Karl’s Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Jan wants Jamaican Jerk Chicken this weekend. Chris, my son-in-law has also mentioned that this would be a good thing. Since I am still trying to reconcile their diametrically opposed diets I will be leaving out the sugar and cooking some of the chicken skin-off and some skin-on.

Karl’s Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Karl’s Jamaican Jerk Chicken

I’ve done some internet research on Jerk recipes and I have found that there are those who prefer a dry rub and others who favor a wet marinade. The key ingredients are allspice and Scotch bonnet peppers. The usual additions for the dry rub after these two ingredients are: cinnamon; nutmeg; garlic powder; sugar; salt; and black pepper. In addition to these spices the wet marinades includes: scallions and/or onion; soy sauce; vegetable or olive oil; vinegar (generally white but one used apple cider); orange juice; lime juice; and fresh garlic.

With Jamaican Jerk recipes there is fair agreement on what goes into the mix, but how much of each ingredient is where the real debate starts. Each jerk recipe calls for the Jamaican Trio of spices—allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg. However is the ratio between these spices 2-1-1 or 4-1-1? And do you start with 2 teaspoons of allspice or 2 tablespoons? For the other key ingredient, Scotch bonnet peppers, do you use 2 or 6?

Since I am adapting this recipe to a Ketogenic diet I will be leaving out the sugar and limiting the amount of fruit juice. For the other herbs and spices, thyme was always included, as were scallions, salt and black pepper. According to Wikipedia, cloves are also a common addition. Although none of the recipes I found on-line included this ingredient it seems like a natural to me.

The addition of soy sauce in the wet marinades was a surprising ingredient, but all of the recipes by people who were actually Jamaican (or were taught the recipe by a Jamaican) included it. These cooks also were not particular on the types of oil and vinegar to use, usually listing white vinegar and vegetable oil. I will be using canola oil, because it is within the Ketogenic diet, and apple cider vinegar, just because I like it. As far as the addition of fresh garlic, I think I have already expressed myself on this subject (I do after all buy it peeled, by the pound).

Several of the wet recipes called for marinating the chicken overnight. Especially with skin-off chicken this is a singularly bad idea. The acid in the vinegar and citrus juices will turn the meat to mush in that time. This error leads to a very unpleasant mouth feel. One solution to this problem is to combine the different recipes I found and apply a dry jerk rub overnight and then adding the wet marinade just before and during grilling.

After Dinner Note; This chicken came out truly moist and succulent.  Jan was worried about the heat of the Scotch bonnet peppers, so I had cut them back to a single pepper. She should not have worried. I do not like things too spicy and I thought it was mild with only one chili.

Karl’s Jamaican Jerk Chicken


1 whole chicken

 Karl’s Jamaican Jerk Dry Rub Blend, separate uses

4 tsp. allspice
3 tsp. thyme, dried
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 ½ tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. cloves

Karl’s Jamaican Jerk Marinade

2 Tbs. Karl’s Jamaican Jerk Dry Rub Blend
3 green onions (scallions)
6 cloves garlic
2 Scotch bonnet pepper, seeded
1 navel orange, juiced (about ¾ cup)
1 large lime, juiced (about 2 Tbs.)
2 Tbs. canola oil
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar


1. Several hours before cooking, better the day before, combine the dry rub ingredients in a spice grinder and process to a powder. Reserve 2 tablespoons for the marinade.

Karl’s Jamaican Jerk Dry Rub Blend

Karl’s Jamaican Jerk Dry Rub Blend

2. Cut the chicken into quarters. Sprinkle the remaining dry rub over the pieces. Place the chicken in a gallon plastic bag and put it in the refrigerator.

Note: For lower fat chicken remove most of the skin. For a Ketogenic diet leave the skin on.

Karl's Jamaican Dry Rub

Karl’s Jamaican Dry Rub

3. Three hours before starting to cook, put the marinade ingredients in a blender and process to a thin paste.

Karl’s Jamaican Jerk Marinade

Karl’s Jamaican Jerk Marinade

4. Add ¾ of the marinade to the bag of chicken and flip the bag every half hour to coat the meat completely. Reserve the remaining marinade for basting.

5. Half an hour before cooking, start the coals.

6. When the coals are ready put them in a pile at the back of the grill.

7. Place the chicken pieces at the front of the grill away from the coals.  Turn the skin side up and position the thickest part of each piece closest to the coals. Pour the remaining marinade over the chicken and close the grill.

8. After 30 minutes, flip the chicken pieces and reclose the grill.

9. After 20 minutes, turn the meat once more and insert a meat thermometer in the thickest part of one of the pieces. Set the alarm to 165° F. Use the remaining marinade to baste the chicken. Close the grill again.

10. When the chicken is ready, remove to a plate and tent with foil for 10 minutes.

11. After the chicken has rested, cut the drumsticks from the thighs and cut the breast into three equal pieces. Serve immediately with Karl’s Jamaican Steamed Callaloo and Cabbage, Karl’s Caribbean Shrimp, Avocado and Mango Salad, and Karl’s Whole Roasted Yam.


Filed under Main Dishes, Poultry

3 responses to “Karl’s Jamaican Jerk Chicken

  1. Sounds fantastic!! One of the hard parts is finding Scotch Bonnet Peppers here. Still trying to decide which is better – using bottled scotch bonnet peppers or fresh habanero peppers as a substitute. Thoughts?
    The only thing I see missing is using Pimento Wood on your grill for Jerk smoke flavor.Pimento wood is the wood from the Jamaican allspice tree and it is what gives Authentic Jerk chicken it’s unique flavor.

    • karllueck

      I generally do not approve of “sales posts,” unless they are directly related to the subject of my post. However, I did read, in researching my Jamaican Jerk Chicken, that it is traditionally smoked with Pimento Wood. My only source for the wood in the Bay Area is about fifty miles away and so I did without. If I make this recipe again I would seek out a supply of the wood to see if it does indeed make a difference.
      As to my opinion on bottles or fresh, I usually side with fresh even if the taste is slightly different.

  2. Pingback: Karl’s Jamaican Jerk Chicken II | Jabberwocky Stew

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