Week 32. Jamaica. Jerk Chicken.

Creating Jerk Chicken was a bloody nightmare and that has nothing to do with the recipe. I only had one night free this week to cook and it happened to be the same night that my wife had her mobile hairdresser round. You would imagine that this would be a result, as they could tuck themselves away somewhere and let me get on with it, but the reality was far more annoying. Instead they decided that the best light in the house was in the kitchen and that is where they would be based – no discussion. We have a galley kitchen so, if you will, picture a galley kitchen with a wife on a seat in the middle of it and a hairdresser behind her (with all her bleaches and crap all over the place). Now picture me, with a meal to cook and imagine my face – am I smiling? I was, but probably due to the fumes from the hair and the large gin I nailed when I realised what my cooking environment for the night was to be!

I had looked forward to drawing Jamaica since the very beginning as I absolutely love Jerk Chicken but had no clue how to make the complex marinade.  I decided that I wouldn’t find out until I got to Jamaica and crossed everything that it wasn’t one of the last countries drawn in a few years! When I was at Uni in Bradford all those years ago there was a guy who used to park up at the end of our road and sell Jerk Chicken in Aluminium Trays from his boot. In retrospect (and being more cynical in my advanced years) I feel a little sick at the thought of eating out of a strangers boot, but at the time it was very normal – and very delicious. I think he charged about £1.50 and you got a lot of chicken. I would imagine he bought the out of date chicken from the local Bangladeshi Restaurants, but it never made me ill, although that was probably as my stomach was pickled with cheap student booze.  I loved the roar of the spice as you first bit into the chicken and then the sweet undertones which cooled you down.

I’ve not been to Jamaica and even with the stunning white beaches and turquoise sea, I am not sure I would as I am a weed and a scaredycat. A couple of years ago I watched a series on a cable channel called Jamaican ER. What this program effectively told you was that if you are Jamaican it is only a matter of time until you are shot or if you are really unlucky you will be bludgeoned to death with machetes. As a tourist you are pretty much ok as long as you stay in the resorts but step outside and you will be chopped up. This is of course dramatised nonsense, but it is certainly a country with elements of crime and violence and that is why I will stick to the more sedate Caribbean countries if I were to afford to go there anytime soon.

When I finally ate Jerk Chicken, at about 11pm, it was as good as I had hoped it would be. If you want to think of a perfect time to make it, think Saturday late afternoon, maybe some sport on the TV and few mates round – crack the Jerk out and you will set your night up!


All you do it blitz the below together, smother 8 breasts or thighs (skin on and scored) and let marinade for at least an hour. Grill or BBQ and heat up the left over marinade for a dipping sauce.

  • 1 Cup Orange Juice
  • 1 lime (juiced)
  • 1/2 Cup White Wine Vinegar
  • 1 Scotch Bonnet Chilli (seeds in, be brave)
  • 2 TBSP Soy
  • 1 TBSP Sugar
  • 1 TBSP Salt
  • 1 TBSP Cayenne
  • 1 TSP Ground Sage
  • 1 TSP Ground Nutmeg
  • 1 TSP Ground Sage
  • 5 Cloves Garlic
  • 5 Spring Onions

Scotch Bonnet below.



16 thoughts on “Week 32. Jamaica. Jerk Chicken.

  1. Joe, as Jamaicans, we are quite happy that you are featuring one of our best cultural exports-jerk. May I suggest though that this is your own interpretation of “jerk.” Jamaican Jerk does not include White Wine Vinegar, Soy, Cayenne or Sage. Orange juice or lime is not a part of the original preparation either. You have also left out 2 critical ingredients, and up to 2 more widely used ones.

    That said, I am sure you made a lovely BBQ inspired by Jamaica and Jamaican Jerk, even if you have a very misinformed view of what Jamaica is really like. We love the entire Caribbean, but something great has to be said about a country that has contributed Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell, Reggae, Ska/Blue Beat, Jerk, Bob Marley and countless other cultural icons to the world. Surely if we were killing off each other and tourists, there would be no one living to tell the story.

    I would kindly invite you to hop over to Jamaica and experience it first before you make up your mind about what Jamaica is like. I promise you will live to tell whatever tale you make of it… but at least it will be from your very own experience.

    One Love.

    • Thank you so much for your comments and I absolutely agree that this is my personal take on Jerk, with largely available foods in the UK. I apologise if you feel that I painted an incorrect view of your country, but hope that you can see that when I stated that “This is of course dramatised nonsense” I meant that the real view of your beautiful country is not what the media have fun in destroying. I would love to visit, and if you wouldn’t mind supporting me – what were the two critical ingredients you feel I missed out as I would love to re-make the dish.

      Thanks again for your comment.

  2. I am perplexed as to how you came up with this recipe. Did you find it online? Ask a friend or chef with experience making Jamaican foods? Did you make it up yourself? I am not certain what is Jamaican about this, much less what makes it Jerk? It’s hard to reinterpret something when you don’t have the basic ingredients that signify it as such. That’s like me having Bangers and Mash using cassava and grilled chicken. I’m sure I can make it look the same, but it’s such a bastardized version that it’s ridiculous to view as a traditional English dish.

    You say that you cannot afford to go to Jamaica. I beg to differ. A country is more than its land. It is the people and the culture. There is a strong Jamaican presence in England. Reach out. Talk to Jamaicans and British Jamaicans. Build relationships. Cross the gap. Don’t be (to use your term) a weed, scaredycat (we Americans use the term “coward”, to each his own). I am certain we will surprise you. As the daughter of a Jamaican and a Trini living in New York, trust me, people are more than what the TV simplifies them to be.

    You say “but it is certainly a country with elements of crime and violence and that is why I will stick to the more sedate Caribbean countries if I were to afford to go there anytime soon”. Trust me. Jamaica is one of the more sedate countries. In fact, you are best of avoiding America. It is one of the most violent countries in the world. Have you seen the American-version of ER or Law and Order? Most of those plot-lines come from true stories.

    In fact, they may even tell you what the two crucial ingredients are for your dish that you have left out. I have stumbled onto your blog by accident. But after this display I shall avoid it on purpose.

    I have left my email here, I hope that you will send me a message after you have done some basic research and created your own superb Jerk dish. I will try it out and compliment you on your efforts, and if true, your tastes as well. Don’t give up. Cooking is fun! Continue to make it so.


    • Hello

      My site is supposed to be fun and not to offend. I absolutely respect each culture and each dish I create, but I don’t claim to be cooking something perfectly as I need to find out my recipes from the internet rather than being able to speak to people from each country in person each week. As a result some of the dishes can be inaccurate or certainly not as tradionally perfect as someone with intensive experience of the country would find.

      The specific recipe I adapted was from this site and has in the past given me some great recipes. http://www.celtnet.org.uk/recipes/miscellaneous/fetch-recipe.php?rid=misc-jerk-chicken

      It was my bad for not checking the recipe more thoroughly and I wish I knew of the two main ingredients I missed. Could you enlighten me?

      When you mention Jamaica in the UK I could not agree more, it is just that in my friendship circles I don’t happen to know a Jamaican, but have French, Ghananian, Malasyian, Irish, Welsh, American friends in my close circle. Would I love to have a friend from every country – absolutely!

      Finally, with regard to crime and murder rates I did do research into this and my comment was not guesswork. According to the latest statistics, Jamaica has the fifth-highest homicide rate in the world, with 49 murders per year per 100,000 people, trailing only Iraq (89 per 100,000), Venezuela (65 per 100,000), El Salvador (55.3 per 100,000), and Honduras (49.9 per 100,000).

      There are also 12 other Caribbean destinations which have murder rates higher than the USA.

      According to the latest available data (from 2006), the murder rate in the United States was 5.7 per 100,000 population.

      I hate to defend myself so heavily, but I love the idea of Jamaica, its food and it’s people and it makes me sad to think you feel I have not done it justice.

      If you could share with me the correct ingredients I would be happy to re-do the post.

      I hope you have a great day.

  3. Joe,

    I guess the moral of the story is that “Good food and bad vibes do not mix well.”

    I appreciate that you meant to have a light and fun post, but I would caution you to leave out the politics at the dinner table. People who like and read food blogs do not wish to happen upon a blog that is saying something negative about the origin of the dish in a bid to be witty.

    We (a trained pro chef and a home-cook) reviewed the link you posted and found that the two essential ingredients were first on the list! Since we are based in the Middle East, we get our supply of thyme from the UK since a better variety can be found there. We also get our scotch bonnets from the UK when not available here, which is quite often. Allspice, a spice indigenous to Jamaica, has been used in the UK since Edwardian times. It is widely available and even sold in the Spinneys in Dubai. The suggestions to leave out the other stuff as noted above still stands.

    That said, we will be posting a video on our site soon that talks about the ingredients of Real Jamaican Jerk. You are welcome to come by anytime. And if you happen to come to Dubai, we would be happy to have some light conversation with you over Jerk Chicken. You bring the Red Stripe.

    • That sounds fantastic. Red Stripe and Jerk that is. I will certain to be in contact when I (hopefully sometime soon) reach Dubai.

  4. well it looks delicous! And hey, we ALL have preconceived views about different countries based on what we see in the media etc. I reckon we would all love the chane to have those views challanged by having the chance to visit such wonderful places….alas not always so easy! 😉

  5. Hi Joe,

    Your picture looks amazing! The fact that this recipe may not be “authentic” doesn’t concern me as I am happy that you have been inspired by my culture. The only thing I would say is do not believe everything the media puts in your face. I have lived in England for a period of seven years and seen more violence there than I have witnessed growing up in Jamaica. I still live in Jamaica and have yet to be shot, or witness a shooting, or been chopped up. I encourage you to visit Jamaica and judge for yourself, as I am sure you will fall in love with the place I call home. When you do come, please go to Portland and try Boston Jerk, the homeland of real Jerk and I am sure you will it just as much (or even more) than your own dish.


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