Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Other Recipes from Planet Barbecue Episode 107 – Fire and Spice

Jerk is Jamaica’s national dish, not to mention its most important contribution to world barbecue. Born with the Maroons, runaway enslaved in Jamaica’s highlands, it features nutmeg, allspice, and other tropical spices; tongue torturing doses of Scotch bonnet chiles; and rum and salt– originally added as a preservative. The final defining ingredient is the fragrant smoke of pimiento (allspice wood). If you don’t have the latter, toss a handful of allspice berries on the coals or add to your gas grill’s smoker box.

Serves: 2 to 3
Method: Direct grilling
Advance preparation: 48 hours for brining and marinating the chicken


Jamaican Jerk Chicken


For the brine:

  • 2 cups water
  • 4 tablespoons coarse salt (kosher or sea)
  • 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and halved lengthwise
  • 1 small orange, quartered
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 1 small onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 habanero or Scotch bonnet chiles, slit
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves

For the seasoning:

  • 6 scallions, trimmed, white and green parts coarsely chopped
  • 1 small white onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 habanero or Scotch bonnet chiles (seed for less heat)
  • 2 1- by 2-inch pieces of orange peel (without white pith)
  • 2 1- by 1-inch pieces of lemon peel (without white pith)
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, or more to taste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons molasses or a commercial browning agent, such as Maggi or Kitchen Bouquet
  • Coarse salt (kosher or sea), to taste
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil or extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 3-1/2 to 4-pound chicken, spatchcocked (butterflied)

  • Rice and pigeon peas or rice and beans for serving (optional):

Recipe Steps

1: Make the brine: In a medium bowl, combine the water, salt, and sugar. Stir or whisk until the salt and sugar crystals dissolve. Add the garlic cloves, orange and lemon quarters, onion quarters, chiles, bay leaves, thyme, peppercorns, and cloves. Stir to mix.

2: Place the chicken in a nonreactive baking dish large enough to hold it. Pour the brine over the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.

3: Make the seasoning: Combine the scallions, onion, garlic, chiles, and citrus peel in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times to coarsely chop. Add the peppercorns, cloves, thyme, brown sugar, molasses, salt, water, and oil. Run the machine until a coarse but pourable marinade forms. Reserve one-third of the mixture for basting (cover and refrigerate).

4: Drain the chicken, discarding any solids from the brine. Pat dry. Return the chicken to the baking dish. Pour two-thirds of the seasoning over the chicken, coating all sides. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.

5: Set up a grill for direct grilling and heat to medium, about 350 degrees. Brush the grill grate clean and oil it well. Arrange the chicken, skin side down, on the grill grate. Grill for 35 to 40 minutes, flipping as needed, until the chicken is nicely browned and cooked through. (A thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh should read 165 degrees.) Baste the chicken with the remaining seasoning as it grills, but not the last 15 minutes.

6: Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before cutting it into serving pieces with a cleaver. Serve the rice and peas, if using, on the side.

Recipe Tips

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Steven Raichlen’s Planet Barbecue is a production of Barbacoa, Inc., and Resolution Pictures. © 2023 Barbacoa, Inc. Photos by Chris Bierlein