Jerk chicken is a staple on the menu of every Jamaican restaurant. The most serious chefs will not prepare any jerk dish without using pimento or sweet wood smoke as a definitive mark of authenticity. There are hundreds of recipes out there that only require you to season the chicken and place it in your oven or on your grill, and I’m sure they are delicious but what defines true jerk flavor is the essential-oil laden, cinnamony sweet, clove-like, and slightly camphoraceous smoke of the pimento (allspice) or sweet wood (bay rum NOT bay laurel) plant. Jerk chicken is delicious with a myriad of side dishes including fried ripe plantains, grilled pineapple, Jamaican rice and peas, coleslaw, cucumber relish, and the beloved hard dough bread.
1. Marinate your chicken for 6 – 24 hours
1 5-lb fryer, cut in half, quartered or spatchcocked
2. Soak in separate containers of water for one hour (don’t soak the chips together with the sticks or leaves)
1 1/2 cups pimento smoking chips
4-6 pimento and/or sweet wood logs
1 oz pimento leaves
3. While your leaves and wood are soaking, bring the heat in your grill to 300°F using the two-zone or offset method. I use a Big Green Egg Kamado cooker, so instead of using two zones, I used my ceramic plate setter/ConvEGGtor and a tiered rack to further distance the chicken from the heat. for You can go as low as 250°F but it will take more time and the skin will not crisp up.
4. When grill is hot enough lay the leaves on the cooler side of the grill, or in the center if you are using a similar setup to mine. Place the sticks on top of the leaves.
5. Place the chicken skin-side-up directly on the pimento logs
6. Add the soaked wood chips directly to the coals, or use a smoker box if you have a gas grill
7. Close the grill and maintain a temperature of 300-350°F for 1.5 to 2 hours
8. When chicken has reached 160°F, generously mop with
9. Re-cover grill and continue to cook at 375°F until sauce has begun to caramelize and chicken is at least 165°F in the meatiest part of the leg and the breast.
Enjoy with your favorite Jamaican side dishes and a cold Red Stripe.
- Wash the cooled sticks, air dry and save for a future use
- Walkerswood Jerk BBQ sauce is an amazing banana-based finish for any barbecued meat