Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Jerk Chicken

Like BBQ, jerk chicken is one of those dishes that has
a thousand different recipes, each one claiming to be
THE authentic way of doing it.
For our honeymoon, Miriam and I went to Jamaica, where we stayed at a resort and basically made no effort to experience Jamaica's culture. To be fair, "Jamaica's culture" didn't have swim-up bars and all the pina coladas you could drink, whereas the resort did. This was well before our paleo diet days, so we ate a lot of junk, but one thing we ate that actually fits very easily into the paleo diet was jerk chicken. I'm not saying it did anything to offset the three pina coladas I usually drank along with it, but in and of itself, it's pretty good for you.

Jerk chicken is just chicken marinated in a particular kind of marinade, and then grilled. While I was researching this recipe, I stumbled across a website run by a Jamaican cultural center that claimed that the most authentic way to cook jerk chicken was over a fire made with "pimento wood." Pimento is what Jamaicans call allspice, so the site was saying that If I had any wood from an allspice tree, I should use that. I don't have any allspice wood, so I used charcoal. I do recommend that you make this chicken with the smokiest cooking method you can manage. Charcoal grilling is probably the best option, followed closely by grilling with propane.

There are a lot of ingredients in this recipe, but the food processor does most of the work for you.


6 green onions
6 cloves garlic
2 small onions
3 habanero chiles
4 tsp salt
4 tsp thyme
4 tsp allspice
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup lime juice
1/4 cup tbsp olive oil
Approximately 3.5 lbs of chicken (Roughly one chicken cut into pieces)


Food Processor (recommended)
Large Zip-top Bag (recommended)
Grill (recommended)

Remove the white bulb end of the green onions and discard them. Cut the green onions in half and place them in the food processor. Remove the paper from the garlic, and place the whole cloves in the food processor with the green onions. Remove the outer layer of the 2 small onions and cut off their root ends. Cut each onion into four pieces and put them in the food processor. Carefully remove the stems and seeds from the habanero peppers and discard them. Place the peppers in the food processor with the other vegetables.

Try not to handle the pepper seeds very much.
If you do handle them, don't touch your eyes for about a day.

Pulse the vegetables several times in the food processor until they are roughly chopped. Add the salt, thyme, allspice, black pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger to the food processor.

The newer your spices are, the more flavor they have.
This might be a good time to replace that container of allspice that you bought back in college.

Pulse the vegetables and spices a few times to combine them.

You might need to scrape down the sides of the food processor if everything keeps trying to climb out.

Add the vinegar, lime juice, and olive oil to the food processor, and turn it on for about 15 seconds, until the marinade is a smooth, loose paste.

Not the kind of paste you used to eat in kindergarten.

Place the chicken and two-thirds of the marinade into a large zip-top bag. Close the bag and get as much air out of it as you can. Make sure that the chicken is evenly covered with the marinade, and place the bag in the refrigerator for several hours (overnight is even better). Save the remaining third of the marinade for use while grilling.

Plastic bags are the best container for marinating, because they hold the marinade right next to the food.

Grill the chicken using indirect high heat for about 30 minutes. Leave the lid of the grill closed as much as possible to promote smoking. Turn the pieces several times, and use the marinade that you set aside to baste them as they grill.

You should try to arrange the pieces so that the smaller ones are on the cooler parts of the grill.
Otherwise, they may dry out before the larger pieces finish cooking.

When the chicken has finished cooking, allow it to rest for about five minutes before serving.

  • You may have noticed the three habanero chiles in this recipe. I won't deny that this chicken is spicy, but it's not as spicy as the three habaneros would make you think. Removing their seeds really removes a lot of the heat, and they're distributed across a whole chicken.
  • If you're still worried that this will be too spicy, you can substitute jalapeno peppers for the habaneros. I wouldn't leave the peppers out entirely, though. I think the chicken wouldn't turn out very well with absolutely no spice.
  • If you don't have a grill, you can bake the chicken in your oven. I would recommend doing it at 350 for about 25 minutes, and then increasing the heat to 450 for 5-10 minutes to sear the outside a little.
  • If you don't have a food processor, you could make the marinade in a blender. To do that, you should put all of the liquids in the blender first, and chop the vegetables finely before putting them in. Set your blender to its highest setting, and it should work pretty well.
  • The best way to create "indirect high heat" on a charcoal grill is to pile the charcoal in the middle and then place the chicken in a circle around the outside. On a propane grill, light all the burners but one, and place the chicken over the unlit burner.


  1. For the olive oil you say "1/4 cup tbsp olive oil"

    What is it actually supposed to be? I'm assuming 1/4 cup but just want to make sure.