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Jerk Chicken or Pork

Jerk Chicken and Jerk Pork are widely available from roadside vendors, little shops, and even established restaurants all over Jamaica.

jerk barbecue drum
Here is Betty (RIP) with a custom-made jerk drum, You'll see drums like these all over the island.

What is Jerk? It's a method of cooking seasoned meat on an open fire covered with green pimento branches which produce a lot of smoke. It is said that this form of cooking evolved in the days of the buccaneers when they would land on Jamaica's North Coast to hunt the wild pigs which were abundant in those times. As there was no refrigeration, the buccaneers would season the meat and cure it slowly on an open fire.

But there is seasoning and there is seasoning! Jerk seasoning contains that famous local spice called pimento. This is not to be confused with pimiento which is an entirely different thing. Pimento (a little black berry when dried) is commonly known outside of Jamaica as "All Spice."

The fire in jerk comes from the world's hottest pepper, the scotch bonnet, so called because it looks like a Scotch bonnet.

If you grow to love Jerk, you can simulate this type of cooking when you get back home. Before you leave Jamaica, buy some jars of Walker's Wood Traditional Jamaican Jerk Seasoning to take back with you. (Busha Browne's is also very good!) Marinate your chicken or pork with generous amounts of this seasoning from the night before, leaving it overnight in the fridge. Then barbecue as you normally would. If you can't barbecue, grill in your usual way. You will be surprised at how good this will taste.

If you don't believe in shortcuts, you can also make Jerk Chicken and Jerk Pork from scratch by following the recipes on Page 70 and 87 respectively of Enid Donaldson's "The Real Taste of Jamaica."

Find out more about Scotch Bonnet Peppers.

Return to Recipes.