The Best Jerk Chicken Recipe

The key to moist jerk? Brining your chicken.
Photo by Farideh Sadeghin

Servings: 4-6
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 3 days (brining and marinating) plus 2 hours active time


for the brine:
½ cup|75 grams kosher salt
¼ cup|60 grams granulated sugar
1 tablespoon whole allspice
5 garlic cloves, crushed
1 habanero or Scotch bonnet pepper, halved
1 (3-inch) piece ginger, roughly chopped
1 chicken, broken down into 6 pieces (2 breasts, 2 whole legs, and 2 wings)

for the jerk paste:
1 cup|250 ml soy sauce
½ cup|12 grams thyme leaves
½ cup|225 ml Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup|75 grams tamarind paste
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
3 fresh bay leaves
2 bunches scallions, roughly chopped
2 habanero or Scotch bonnet peppers, halved
1 (3-inch) piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped


for the barbecue sauce:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
¼ cup minced ginger
10 garlic cloves, minced
3 yellow onions, roughly chopped
3 ½ cups|1.9 kilograms ketchup
1 ½ cups|300 grams dark brown sugar
1 ¼ cups|300 grams jerk paste


  1. Brine the chicken: Heat the salt, sugar, allspice, garlic, habanero, and ginger with 1 gallon water in a large saucepan over medium until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Add 1 pound of ice and cool completely. Add the chicken and cover. Refrigerate overnight.
  2. Make the jerk paste: Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and purée until smooth. After the chicken has been brined for 24 hours, remove from the brine and pat dry. Place in a shallow dish and coat in ¾ cup of the jerk paste. Cover directly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours.
  3. Make the barbecue sauce: Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low. Add the ginger, garlic, and onions and cook until soft, about 8 minutes. Add the ketchup, brown sugar, and jerk paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 1 hour. Cool, then transfer to a blender and purée until smooth. Makes about 6 cups|1420 ml.
  4. To grill the chicken, light a charcoal grill. Sprinkle wood chips that have been soaked in water over the coals. Place the chicken on the grill grate and grill flipping once, until charred on each side and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken reads 165°F, about 40 minutes. Brush with some of the barbecue sauce and cook until a little more charred. Transfer to a cutting board to rest for 10 minutes, then chop into 2-inch pieces. Serve with more barbecue sauce and white bread.

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