Spicy, smoky Jamaican jerk is one of the world’s great barbecue traditions. Meat (traditionally chicken or pork) is rubbed with an intensely flavored liquidy paste made from fiery Scotch bonnet chiles, allspice berries, herbs, and spices, and then it is smoked over pimento wood.

Our jerk marinade has plenty of bold ingredients, including habanero chiles (in place of the Scotch bonnets), scallions, garlic, lime zest, and mustard for zingy brightness, and brown sugar, nutmeg, and ginger for warm sweetness. It’s potent enough to infuse the chicken in just 30 minutes.

We substituted easy-to-find hickory chips for the traditional pimento wood, and we smoked allspice berries, thyme, and rosemary along with the wood chips to give our chicken a great authentic flavor that mimicked pimento’s sweet, herbal smoke.

Jerk chicken

Servings: 4

Start to finish: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Marinade ingredients

1 1/2 tablespoons coriander seeds

1 tablespoon allspice berries

1 tablespoon black peppercorns

1-3 habanero chiles, stemmed, seeded, and quartered

8 scallions, chopped

6 garlic cloves, peeled

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons 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

2 1/4 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg


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

2 tablespoons allspice berries

2 tablespoons dried thyme

2 tablespoons dried rosemary

2 tablespoons water

1 cup wood chips (preferably hickory), 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 remaining ingredients and process to smooth paste, 1 to 3 minutes, scraping down sides of blender jar as necessary. Transfer marinade to 1 gallon zipper-lock bag.

For the chicken: Add chicken pieces to bag with marinade and toss to coat; press out air and seal bag. Let sit at room temperature for at least 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 for 15 minutes, until moistened. Using large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil, wrap soaked chips and moistened allspice mixture in 8-by-4 1/2 inch foil packet. (Make sure chips do not poke holes in sides or bottom of packet.) Cut 2 evenly spaced 2 inch slits in top of packet.

For a gas grill: Remove cooking grate and place wood chip packet directly on primary burner. Set grate in place, turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot and wood chips are smoking, 15 to 25 minutes. Turn primary burner to medium and turn off other burner(s).

Clean and oil cooking grate. Place chicken skin side up on cooler side of grill, as far away from fire as possible, with thighs closest to heat and breasts farthest 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 F and thighs and drumsticks register 175 F, 5 to 12 minutes.

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

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