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Sous Vide: Top Sirloin; Culotte/Picahna Roast/Steaks

This sub-primal muscle attached to the beef top sirloin has a dense texture and hearty flavor.


Top sirloin flap/picahna/culotte, approximately 2.2 lbs/1 Kg.
Kosher salt, 2 teaspoons per lb/450 g.
Ground black pepper, 0.5 teaspoon per lb/450 g.

Vegetable oil, as needed.

Optional ingredients:

Sirloin Espagnole,1 recipe, or
Stovetop Espagnole, 1 recipe.

Potatoes, Russet, 0.5/person
Broccoli, 3 oz/90 g/person.
Mushrooms, 1/person.
Onions, 1 each.
Proprietary tempura batter as needed.
Butter, 1.5 oz/45 g/person.

Equipment requirements
Immersion circulator, portable or stationary.
Lipavi heat rated container, minimum of 2 gallons/8 liters.
Lipavi L15 rack or equivalent.
Heat rated sous vide bags.
Sharp boning knife.
Paper towels.
Cast iron broiler pan or thick bottomed skilled, approximately 12″/30 cm.




Serves 4-6
Level of difficulty 2.75

Seen below is the picahna/culotte (on the top) still attached to the TOP SIRLOIN

We explain its exact location and other details in an article/commentary linked HERE.

How do you like your steak cooked?

Here are some commonly accepted temperature setting guidelines:

Rare: 129 F/54 C.
Medium rare: 132 F/55 C.
Medium: 135 F/57 C.
Medium well: 140 F/60 C.
Well done:  150 F/66 C.

Sous vide processing a picahna/culotte roast

Set the sous vide bath to the temperature from the table above that most closely matches your preference. Stage the roast into a its own vacuum bag. Seal and sous vide process at the chosen temperature for a minimum of twelve hours. As per your convenience, the roast can stay in the bath for at least six more hours without risking any detectable difference in quality or safety.

Once your picahna/culotte is processed, it can rest at room temperature for up to 30 minutes. Make sure it is no hotter than 70 F/21 C before refrigerating.

Weights and measures

The culotte/picahna usually weighs just over 2 lbs/1 Kg. It is not as tender as some other premium steaks/roasts because the muscle does bear some burden.

We processed this top sirloin flap/cap “whole,” at
128 F/53 C for 12 hours.

As always, there is no “moment,” no stop watch driven instant whereupon the meat must be immediately removed from the bath. It could stay in the bath for 18 hours and the difference would be barely noticeable, if at all so. If desired, the enthusiast can make Sirloin Espagnole or Stovetop Espagnole to correspond to the sauce utilized in the presentation below.

After processing, the meat is removed from the tank, removed from the pouch and patted dry. The juices are collected and processed as explained HERE and reserved for another application.

The color of the surface does not “blanch” the way other beef cuts might, as the cut has a high level of myoglobin.

Note: myoglobin is the protein responsible for providing oxygen to muscle tissue. It is not blood, and it does not course through veins. It is similar to hemoglobin in chemical composition and color.

The tip of the picahna/coulotte is not as tender as the rest of the muscle. Sliced extremely thin, it can be successfully utilized as “London Broil.” It can also be adapted for use as explained HERE.

Cut the processed roast into four steaks, approximately 8 oz/225 g each. You can finish one or all of the steaks at this time. Because of the size of the individual steaks, there is no need to cold shock before packaging and refrigerating. Picahna/culotte is one of the few cuts of beef that can be refrigerated after processing and then rethermed later without losing its “rare” appearance, should that be your preference.

Season as desired and sear one or more of the steaks in a saute pan or cast iron broiler pan with grates. Should you refrigerate steaks for later service, they can be “treated as raw” and grilled to your liking without losing the benefit of sous vide processing. Since they are no longer vacuum sealed, they should be served within the next three days.

The cylindrical steak is cut into four equal sections with the tips removed to assist in the presentation. Grilled broccoli, tempura onion rings, and a few crispy potato chips complete the presentation.

Presentation: reduce 2 oz/60 ml of the Top Sirloin Espagnole by half and then incorporate 1.5 oz/45 ml of cold butter into the reduction. This forms an emulsion to create a sauce that is pooled on the plate:

Coming down the stretch

Finishing and serving simply yet properly will make the most of your sous vide processed protein. Sous vide technology itself says nothing about what to do with proteins after they have been processed. If you have come this far, you know that sous vide processed foods are generally not eaten “out of the bag.”

Members of the FACEBOOK SOUS VIDE GROUP that I administrate ask me about sauces and presentation. I direct them to my explanations of how to make the basic mother sauces, almost none of which require sous vide processing themselves. Presentation is very subjective and personal; my best advice is to focus on simplicity and a clean plate with a bit of empty space.

The optional presentation offered below involves either searing or grilling the steaks that I cut as shown in this article.

Above: something as simple as a baked potato (or half of one!) with a grilled broccoli spear and mushroom bring a sense of style without dominating the plate. The sauce is sous vide Hollandaise.

Norm King


There is debate as to the best way to prepare a picahna/culotte. Typically spit-roasted, the picahna is a staple of Brazilian style cooking. As a culotte, it is typically cut into steaks in advance of cooking and then grilled or broiled. We use sous vide processing to split the difference.

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