Experiment: Jamaican Jerk Chicken

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Jamaican Jerk Chicken

We both enjoy jerk chicken, but we’ve never made it, so with the summer grilling season upon us, it just seemed like a good time to give it a go. Boy, do we feel silly for not trying it before now! It’s really, really simple—you just marinate and grill. I used only one habanero instead of the recommended two simply because they are so devilishly hot. Call me a wimp, but I’m pregnant and those things will eat me alive. Even with only a tiny bit of habanero and no seeds, the marinade was very flavorful.

The recipe calls for seven to eight pounds of chicken, enough for a small party. For just us and the boys, we grilled two large chicken breasts on the bone and used only one-fourth of the marinade. The flavor seemed just right to me…not too hot but plenty of flavor with a bit of heat. Then we tried it with boneless skinless chicken breasts, and even with only a little bit of habanero the chicken was fiery hot. Of course Michael loved it that way, so we’ll probably end up cooking it both ways from now on—skin on for me and the boys, skinless for Michael. If the boys grow up with their father’s penchant for fiery foods, they may eventually want to eat the chicken “like Daddy.”


Adapted from a recipe by Paul Chung, Food & Wine Magazine, 2003.

Serves 8.


food processor
2 gallon-sized Ziploc bags


1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
3 medium scallions, chopped
1 habanero chile, chopped (with seeds or without, cook’s choice)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon five-spice powder
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon coarsely ground pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 to 4 pounds of chicken breast, boneless and skinless


1. In a food processor, combine the onion, scallions, chiles, garlic, five-spice powder, allspice, pepper, thyme, nutmeg and salt. Process to a coarse paste. With the machine on, add the the soy sauce and oil in a steady stream. Pour the marinade into a couple ziploc bags, add the chicken and turn to coat. Refrigerate 8 to 12 hours.

2. Bring the chicken to room temperature before grilling.

3. Grill the chicken over a medium-high fire, turning about every 10 minutes, until well browned and cooked through, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a platter and serve.

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  1. says

    We enjoyed it! The chicken was tender and very juicy. I was worried that it would dry out, but that marinade really does the trick. And my boys ate it and asked for more!

  2. Jennifer says

    We have a ton of thigh/drumstick pieces in the freezer. Do you think would work with that meat selection?

  3. says

    Absolutely. The original recipe calls for two 3-1/2 to 4 pound chickens cut into quarters. We just happen to prefer breast meat over the dark meat.

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