Jerk Chicken

Caribbean jerk chicken full of flavor and and a good amount of heat, using habaneros (or scotch bonnet chili peppers) and allspice.

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

I recently had the jerk chicken at a local Davis hangout, the psychedelically inspired Delta of Venus. The place looks a bit scruffy, but my oh my is their jerk chicken good. And hot. My meal there led me to do some research on jerk preparations. Jerk seasoning, if you are unfamiliar with it, is based on two main ingredients – Scotch Bonnet chili peppers (or habaneros) and allspice, and is how they like to cook chicken in Jamaica and throughout the Caribbean. The following recipe we cooked up isn’t as scorching as the Delta of Venus’, but it is still plenty spicy, and great the next day in a chicken salad. Serve with rice (to spread out the heat) and a very large glass of cold beer. Do you have a favorite jerk seasoning recipe? Please let us know about it in the comments.

Jerk Chicken Recipe

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup malt vinegar (or white vinegar)
  • 2 Tbsp dark rum
  • 2 Scotch bonnet peppers (or habaneros), with seeds, chopped
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 4 green onion tops, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp dried thyme or 2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons molasses
  • 1 (5 or 6 pound) roasting chicken, cut in half, lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • Salt and pepper

Safety note. Scotch Bonnet and Habanero chile peppers are very hot and can cause extreme pain if they come in contact with your eyes. We strongly recommend wearing protective gloves while handling the chilies and the jerk paste.

Method

1 Put vinegar, rum, hot peppers, onion, green onion tops, thyme, olive oil, salt, pepper, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and molasses into a blender. Pulse until mostly smooth.

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2 Place chicken in a large freezer bag, or in a large roasting pan or baking dish. Pour lime juice over the chicken and coat well. Add the jerk paste to the chicken pieces and coat well. Seal the bag or cover the chicken in the pan with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.

3 When you are ready to cook the chicken, remove chicken from the marinade bag or pan. Put the remaining marinade into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside to use as a basting sauce for the chicken. If you want you can reserve a little of the marinade (once boiled for 10 minutes since it has been in contact with raw chicken) to serve with the chicken or to mix with some ketchup and a dash of soy sauce for a serving sauce.

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4a Grilling Method
Preheat grill to medium high. Sprinkle chicken halves with salt and pepper. Place chicken halves, skin side down on the grill grates. Cover. Cook for approximately one hour, keeping the internal grill temperature between 350°F and 400°F, turning the chickens occasionally and basting with marinade, until the chicken halves are cooked through. The chicken is done when the juices run clear (not pink) when a knife tip is inserted into both the chicken breast and thigh, about 165-170°F for the breast and 180-185°F for the thigh. Transfer chicken to platter. Tent loosely with foil to keep warm and let stand 15 minutes.

4b Oven Method
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place chicken halves in a rimmed baking pan, skin side up. Roast until chicken halves are cooked through, about 50-60 minutes. The chicken is done when the juices run clear (not pink) when a knife tip is inserted into both the chicken breast and thigh, about 165-170°F for the breast and 180-185°F for the thigh. Transfer chicken to platter. Tent loosely with foil to keep warm and let stand 15 minutes.

Cut chicken into pieces. Serve with black beans and rice.

Serves 6 to 8.

Recipe adapted from several sources, including Bon Appetit magazine.

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Links:
Jerk chicken from the Domestic Goddess.

Showing 4 of 20 Comments

  • Gary in Massena

    I still remember the first time I had Jerk Chicken. It was in a Jamaican restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale. I was eating alone and remember that the waiter brought me a gallon pitcher of Iced Tea. Funny thing, I drank the whole thing.

    I attribute that lunch to converting me over to be a chili head.

    Hot, but oh so flavorful.

    Gary in Massena

  • june yoo

    Ha ha I definitely love Iwaca’s jerk chicken over at the Delta of Venus as well, that’s what inspired me to put in a search for jerk chicken on google and this is what I found. irie vibes

  • Lacey

    I make jerk chicken all the time! In bulk for the week usually!

    My two favorite recipes, are a variation on a salad I used to always get at a little Jamaican joint near my old job and delicious quesadillas.

    For the salad, I use a bed of green, usually romaine and some spinach. Then I chop up red onion and tomato – or use cherry tomatoes, sometimes I add carrots and whatever other typical salad fixin’s I may have around. The real trick to the salad though is berries and candied nuts! I’ve tried both candied pecans and walnuts, strawberries or raspberries. Top it with your warm sliced chicken and a raspberry vinigarette and your lunch will be turning heads!
    I have added bleu cheese to this, but typically do forget! :P

    For my quesadillas, I make the chicken first with Jamaican jerk seasoning, I add more garlic, cayenne pepper, and black pepper to taste – cooked all with olive oil. Let the pan get really sticky. I let the chicken really simmer to get nice and tender. Once the chicken is cooked through I shred it or slice it finely on a plate. I then put the tortilla right in the sticky spice pan, add my mixed cheese, chicken, and spinach! Voila! The tortilla will get nice and crispy with a little bit of spice. I have had this with feta as well, its nice.

    I’m currently working on a jerk chicken chili recipe for a chili cook off, we’ll see how it goes!!

  • Southern Patriot

    In our recent trip to Jamaica we observed the jerk cooks carefully and most did not preserve the moisture in the chicken and the chicken which came immediately from the fire or that which rested a few minutes was hot but dry. We challenged our hosts in Jamaica that we could prepare jerk chicken better than he usually had from the road side jerk stand and he said that was not possible until he watched us do exactly that. The difference? We brined the chicken in jerk seasoning and salt and then covered it as it roasted on the charred wood. We used scotch bonnet peppers for them and then for us we used roasted jalapenas (chipotle) which we enjoyed much better. We prepared pigeon peas with rice and also cole slaw and all enjoyed the dishes and refreshments. We returned to prepare the same for hundreds of hungry men and women of the U.S. military, which was a great honor.

  • Bob

    I started to make this recipe until I got to the 4 teaspoons of spices each. Are these measurements correct? That makes for an expensive marinade and I would think it would be way over-spicy.

    Anyone make it as listed?

    The measurements are correct, but if you want to reduce the amount of jerk paste you make, that will work too. Jamaican jerk chicken is very very spicy. ~Elise

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Jerk Chicken