Jerk chicken, a cooking method native to Jamaica, gets its warm spice and kick from a marinade that traditionally consists of allspice and Scotch bonnet peppers. The chicken is grilled over sweet, fragrant pimento wood resulting in a super-tender, smoky piece of meat. We swapped out the pimento branches and replaced them with soaked allspice berries and fresh bay leaves, which impart a similar flavor.
Be mindful when you're working with Scotch bonnet peppers: You'll want to wear gloves when you rub the marinade onto the chicken, or the heat may stick to your hands for a day.
To learn more, read "TT Culinary Institute: Jerk Chicken."
Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Prep Time: 40 minutes, plus marinating time
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour and 40 minutes, plus marinating time
For the Jerk Marinade:
1 tablespoon allspice berries
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
4 to 6 whole Scotch bonnet peppers, stems removed
6 scallions, white and pale green parts, roughly chopped
1 large shallot, peeled and halved
One 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
6 large garlic cloves, smashed
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons finely grated lime zest
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons canola oil
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 whole chicken legs, patted dry
For Grilling and Serving:
½ cup allspice berries, soaked in 1 cup water
2 large handfuls bay leaves (18 to 24 leaves), soaked in 2 cups water
Rice and beans
2 limes, cut into wedges
1. Make the jerk marinade: In a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle, grind the allspice and black peppercorns until coarsely ground. Transfer the spices along with the Scotch bonnet peppers, scallions, shallot, ginger, garlic, brown sugar, thyme leaves, lime zest and juice, canola oil, nutmeg and salt to a blender or food processor. Blend or process until smooth.
2. Set a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet and put on kitchen gloves (see note above). Place the chicken into a large bowl and slather the marinade all over the chicken using your hands, then transfer the chicken to the wire rack. Refrigerate the chicken, uncovered, for at least 4 hours or up to 36 hours.
3. When ready to cook, remove the chicken from the refrigerator, wiping off any excess marinade. Transfer to a plate and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour before cooking.
4. Meanwhile, prepare a charcoal grill for indirect grilling: Fill a chimney starter with lump hardwood charcoal and ignite. Let the charcoal burn until it has become ashy white.
5. Pour out the charcoal and pile it up on one side of the grill, covering half of the bottom grate. Place a foil pan filled halfway with water next to the charcoal. Add half of the soaked allspice berries and half of the bay leaves to the charcoal and allow to smolder. Place the top grate on top. Close the lid and let the grill heat to between 250° and 300°.
6. Arrange the chicken, skin-side up, on the grate, with the legs pointing toward the heat source, over the foil pan. Close the lid and open the bottom and lid vents halfway. Position the lid so that the top grill vent is on the opposite side of the fire. Cook the chicken, undisturbed, adding more charcoal as needed to maintain the temperature, for 50 to 60 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer reads 150° to 155° when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh.
7. Uncover the grill and drop the remaining allspice berries and bay leaves over the charcoal using tongs. Once the allspice berries and bay leaves begin to smoke, transfer the chicken to the hot side of the grill and continue to cook, flipping often, until the skin is lightly charred and crisp and the thigh reads 165° on an instant-read thermometer. Transfer to a work surface and let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with rice and beans and lime wedges.