Picanha vs. Ribeye : What is the Difference?
The two most popular steaks we sell are Picanha and Ribeye steak so we felt it was high time to drill into all things Picanha vs Ribeye to show you the key features and main differences between these two steak titans known as: "The King and Queen of Steaks".
What is Picanha?
Picanha is a beef cut taken from a cattle rump’s top portion. It is an extremely flavorful cut of beef, thanks to the steak’s outer fat cap, which keeps the steak nice and juicy too.
Picanha steaks are the most popular steak in meat loving Brazil where this cut is called the “Queen of Steaks”. Pichanha is also wildly popular in Portugal and throughout South America, particularly Argentina. Due to its Brazilian origins, it is often cooked churrasco-style, a barbecue method in which the meat rests on a spit-roast or skewer.
What is Ribeye Steak?
Ribeye Steaks come from the cattle’s ribcage. Similar to Picanha Steaks, Ribeyes are super flavorful because they have a higher concentration of fat thanks to the two muscles that make up a Ribeye i.e., the spinalis dorsi & Longissimus Dorsi muscles (aka the tenderest part of the steak known as the “eye”).
Most butchers leave the bone on during the initial cutting process, which provides more fat since part of the rib remains. And after all, more fat equates to more flavor!
Appearance: Picanha vs. Ribeye
Undoubtedly the most significant difference between Picanha and Ribeye is their appearance.
Image: Picanha Steaks have a unique naturally contoured / half moon shape and thick fat cap.
Picanha roasts are triangular-shaped with a thick, outer fat cap visible on top of the beef cut. Meanwhile, Picanha steaks are typically cut into crescent-moon-shaped individual portions. Cutting the steak this way makes it easier to attach it to a skewer or spit, which is common in Brazilians churrascarias (steak houses). It also ensures that each serving remains juicy since the fat cap remains intact.
Ribeyes, on the other hand, have an intramuscular fat content. The Longissimus Dorsi muscle, the longest muscle in the body along the cattle’s back and ribs, is responsible. When the beef is cut, the visible part of the muscle forms the “eye” of the steak (aka The Eye in Rib-eye... its namesake).
Image: Ribeye Steaks have intramuscular fat around the Longissimus Dorsi muscle.
Sub-Primal Cut: Picanha vs. Ribeye
Picanha and Ribeye steaks come from two distinctive sub-primal beef cuts, which include:
Picanha Sub Primal
Picanha, much like the iconic California Tri-Tip steak, is from the sirloin primal at the very top seam called Sirloin Cap.
Ribeye Sub Primal
Ribeye steaks, as its namesake suggests, are taken from the primal rib cut. The rib is split into two sub-primal beef cuts: the Ribeye roll, which includes ribeye steaks, and the Rib sub-primal, consisting of beef back and short ribs.
Fat Content: Picanha vs. Ribeye
Both cuts of beef are considered fatty cuts, regardless of the steak’s fat concentration being in different places.
Picanha Fat Content
The bulk of fat in Picanha steaks is on the exterior, known as the fat cap. You should keep the fat cap on while cooking to get the optimal flavor and texture.
Ribeye Fat Content
In contrast, fat runs through Ribeye steaks. This is caused by the Longissimus Dorsi muscle inside the cut of beef, causing Ribeyes to have a greater intramuscular content than Picanha.
Price: Picanha vs. Ribeye
Picanha and ribeye steaks are famous and fatty, making them a bit more expensive than other cuts of beef.
Picanha was initially invented as a more affordable alternative to other fatty, pricier beef cuts. Today, you can find Picanha from anywhere between $6 to $25 per pound, depending on the meat’s quality and how it was raised.
Thanks to the outer rump cap, these steaks are still incredibly tasty and juicy, yet cheaper because they’re sourced from a less desirable location on the cattle.
Due to their popularity in the United Steaks, Ribeyes are almost always more expensive. Boneless Ribeye steaks range between $15 to $28 per pound at the supermarket, and cost at least double that at a steakhouse. Given the quality and flavor of the fatty steak, we believe Ribeye steaks are worth the splurge.
Texture: Picanha vs. Ribeye
Another major difference between these two cuts of beef is their texture and mouthfeel.
Image: Picanha Steaks have a perfect balance of lean and fat giving a tremendous mouthfeel.
Picanha steaks are insanely tender due to the outer fat cap. That said, when cooked correctly, they come out juicy and lean. The fat cap also creates a unique, butter-like mouthfeel.
Ribeyes are very tender too, though much much marblier than Picanha. They are served with or without the bone, which impacts the steak’s texture distinctively. Bone-in Ribeye Steaks are classified as Tomahawk Steaks (when the entire bone is left in) or Cowboy steaks (when only approximately 2 to 3 inches of the bone is protruding).
Flavor: Picanha vs. Ribeye
The biggest reason these steaks are so iconic is that they taste so great! However, there are a few differences in flavor, such as:
Picanha boasts a mild beefy flavor with subtle hints of umami. Traditionally, Picanha is best served with side dishes such as farofa, a crumbled blend of toasted cassava (or cornflower), crispy bacon, garlic, chimichurri seasoning, diced onions, and fresh parsley. Also, don’t skip out on the distinctive and thick fat cap! It has an incredible buttery flavor and mouthfeel.
Image: Grilled Ribeye is tender and loaded with flavor.
Ribeyes are delicious on their own, only needing to be seasoned with salt and occasionally with freshly black pepper. Its higher fat content, displayed in the steak’s primer marbling, keeps the meat juicy and flavorful.
Nutrition Facts: Picanha vs. Ribeye
Either one of these cuts of beef provides you with a mean source of protein, as well as:
Picanha has a higher protein content than Ribeyes since it has less intramuscular fat. In addition, a serving of Coulotte Steaks boasts a significant amount of iron, potassium, zinc, and B-Vitamin. They do not contain any carbohydrates or dietary fibers.
Like Picanha, Ribeyes do not contain carbs or fiber. They are an excellent source of iron, zinc, and B Vitamins. Despite having less protein and more fat, Ribeyes usually contain less cholesterol than Picanha.
How To Cook: Picanha vs. Ribeye
Just like Ribeye vs.Tenderloin, the comparison of Picanha and Ribeye steaks in terms of taste, both are exceptional when grilled or pan-fried. We will go over a few tips and tricks for cooking each cut of beef to ensure your steak comes out perfectly juicy!
Like any good quality steaks, please ensure you let the steak rest, be it Ribeye or Picanha. Resting will hold on to much needed moisture and ensure a much more juicy eating experience.
Also, if you have purchased verified / authentic grass-fed & finished Picanha or Ribeye steak, it is very important to know how to cook grass-fed steaks the right way to truly enjoy the great grass-fed flavor and avoid overcooking.
Picanha How to Cook
When cooking Picanha, you must pay extra attention to its fat cap to guarantee optimal juiciness and tenderness. Using tongs, hold the fat cap directly over the hottest part of the pan or grill to de-tenderize the meat. We also suggest scoring the fat cap, creating a half-inch thick cut in a diamond or cross-hatch pattern.
If you bought your Picanha as a whole roast (not cut into steaks), we suggest cooking this by the reverse sear method for perfect results.
Ribeye How to Cook
As mentioned earlier, Ribeyes are ideal for grilling or pan-frying. We recommend using a cast-iron skillet on high heat when cooking these steaks on the stovetop to attain the best sear.
Image: Picanha Steaks have an unmistakable half-moon shape and fat cap.
Picanha vs. Ribeye: Nicknames / Also Known As
Both cuts of beef go by a few different names! To make things easier for you on your next shopping trip, check out the alternative terms for Picanha and Ribeye steaks below.
Picanha: Also Known As
The name “Picanha,” pronounced as pee-can-yuh, is derived from the Portuguese word for “rump steak.” This cut of beef is equally popular in France as it is in Brazil and Portugal. However, French butchers usually label Picanha as “Beef Coulotte.”
Most English-speaking butchers from places like Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States might refer to Picanha as “Rump Cap” or “Top Sirloin.”
Picanha is also referred to as " The Queen of Steaks".
Ribeye: Also Known As
The name “Ribeye” was given to this cut of beef because the Longissimus Dorsi muscle resembles an eye when the bone is removed. Although Ribeye steaks are also known as:
- Beauty Steak
- Scotch Fillet
- Market Steak
- Spencer Steak
Ribeye Steak is also known as "The King of Steaks".
Picanha vs. Ribeye: Which Cut of Beef Is Better?
When comparing two steaks as flavorful and tender as Picanha and Ribeyes, it is challenging to choose which is superior. Instead, you should decide based on how you plan to cook and present your steak.
If you have access to an outdoor grill and skewers, you may want to make Picanha. Meanwhile, a ribeye will be best if you want to pan-fry your steak on a cast-iron skillet. That said, either steak can be grilled or pan-fried.
We just believe they shine differently when prepared using each cooking method.
Which is our favorite? Honestly, it is too hard to call as both of these steak titans have so much to offer in terms of great flavor, mouthfeel, and fat.
Summary: Picanha vs. Ribeye: What is the Difference?
- Picanha is a beef cut taken from a cattle rump’s top portion known as Sirloin Rump Cap.
- Ribeye Steak is made up of the spinalis dorsi & Longissimus Dorsi muscles.
- Picanha Steaks have a distinctive half-moon shape and thick fat cap.
- Picanha is known in Brazil as "The Queen of Steaks".
- Ribeye Steaks have intra-muscular fat around the longissimus and spinalis muscles.
- Picanha Steak meat is very lean with fat on an outside edge fat cap.
- Ribeye Steak is generally 20 to 30% more expense than Picanha Steak.
- Both of these steaks can be cooked on the pan, grill, reverse sear.
- Picanha is also known as Rump Steak, Rump, Coulotte Steak.
- Ribeye is also known as Entrecote, Scotch Fillet, Market Steak, and Spencer Steak.