Tri Tip vs. Picanha: We Explain The Difference (And Whats Better!)

So you’re looking to try a new cut of steak.

You’ve narrowed down your options; picanha or tri-tip. 

Both seem similar but which is better?

Not to worry!

Both are equally flavorful steak cuts.

We’ll help you work out which one is best for you. 

Have a read of the guide below to see which one you should try cooking next. 

Are They Picanha and Tri-Tip Same Thing?

No, the picanha and the tri-tip come from different parts of the cow. 

Therefore they have different flavors, ways of cooking, and uses. 

What is Picanha?

Picanha is also known as Coulotte, top sirloin cap, or rump cap. 

Picanha comes from the top sirloin subprimal and has a somewhat triangular shape.

This piece of meat has a thick layer of fat that gives it a beefy flavor. 

Picanha is a good substitute for tri-tip if you can’t find it at the supermarket

You can see the layer of fat on this picanha cut of beef.

Where Do They Eat It?

Picanha first became popular in Brazil.

You can often find it being served in parts of South America in a Brazilian Steakhouse

While not widely available in the US, you should be able to order picanha from your local butcher shop. 

Size of Picanha

Picanha steak varies in size.

It also depends upon whether the fat cap is attached or not. 

Picanha will weigh between 6oz to 9oz (with the fat cap attached). 

Picanha smoked and sliced and ready to eat!

Cost of Picanha

The cost will vary from store to store, depending upon where you are and availability.

If you do have trouble finding picanha, several online outlets do sell it. 

Here are a list of online outlets. 

How to Cook Picanha

When cooking picanhas, don’t trim the thick fat cap.

It will keep the meat full of flavor and juicy. 

The traditional way of cooking picanha is with a skewer over hot embers. 

You can also grill, sear, smoke or oven-cook picanhas. 

Our Family Favorite Picanha Recipes

There are plenty of picanha recipes out there for you to try.

Here are some of our suggestions below. 

What is Tri-Tip?

Tri-tip steak is also known as Santa Maria, Newport, or Triangle Steak. 

It’s a triangular cut that comes from the bottom of the sirloin. 

Tri-tip has a reasonable amount of marbling on it, which gives it a buttery flavor. 

Want to know what to make with tri tip leftovers? One of my favorites is mac and cheese topped with chopped tri tip!

Where Do They Eat It?

Tri-Tip became popular in California in the 1950s.

It was originally used by American butchers for hamburger meat. 

Tri-tip is still very popular in California today, but less common in other parts of the world. 

Size of Tri-Tip

Tri-tip can come in smaller sizes or as a whole roast. 

Tri-tip steaks weigh about 2-3 pounds. 

An untrimmed roast will weigh between 2.5- 4 pounds. 

Taste of Tri-Tip

Tri-tip is a lean, tender cut with a delicious beefy flavor.

Take care when cutting your tri-tip. If cut incorrectly it will lose flavor. 

Be sure not to overcook tri-tip as it can become tough and chewy. 

Cost Comparision

Like picanha, tri-tip prices vary. 

Current prices range on average between 10.99 lb. 

Tri-tip is more readily available than picanha, so there will be more options to choose from. 

Ways to Cook Tri-Tip

Tri-tip steaks are incredibly versatile. Smoking tri tip is the best way to cook it

Although it can also be can be grilled, broiled, oven-roasted or pan-seared

One of the most important things to use to marinade over tri tip for at least 5-6 hours.

If you have a pellet grill, try this recipe for Pit Boss tri-tip, it ensures your meat comes out perfectly cooked every time.

Some of Our Fav Tri Tip Recipes 

Here are some tri-tip recipes

I’m Not Sure if it’s Cooked

Every cut of meat will cook slightly differently. 

It can be nerve-racking to know whether your meat is done or if food poisoning is on the cards tonight. 

If you’re ever unsure about the internal temperature of meat, use a meat thermometer to check. 

Main Differences Between Picanha and Tri-Tip

There are a couple of main differences between the picanha and the tri-tip. 

  • The tri-tip and the picanha come from different parts of the cow. 
  • The picanha is rounder than the tri-top which is more triangular. 
  • Picanha steak has a thick fat cap but a small amount of marbling. 
  • Tri-tip has no fat cap but has more marbling. 
  • When cutting picanha, the slices are thicker than with tri-top. 
  • Tri-tip may be easier to purchase than Picanha, which is less common. 

Not Too Keen On Either Of These Cuts?

That’s okay, not every type of meat is for every person.

We’ve put together a list of other affordable steaks that you can also try. 

  • Chuck Steak
  • Denver Steak
  • Petite Sirloin
  • Hanger Steak
  • Flat Iron
  • Chuck-Eye Steak
  • Flank Steak

There are plenty of steak cuts out there, for all occasions and preferences. 

Can I Have Both?

Of course! 

Picanha and Tri-tip are both great cuts of beef and there is nothing wrong with serving both. 

Ultimately it’s up to personal preference and what you feel like cooking. 

Picanha steaks are perfect for grilling, wheras tri-tip is a versatile cut and can be cooked in many different ways. 

Both cuts of meat are full of flavor and delicious!

Do you prefer cooking picanha or tri-tip? 

Smoke On!


Hi, I’m Charlie, I have been meat-smoking and grilling for the past 15 years. I have an array of different smokers, thermometers, and have a love for finding the right wood and charcoal combo My favourite recipes are my EXTRA CRISPY smoked pork belly, juicy pulled pork, smoked brisket, duck poppers, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill).

I loves sharing his tips with beginners, helping them navigate the world of smoking. I find it’s not just about cooking; it’s a quest for that perfect smoky flavor.

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling recipes with you!

You can read more about me on our About Us page.

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