There is jerk, and then there is Jamaican Jerk. And Jamaicans are well aware that a lot of what is passed off as Jamaican Jerk Chicken would never make the grade on the island. If you’ve got skills in the kitchen, you can grill up your very own authentic style Jamaican Jerk Chicken with these simple tips.
1. Season well.
This is the single most important step in making real authentic Jamaican Jerk. The rub is made up allspice, scotch bonnet pepper and lots of natural herbs such as scallion, thyme, onion and fresh ginger. Season the chicken by generously rubbing this mixture all over the bird so that every bite will be filled rich with flavor.
2. Marinate before grilling.
After slathering it with seasoning, allow the chicken to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes so the natural flavour of the herbs and spices will penetrate the meat. If you want to taste the flavour down to the bone, set it in the refrigerator overnight.
3. Lay the chicken on a bed of bay leaves.
Bay leaves add another layer of robust flavour to authentic Jamaican Jerk Chicken. To use, soak the bay leaves in water and use lay them on the grill to create a layer between the fire and the seasoned chicken. As the smoke is released during grilling, flavour from the bay leaves will transfer into the chicken. The mixture of smoke and steam also keeps the chicken moist for a juicier texture.
4. Add pimento wood to the fire.
The real secret behind great Jamaican Jerk Chicken is the pimento wood. Sure you could just grill the chicken over hot coals but it’s the flavour of fresh pimento wood that’s going to give it the authentic Jamaican taste. The wood comes from the pimento tree which bears the allspice berries. Soaking the pimento wood in water before placing into the charcoal fire produces more smoke to flavour the chicken during the slow cooking process.
5. Smoking is an art form.
Ideally, you want your jerk chicken to have a balanced combination of the rich flavour of the seasoning and the pimento wood from the fire. To achieve this, the setup should have the pimento wood slowly smoking in the fire, the bay leaves in the middle with the chicken laying on top. Cover the grill and let it smoke for an hour, turning the chicken occasionally to ensure that it fully absorbs the flavours and is thoroughly cooked to a caramel brown on all sides.
Follow these tips and you’ll have jerk chicken that falls right off the bones and oozes flavour in every bite. Enjoy!