Barbecued Wagyu Picanha Will Thrill Your Tastebuds and Wow Your Guests

The Wagyu Picanha being barbecued over a flame

With the sun shining, why not take your cooking endeavours up a notch or two by barbecuing some wagyu beef? For many, cooking with the world’s most renowned beef will be a first. Fortunately, the Smokin’ Elk has put together an easy-to-follow guide to ensure everything will go to plan.

Most people who enjoy inviting guests around for a BBQ will be familiar with cooking meats. However, when it comes to meats, there is a hierarchy, and sitting right at the top of the meat pile is Japan’s renowned Wagyu.

Wagyu is a Japanese beef cattle breed favoured for its extra intramuscular fat cells (the marbling). The marbling makes the meat unique, keeping it juicy with a unique taste and texture. There are different grades of Wagyu, with Japanese A5 being the pinnacle. The Picanha is a cut of the beef that comes from the rump cap muscle. It is highly prized as it has a thick layer of fat on top of the steak.

If you’ve forked out for that expensive piece of meat, the last thing you want to do is ruin it by overcooking it. That’s why it’s important to cook to temperature and never to time.

If you are cooking to a specific temperature, it’s best to be armed with the right equipment. The Smokin’ Elk recommends the Thermapen ONE, which uses exact science to give you the precise temperature of the meat in only one second.

The Smokin' Elk in his cabin

The Smokin’ Elk’s Guide to Barbecuing Wagyu Picanha
I prefer my beef cooked to medium-rare. This means an internal temperature of around 55-57 °C. If you leave the meat on the heat for just a minute or so too long, you can easily overcook it, which is why I like to monitor the temperatures using a BlueDOT thermometer and probe it with the Thermapen ONE.

The grilled beef resting

However, you don’t want to take the meat off at 55 °C. You want to take it off before this, as once you remove the meat from the heat to rest, it will continue to cook for a short period. This is known as carryover cooking.

I took this Picanha up to 45 °C and then seared it until it reached 50 °C. I let it rest until it reached 57 °C for the perfect medium-rare. It was a bit on the rarer side, but that suits me fine.


  • Wagyu picanha
  • Salt


  • Light your BBQ and dial in the temperature at around 150 °C. I’ve used my Kamado Joe BBQ for this cook, but if you’re using a kettle-style BBQ, you want to set up your BBQ for two-zone cooking. That’s charcoal on one side, leaving an indirect zone to cook the meat.
  • Score the fat on the Picanha in a diamond pattern, then sprinkle on plenty of flaky sea salt. This is the only seasoning needed.
  • Insert your thermometer probe (I used the BlueDOT thermometer by Thermapen) into the thickest part of the meat, then add the meat to the BBQ, starting with the fat cap facing down towards the coals to start the fat rendering out. This gives you the best chance of soft fat with a crispy edge!
  • Once the fat is rendered nicely, move the steak to the indirect side of the BBQ, then cook until it reaches 45 °C on the DOT thermometer. Use a Thermapen to spot-check a few places to ensure it has come to temperature throughout.
  • Remove the Picanha and let it rest while increasing your BBQ temperature. Do this by opening all vents for maximum airflow.
  • Once the BBQ is nice and hot, add the Picanha back in. Place it fat-side down for 30 seconds to a minute, then flip it and sear for 1-2 minutes until you have some nice caramelisation on there.
  • Remove and rest for 15 minutes. The temperature will continue to rise until you hit a nice perfect medium-rare.

Slicing the cooked beef

Slice against the grain, serve and enjoy!

Read more tasty food features and recipes in our dedicated culinary section.

Barbecued Wagyu Picanha Will Thrill Your Tastebuds and Wow Your Guests 2

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