Jerk Chicken

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Jerk is a combination of African cooking methods brought to Jamaica when they arrived as slaves combined with the local seasonings that the native Indians used to cook meats.

Why is it even called jerk chicken anyway? There are two commonly held theories regarding how the name "Jerk" came to be used. One is that it originates from the Spanish word "Charqui", used to describe dried meat. Over time this term evolved from "Charqui" to "Jerky" to "Jerk". Another theory is that the name derives from the practice of jerking (poking) holes in the meat to fill with spices prior to cooking. Nowadays, the word "Jerk" is used as a noun to describe the seasoning applied to jerked food and as a verb to describe the process of cooking used.

Below is JE’s house recipe for making your own authentic jerk chicken at home.

One 3 ½ - 4 lbs chicken (or 3 lbs of chicken breast)

  • 6 sliced scotch bonnet peppers
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed from stems
  • 2 Tbsp. ground pimento seeds
  • 8 Cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 Medium onions, finely chopped
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 Tsp. salt
  • 2 Tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 Tsp of the following (or to taste)
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Ginger

Blend all the seasonings to make a marinade for the chicken. Chop the chicken into quarters and rub marinade all over chicken. Place in a covered bowl or ziploc bag overnight. Jerk chicken over pimento wood on a coal barbecue grill, basting as you go along with remaining marinade.

Serve with fried festivals, bammy, rice and peas or salad. Pimento chips are available online or at some gift shops in Jamaica while on vacation here.