Smoked Top Sirloin Cap

One of my favorite cuts of steak is known as the top sirloin cap.  I think it is one of the most under-appreciated cuts of beef, generally because it is not sold separately.  When you break down a top sirloin, it is mainly comprised of the main sirloin and the cap.  The cap is also known a culotte steak or a churrasca steak.  It is significantly more tender than the top sirloin, and more flavorful.

What’s the Top Sirloin Cap?

People generally either love or hate sirloin.  It doesn’t carry as much marbling as a ribeye, nor is it tender like a filet, but generally is a good value at the grocery or a steakhouse.  However, the sirloin cap is a different cut, so to speak, and will be a favorite of any beef lover.  If you know a good butcher or frequent a steakhouse that cuts their own steaks, ask them to save you a capsteak next time.  I think of it as similar to the spinelis dorsi, or ribeye cap that is so flavorful and popular now.  However, unlike that cut, you generally would never butcher the sirloin cap into a part of a sirloin steak.  Most of the top sirloin cap ends up as churrasca steaks served at Brazilian steakhouses, with the thin layer of fat left on it.  When I cook it, I generally remove it, but that is optional.

Why Smoke it?

I don’t pretend to know why, but the sirloin cap gathers smoke flavor more quickly than any other cut I smoke.  As it is naturally tender, it can handle a “hot” smoking temperature.  To keep it moist, you will want to finish it at a medium rare or medium internal doneness (135 for medium rare.)  Unlike a brisket, it does not have a lot of connective tissue that needs a long time to break down to achieve tenderness, so I cook it at 275 or 300 degrees.

Let’s cook it!

First, trim off any silver skin.  I remove the fat cap as well, as I want to season the entire steak, however, this is optional.

Next, season it up!  I use my Grillin’ Shake, but a simple salt and pepper, or your favorite BBQ rub will do nicely as well.

seasoned sirloin cap

Put in on the smoker!  I ran my smoker for this cook at 275, but frankly wished I had raised the temp to 300 in retrospect.  For beef, I’m a big fan of using cherry wood, but any hardwood would be good with this.

sirloin in smoker

For this steak, I cooked it to 143 degrees internal temperature.  It took about 45 minutes.  However, the sizes of these cuts will be different, so cooking times will vary. Remove it 3 to 5 degrees before your desired doneness, loosely cover with foil, and let it rest 5 to 10 minutes.  The internal temp will continue to climb and hit perfection while resting.  Identify the “grain” of the meat and slice against it.  In the below photo, you can notice the grain running from about “1:00” to “7:00.”

identify the grains

Serve it up! Your friends and family will thank you!


17 Responses

  1. Where did you find it? Local or online? Been wanting to try picanha steaks but wasn’t sure where I could get some. I’m in Memphis.

    1. You’ll do better looking for “top sirloin cap” or “culotte” steaks- but they’re very hard to find unless you know someone in a meat market.

      1. That looks just like what we cook in central California, it’s called tri-tip. It is very very popular. Thanks for all your recipes, they are wonderful.

        1. Actually, the tri-tip is a different muscle, according to the experts.

          You’re looking for “top sirloin cap” as Melissa says. Traditional Brazilian picanha recipes need the fat cap intact… though your mileage may vary.

    2. I go to BJs or Costco almost every week …I have two large Afghanhounds who are picky eaters! What I like to do is every day give them 1/2 dog food like “Fresh Pet” and 1/2 lean red meat (the female loves roasted chicken and fish…the male is a definite “red meat and potatoes man”! Anyway,yesterday at BJs I happened upon four beautiful roast/steaks with the label Top Loin/Sirloin Cap….it was $6.99 a pound so I scooped up what they had and ran with it! I’m from Lancaster County I was brought up in the middle of farms and cattle so I pretty much know my cuts of meat but that two title label kind of stumped me …thanks for the info Melissa!

    3. They sell these at Costco. I once had one of their butchers point this out as the best value for beef when I asked him what was the best deal on beef. I believe he was right. I just chop it up into triangular pieces like steak tips, marinate, and grill at 500.

  2. Go to Whole Foods those guys still do real butcher work. I just had one cut last night and it’s about to go in the smoker.

    1. Yes, but you won’t get the smoke flavor. If you have an outdoor grill, just set it up to heat on one side and place the sirloin on the cooler side. If you have a gas grill, use some wood chips wrapped in foil over the hot side to add some flavor. Thanks!

  3. At our Costco you have to knock on the window and ask a meat cutter if you want a whole Top Sirloin Cap Steak. The bonus is Costco charges less for uncut meat.

    Yesterday I bought a PRIME whole Top Sirloin Cap Steak for $6.99 / Lb.!!! -About 3.5 Lbs. in size.

  4. Very nice recipe. My mail order meat place offered this, and I found your recipe in an internet search. My only change was that I kept the fat on as I felt it kept the meat more tender while smoking. I laid the fat side on the top. It came out lovely.

  5. I made 2 in the smoker today. Absolutely amazing. Was my second attempt at my new smoker. Looks like I fell in love with this technique.

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