Pimento Grain

the recipes of a nomadic Jamaican

Category: Chicken

A Rough Guide to Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

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. 

Jamaican jerk chicken on pimento wood

Jamaican jerk chicken on pimento wood

1. Marinate your chicken for 6 – 24 hours

1 5-lb fryer, cut in half, quartered or spatchcocked

6 Tbsps Walkerswood Jerk Marinade for a shorter time or  Walkerswood Jerk Seasoning (for overnight marinade)

We aren't huge fans of white meat in my household but this breast was irresistibly juicy

We aren’t huge fans of white meat in my household but this breast was irresistibly juicy

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.

Pimento and Sweet Wood sticks on a bed of pimento leaves.

Pimento and Sweet Wood sticks on a bed of pimento leaves.

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

Marinated chicken atop pimento and sweet wood sticks

Marinated chicken halves atop pimento and sweet wood sticks

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

Walkerswood Jerk Barbecue Sauce

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.

Marinated chicken atop pimento sticks

Marinated chicken atop pimento and sweet wood sticks

Tips:

  • 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
Chicken mopped with barbecue sauce

Chicken mopped with barbecue sauce

Comparison of US-Based Pimento Wood Suppliers

Sweet wood from both vendors - PW's in bundle and PWP's laid flat

Sweet wood from both vendors – PW’s in bundle and PWP’s laid flat

Jerk is one of the most distinctively Jamaican flavours, and every learned connoisseur will agree that jerk chicken (or pork) is incomplete without the finishing touch of pimento wood. Pimento wood is obtained from the allspice tree – an evergreen shrub brimming with essential oils – that is found in few places outside of my homeland Jamaica. The closest substitute is the bay rum tree (not to be confused with the bay laurel tree). The logs from the bay rum plant have been dubbed ‘sweet wood’. Neither plant will survive outside of tropical or the warmest subtropical climes, and even in places where it does grow, there isn’t enough produced for the purpose of logs, so this is one of the most exotic smoking woods on the market.

Diametrical comparison

Sweet Wood diametrical comparison

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Pimento Wood’s burlap bag of chips

PWP's sack of chips

PWP’s sack of chips

 

There are two suppliers here in the United States – PimentoWood.com that has been supplying the US market since 2006 and their emerging competitor PimentoWoodProducts.com. They are both relatively expensive options but the only realistic avenue for jerkers in this country. I did find a few vendors who would ship from Jamaica but it is very likely that your wood will be confiscated by US customs if you try to import directly without a special license. Another Jamaican vendor will only sell by the container load and that isn’t an undertaking that I, a mere home cook, find appealing. So to help those of you who are longing for an authentic taste of Jamaica, I have prepared a table (pun intended) with my observations from a year of ordering from both vendors. The measurements are from the most recent (identical) order I placed with both. Neither vendor has a consistent supply so my decision is always up to which of them has wood, chips or leaves, whichever I have a need for, in stock. 

Pimento Wood Diametrical Comparison

Pimento Wood Diametrical Comparison

 PimentoWood.comPimentoWoodProducts.com
Pimento Wood Sticks
Price (four sticks)$39.95$32.00
Average Diameter1.75"0.8"
Average Length17.5"12"
Sweet Wood Sticks
Price (four sticks)$29.95$27.00
Average Diameter1.25"0.75"
Average Length18"12"
Pimento Leaves
Price (per oz)$14.95$13.95
Pimento Chips
Price (two lbs)$24.95$21.00
Consistencyshort chunksthin flakes
Pimento Chunks
Price (per lb)$12.95Does not sell
Shipping
Time5 days3 days
Expedited Shipping Available upon CheckoutYesNo
The wood chips. PW's are larger than PWP's but size doesn't matter, in my opinion.

The wood chips. PW’s are larger than PWP’s but size doesn’t matter that much with chips, in my opinion.

Personal Opinions

PimentoWoodProducts.com – To be fair to pimentowoodproducts.com, I have received slightly larger sticks from them in the past. The sweetwood sticks that I got in this shipment were listed as unavailable on the website so I called to inquire whether they could delay until they had more available, I agreed to buy the sticks they found in storage and was billed a higher price than usual for them. The pimento sticks were shown as in stock and purchased directly from the website. I appreciate the swiftness with which they ship an order. Their customer service, however, is generally poor. When I find fault with a shipment and contact them, their standard response is along the lines of “that’s the way it is” or “that’s the way you really want it”.  One time their agent went out of his way to make me a diagram on how to use the sticks that I complained about having irregular curvature. The size of their sticks means they cannot be reused as many times as the larger sticks of their competitor. Their leaves also seem fresher, which means fewer leaves per oz than their competitor. 

Pimento Wood Comparison

Pimento Wood Comparison

PimentoWood.com – This vendor sells far more products than I have listed in the table, but I have not included information on anything I haven’t personally ordered and used. I had one experience where I placed an order and received no information after two weeks, it turns out they were out of stock and the owner was in Jamaica procuring more wood. They made it right by giving me a refund and a 30% discount on a future purchase. Shipping isn’t usually very swift but the product is consistent in size and quality, nicely packaged and appears to be from more mature plants. I know I am getting value for money, and when the product arrives it is always what I expected.  I feel like, even though I pay more and wait longer, I am getting ‘brawta’.

Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. Happy Jerking!

Update: Pimento Wood Products sent me a free replacement of the pimento wood sticks three weeks after my original order.

Gingery Pomegranate Chicken Wings

Dig in!

Dig in!

I’ve given up trying to find excuses for my comfort food binges. There will be no end to them and I accept that fact and take full responsibility; but at least this recipe includes a superfood. I have always enjoyed pomegranates and their juice but I didn’t realize how much potassium they provided. Now that I am verse on the full nutritional benefit, pomegranate juice has become my drink of choice. In fact, I am now ordering it by the caseload and using it to supplement my electrolyte-laden coconut water, pomegranate-coconut is an excellent blend.  My husband often jokes about me putting it into everything, so he wasn’t surprised when presented with these delightful wings; my only regret is not having some arils to sprinkle on my plate.

1. Stir together in a medium bowl

16 chicken wing sections (the drum(ette)s and flats from 8 whole wings)

2 tsps desiccated chopped onion

1/2 tsp granulated garlic

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp salt

2. Allow chicken to marinate, refrigerated, for at least four hours. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 425°F, spread wings on a lightly oiled baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes on one side, flip over and bake for another 15 minutes, and again for a total of 45 minutes, until chicken is lightly browned.

3. During last 15 minute segment, in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan on medium heat, combine

2 tsp butter

1 cup pomegranate juice

1/2 cup orange juice

2 Tbsp finely chopped candied ginger

1 tsp ginger juice (just press it out of a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger)

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp cardamom

4. Allow pomegranate mixture to reduce to a fourth of its volume, or just until syrupy over medium heat. Turn off heat and mix in done chicken wings.

5. Transfer to serving bowl and garnish with

Chopped scallion (green onion) or some pomegranate arils, if you may

Enjoy!

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Served with macaroni and cheese, the mother of all comfort foods.

 

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