How to make authentic Jamaican Jerk chicken using Pimento Wood

Jamaican Jerk chicken is made using a combination of spices with the more dominant of the spices being Jamaican all-spice. Many of us have traveled to Jamaica and have had authentic Jamaican jerk. When we return to the states have you ever noticed how it seems almost impossible to re-create that same taste you experienced while on the island? The reason why you have not duplicated that result is simple. Pimento Wood !  Pimento wood is the essential key to bringing that smokey intense flavor to the meats that brings that true authentic Jamaican jerk to the table. You can purchase pimento wood simply by clicking the following link to go Pimento Wood Products.  CLICK HERE TO BUY PIMENTO WOOD

Serving Size: (2) 5 LB chickens
Prep Time: 30 Mins
Grilling Time: 3.5-4.5 hours

Step #1  The Marinade 

In a blender or food processor add the following ingredients

2 oz Meyers Jamaican Rum (dark rum)
2 oz Cane Vinegar (white vinegar will work also)
2 Cups soy sauce (we like lower sodium soy)
3 tbsp of Jamaican All-Spice
1 tbsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp white pepper
1 tbsp nutmeg
1 tbsp paprika
1.5 tbsp cinnamon
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 head of garlic
1 bunch of green onions
1 bunch fresh Thyme
1 small yellow/sweet onion
6-10 scotch bonnet or habanero peppers (cut in half & de-seed)


Once all ingredients are added blend until smooth. Be sure to remove neck and giblets from chickens. Once done rinse your chickens well under water to clean them before marinading. Apply  Salt and pepper to your chickens (you can  also sprinkle onion powder and garlic powder as well but optional)  Once done adding dry seasonings its time to get those birds nice and wet. Place chickens in large bowl and marinade evenly.  Be sure to rub the marinade well underneath the skin of the chickens and all throughout.  Cover well and refrigerate for 24-48 hours.

Step 2: Soak your pimento wood sticks, leaves and chips

Be sure to soak your pimento wood sticks, pimento chips and pimento leaves for about 15-20 minutes.  If you need to purchase pimento wood again simply visit the following link



Step 3: Preparing your grill and offset cooking 

                                       MEAT SIDE             HEAT SIDE


On the cool side of your grill evenly lay out a bed of pimento leaves. Then on the heat side of your grill you are going to want to add a pan of water with pimento leaves and a smoker box or tin foil pouches for your pimento wood chips. Once you have your grill set up similar to the picture on the above left, now it is time to add your pimento wood sticks atop of the pimento leaves. Make a nice even grilling area using the pimento sticks as you can see from the picture on the right. When making authentic jerk remember we are to “offset cook”  You want heat on one side of the grill and meat on the other side is the rule of thumb. So using the pictures above as an example I would be putting the heat of the grill on the right side below the smoker box and water pan, the pimento sticks, leaves and meat are going on the left side (cool side) This is offset cooking! It is important that you do this.

Step 4: Locking in your grill temperature

Now that your grill is all set up you will want to turn the heat of your grill on the side that your smoker box and water pan are located. Now you are going to want to lock the temperature of your grill to about 280-290 degrees. Do not let the grill temperature exceed 300 degrees or your will overcook and dry out your birds! Remember the key to success when making jerk is slow and easy, you cannot rush it. Once you get your grill dialed in to around 285 degrees then it is time to put your chickens on!

Step 5: Grilling

Once you get your grill temperature dialed in (15-20 mins) you can put your chickens atop of the pimento wood sticks. In my picture above I had some nice smoke rolling already.

Once your chickens are on the pimento wood sticks be sure that you slop some of the marinade from the bowls atop of the chickens before closing the grill. Try to be quick so you don’t lose to much heat in your grill. Once you close your grill lid wait for your temperature to lock back to 285 degrees, once you get back to your temperature your first hour begins.  Do NOT open the grill at all the first 60 minutes, make sure however your temperature remains 285 degrees or around there, again do not exceed 300 degrees.

After 60 minutes it is time for your first flip. Simply open your grill and turn the chickens, if it looks like you need to add a little marinade atop the chickens you can do so at this phase of the cook if you wish, now would also be a good time to add some wood chips to your smoker box and add water to your water pan if needed as well. Once done turning the chickens lock your grill back to its desired temperature and then  wait another 60 minutes.  Remember do NOT open the grill, no peeking!  After the 2nd hour has passed once again you are going to flip your chickens back over again a third time. Once again close the lid and lock your temperature and grill for another 60 minutes. As you get near the 3rd hour of the cook I like to quickly look at the birds just to make sure the skin is not getting dry. If you notice close to the 3rd hour of grilling the skin of the chickens are getting a little dry dowse those birds with beer. You will notice the skins become nice afterwards and this also helps promote that beautiful char we all love so much as well. Once you reach the 3 hour point of your cook it is now that I recommend you do your first meat thermometer check. If you are like me I can tell with the blind eye when chicken is done but for many a meat thermometer would be wise to use during this type of cook especially if you are new to cooking jerk (you don’t want to get the party sick!)

Once you hit that 3 hour mark your chickens should be around about 150-155 internal depending on how large a bird you bought and also please keep in mind that organic chicken cooks alot quicker than non-organic chicken. I have seen organic chickens cook in 3 hours or less sometimes so you may want to use a 50 minute flip rule for organic chicken. Remember the perfect internal temperature for chicken is 165 degrees.  After the 3rd hour of grilling you want to examine the chickens internal temperature and look closely at the skin. Does it have any charring at all or does it look leathery? If it looks leathery than more than likely you peeked to much during the cook (sometimes the hardest thing to do when your first make jerk or you are new to it is not peek during the cook process!)  Don’t do it!  Flip your chickens again and grill again for another 60 minutes.  By the 4th hour most of the time the bird is ready!  Again depending on the weight of the birds it can take anywhere from 3.5-4.5 hours of cook time.   Below is an average example of a time table when making jerk

Put chickens on
60 minutes  flip
60 minutes flip
6o minutes (check internal temp, examine skin for char)  Flip
30-60 minutes depending on how cooked chickens were at 3 hour mark (total cook time 3-4 hours)

Most birds that I have jerked throughout all the years usually take about 4 hours.  So usually (4)  60 minute flips but there are times especially when using organic chicken that my cook times have been less than 4 hours.  It all varies on alot of factors but making jerk is an art and sometimes it takes a few tries to master it and get it down but I promise once you do your birds will come out perfect every time. Very similar to the one you see below.    Irie Mon