This jerk chicken recipe from the July 2012 issue of Cook’s Illustrated is the best one I’ve tried. The difference? In addition to marinating in an intensely flavoured jerk paste, the chicken is grilled over a packet of hickory wood chips, allspice berries, rosemary and thyme, which approximates the smoke from Jamaica’s pimento wood. I was somewhat skeptical that the charcoal grill technique suggested would cook the chicken in the stated time, but it worked perfectly. After 30 minutes of cooking over indirect heat, the chicken was beautifully burnished and a quick sear over direct heat yielded a nicely charred finished product. If you like jerk, try this recipe, and don’t omit the smoke. Scotch Bonnet peppers can be used instead of habaneros. You can marinate the chicken at room temperature for 30 minutes or up to 24 hours in the fridge; I opted for the latter to maximize the flavour.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

Check your spices, vegetable oil and mustard to ensure they don’t contain anti-caking agents, colour, additives or preservatives.

Marinate the chicken in jerk paste

Make a smoke packet with hickory chips and moistened herbs and spices

Most of the grilling is over indirect heat

A few minutes over direct heat creates a nice char

Serve jerk chicken with lime wedges and a grilled yam salad


Jerk Marinade

1½ tablespoons whole coriander seeds

1 tablespoon whole allspice berries

1 tablespoon whole peppercorns

1 – 3 habanero chiles, stemmed, quartered, and seeds and ribs reserved, if using

8 scallions, chopped

6 garlic cloves, peeled

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons finely grated lime zest (3 limes), plus lime wedges for serving

2 tablespoons yellow mustard

1 tablespoon dried thyme

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 tablespoon packed brown sugar

2¼ teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons dried basil

½ teaspoon dried rosemary

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg


3 pounds bone-in chicken pieces (split breasts cut in half, drumsticks, and/or thighs)

2 tablespoons whole allspice berries

2 tablespoons dried thyme

2 tablespoons dried rosemary

2 tablespoons water

1 cup wood chips, soaked in water for 15 minutes and drained


For the jerk marinade

Grind coriander seeds, allspice berries, and peppercorns in spice grinder or mortar and pestle until coarsely ground. Transfer spices to blender jar. Add habanero(s), scallions, garlic, oil, soy sauce, lime zest, mustard, thyme, ginger, brown sugar, salt, basil, rosemary, and nutmeg and process until smooth paste forms, 1 to 3 minutes, scraping down sides as necessary. Transfer marinade to gallon-size zipper-lock bag.

For the chicken

Place chicken pieces in bag with marinade and toss to coat; press out as much air as possible and seal bag. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes while preparing grill, flipping bag after 15 minutes. (Marinated chicken can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours.)

Combine allspice berries, thyme, rosemary, and water in bowl and set aside to moisten for 15 minutes. Using large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil, wrap soaked chips and moistened allspice mixture in foil packet and cut several vent holes in top.

For a charcoal grill

Open bottom vent halfway. Arrange 1 quart unlit charcoal briquettes in single layer over half of grill. Light large chimney starter one-third filled with charcoal briquettes (2 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over unlit briquettes, keeping coals arranged over half of grill. Place wood chip packet on coals. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent halfway. Heat grill until hot and wood chips are smoking, about 5 minutes.

For a gas grill

Place wood chip packet over primary burner. Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot and wood chips begin to smoke, 15 to 25 minutes. Turn primary burner to medium and turn off other burner(s).

Clean and oil cooking grate. Place chicken, with marinade clinging and skin side up, as far away from fire as possible, with thighs closest to fire and breasts furthest away. Cover (positioning lid vent over chicken if using charcoal) and cook for 30 minutes.

Move chicken, skin side down, to hotter side of grill; cook until browned and skin renders, 3 to 6 minutes. Using tongs, flip chicken pieces and cook until browned on second side and breasts register 160 degrees and thighs/drumsticks register 175 degrees, 5 to 12 minutes longer.

Transfer chicken to serving platter, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with lime wedges. Serves 4.

From the July 2012 issue of Cook’s Illustrated