Gallery: How to Make Jerk Chicken at Home | The Food Lab

  • Jerk Chicken

    Jerk Chicken

    Perfectly tender and juicy, deeply infused with smoky flavor, charred, crisp, and spicy.

    The marinade ingredients

    Soy sauce, olive oil, brown sugar, lime juice, ginger, Scotch bonnet peppers, scallions, allspice, black pepper, nutmeg, garlic, and fresh thyme.

    Into the processor

    The marinade is very easy to make: just dump all the ingredients into the food processor or blender and blend away.

    Split the chicken

    I actually prefer to use only leg quarters for this recipe, but you can use split whole chickens as well if you'd like some light meat. If using whole chickens, cut out their backs and split them down the middle.

    Marinate 'em

    Marinate the chicken pieces overnight in the salty marinade to allow enough time for it to work itself deep into the meat.

    Ready to grill

    Remove the chicken from the marinade, piling on as many of the solids from the bottom of the marinating vessel as possible. Meanwhile, soak bay leaves and allspice berries in a zipper lock bag filled with water.

    Prep the grill

    Ignite a half chimney with charcoal and lay two thirds of the soaked bay leaves and allspice berries over the cooler side of the grill. This will create aromatic steam and a bit of smoke that will permeate the chicken with its flavor.

    Lay on the chicken

    Place the chicken on the bay leaves with the leg ends closest to the coals so that they cook slightly faster than the breasts.

    Add some smoke

    Place some of the remaining bay leaves over the charcoal so that they smolder and smoke. Immediately cover the grill so trap the smoke inside.

    Half baked

    The coals will start to die down about halfway through cooking and the bay leaves will burn away. Add some more coals and more soaked leaves to keep things fired up.


    The chicken is almost cooked when it hits around 145°F on an instant read thermometer. All that's left is to get the skin extra crisp and charred.

    Char it up

    The last step is to move the chicken over to the hot side of the grill to char it. Start by charring the underside, then flip it to crisp up the skin.

    Ready to serve

    When finished, the chicken should be crazy aromatic with the full aroma of sweet, spiced smoke. The skin should be crisp and charred, and the meat should be tender and deeply infused with flavor.

    Carve and serve

    Separate the breast and leg quarters, plate it up, and serve. Jerk chicken is traditionally served with more hot sauce, though ours is plenty flavorful and moist on its own.