: To ensure that your picanha is cooked to perfection, use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. For medium-rare, aim for 135°F; for medium, aim for 145°F.
  • Don’t forget the chimichurri: In Brazil, picanha is often served with chimichurri – a tangy herb sauce made with parsley, garlic, vinegar, and olive oil. Try making your own chimichurri to serve alongside your air-fried picanha.
  • Experiment with seasonings: While traditional Brazilian seasoning consists of salt and garlic, feel free to experiment with other seasonings to give your picanha a unique flavor. Smoked paprika, cumin, and oregano are all great options.
  • Try different cooking methods: While air frying is a great option for picanha, feel free to try other cooking methods as well. Grilling, pan-searing, and roasting are all viable options.

In Summary

Picanha is a delicious cut of beef that’s a staple of Brazilian cuisine. While traditionally grilled over charcoal, cooking picanha in the air fryer is a great option for achieving perfectly cooked, juicy meat in no time.

When selecting a picanha cut, look for a good amount of fat and marbling, and consider the shape of the cut. Clean and season the meat properly, then air fry it to your desired level of doneness.

With these tips and variations, you’ll be well on your way to creating an unforgettable picanha meal in the air fryer. So fire up your appliance and get cooking!

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  • FAQS On Picanha Air Fryer Recipe

    What Is Picanha?

    Picanha is a popular cut of beef in Brazil, known for its tender texture and rich flavor. It is also referred to as the sirloin cap or rump cover.

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    Can I Make Picanha In An Air Fryer?

    Yes, you can definitely make picanha in an air fryer. The air fryer provides a convenient and efficient way to cook picanha, resulting in delicious and juicy meat.

    How Do I Season Picanha For The Air Fryer?

    The traditional way to season picanha is with coarse salt. You can also add other seasonings such as garlic, pepper, and any other spices you prefer. It’s important to coat the picanha evenly with the seasoning to enhance its flavor.

    What Temperature And Time Is Recommended For Cooking Picanha In The Air Fryer?

    Preheat the air fryer to 400°F (200°C) and cook the picanha for about 12-15 minutes for medium-rare or longer for medium to well-done, depending on your preference. It’s important to check the internal temperature of the meat to ensure it’s cooked to your desired level of doneness.

    Do I Need To Marinate The Picanha Before Air Frying?

    While picanha is traditionally cooked with just salt, you can marinate it beforehand if you prefer. A simple marinade of olive oil, garlic, and herbs can add extra flavor to the meat. Marinating can also help tenderize the picanha.

    How Should I Prepare The Picanha Before Cooking In The Air Fryer?

    Before cooking, it’s important to trim any excess fat from the picanha and score the fat cap to help it render during cooking. Bring the picanha to room temperature before air frying for even cooking.

    What Are Some Serving Suggestions For Picanha Cooked In The Air Fryer?

    Picanha is typically served sliced against the grain and can be accompanied by traditional Brazilian sides such as farofa (toasted cassava flour), rice, beans, and a vinaigrette salad. Additionally, you can pair it with chimichurri sauce for added flavor.