Jamaican Jerk Chicken


Two weeks ago I was running around Lake Merritt and I smelled something amazing. A young man was eating chicken on the bench–and it wasn’t just chicken, it was Jamaican Jerk Chicken. The smell of that charred grilled chicken struck a chord with me. So much so that last night I made my own “rendition” of Jerk chicken.

There are quite a few recipes for Jerk chicken, and mine was probably a distant cousin of Jerk chicken, something made without dark rum (I didn’t have any in the house) but made with quite a few herbs–nothin too crazy or fancy. But enough to make a broiled chicken with a kick. I found this funny description of the origin of the name of Jerk chicken below.

The island of Jamaica is famous for its beautiful beaches, reggae music, Blue Mountain coffee, exotic fruits, and its cheerful people with their beautiful patois language. But, you haven’t tasted Jamaica until you’ve tried Jamaican Jerk, ya mon!

The term jerk is said to come from the word charqui, a Spanish term for jerked or dried meat, which eventually became jerky in English.

That being said, Jerk chicken is meant to be a little dry.

For my recipe, a variation of this traditional recipe, you will need:

  • 1/2 cup malt vinegar (or any rice vinegar)
  • 4 green onion tops, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme or 2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • chicken for two (amount will vary according to your appetite). I make extra (four breasts so we have enough for lunch the next day).
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp pepper
  • 1 Tbsp barbecue sauce


1. Clean your chickens and set them aside.
2. Put all ingredients in a bowl and place chicken breasts in the bowl.
3. Allow to sit in the fridge for 30 mins-overnight. The longer you allow the chickens to marinate, the softer and juicier the meat will be.
4. Put the oven on broil and when you are ready put your meat on foil in a heat safe pan of some kind.
5. Allow to cook for between 20 and 30 minutes depending on how cooked you like your meat.
6. Enjoy with some rice on the side.

Disclosure. My chicken lived up to its name, and when I opened the oven, it rolled off the rack onto the floor. What a jerk!

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