Most Jamaican Jerk Chicken Recipes found outside of Jamaica are a major disappointment. They usually consist of some weak, slightly spicy chicken breast that is grilled and served. These jerk recipes do not even come close to what you will find in the jerk huts of Jamaica.
This Jamaican jerk chicken recipe will change all that. We’re talking about smoking-hot, well-seasoned jerk chicken, cooked the way it was meant to be. The flavor goes right to the bone, and the complexity of all the ingredients is mind-blowing.
This authentic jerk recipe begins with a wet marinade over thighs and drumsticks, and never breasts. The really important flavors in this recipe are thyme, allspice, and hot chiles. This recipe does not skimp on chiles and is very spicy. It uses a charcoal grill for best results and authenticity.
In Jamaica, jerk chicken is normally cooked over pimento branches (allspice). If apple wood is easier to find, we will be using that. But extra allspice will have to be added to make up the difference. The chicken is smoked at slow temperatures for a time, then grilled quickly to crisp up the skin.
Authentic Jamaican Jerk Chicken Recipe
This makes enough jerk chicken for about 4-6 servings, so double the recipe if needed.
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1 bunch of green onions, white and green parts roughly chopped
3 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2-3 habanero or Scotch bonnet peppers, stemmed and seeded
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (or 2 tsp. dried)
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon dry or freshly grated nutmeg
3 pounds bone-in chicken drums and thighs
2 large handfuls apple wood chips, soaked in water for about 30 minutes
1) Combine the marinade ingredients and process in a blender or food processor for about one minute until pulverized. Use rubber gloves when handling the peppers.
2) Trim and discard any large pieces of fat on the chicken pieces. Cut a few shallow slits in each piece of chicken. This will let the flavors of the marinade and the smoke seep into the chicken. Place all chicken pieces into a large, sealable plastic bag. Pour the marinade into the bag, seal, and mix it all around the chicken. Place in refrigerator to marinade for 12-16 hours.
3) Prepare a charcoal fire with higher heat on one side, and lower heat on the other (two-tone fire). Push the charcoal all the way to one side so it only covers about 1/3rd of the charcoal grate. If you are using a smoker, set it for a heat range of 225-250 degrees Fahrenheit. Drain the water from the apple chips, and add about half of them to the grill.
4) Remove the chicken from the plastic bag and let sit on a tray for 20-30 minutes before grilling. Pour the marinade into a small saucepan and keep it refrigerated for the first hour of the chicken cooking.
5) Use a wire brush to clean the cooking grate. When the apple wood begins to smoke, start grilling the chicken, skin side down, over the side of the grill without the charcoal (indirect heat). Close the lid and keep closed as much as possible.
6) Bring the marinade to a boil, and let it boil for about 30 seconds or so to kill any bacteria. Brush the marinade all over the chicken, then turn skin side up. Add the remaining wood chips, cover, and continue to grill for another 45 minutes to an hour.
7) At this point, the meat will be very tender, but the skin will be soft and rubbery. Move the chicken to the hot side of the grill, skin side down first, and cook until well-browned on all sides (5-10 minutes), turning once or twice, and moving pieces around for even cooking. Serve chicken warm.
Once again, this is not for weak. But the spices and flavors from this authentic Jamaican jerk chicken recipe will have you saying “no worries” in no time.