Jerk Chicken for People with Tongues of Steel

This is a recipe to spice up your life this Valentine’s Day.

I’d like to think of myself as a spicy person. I’d like to think I could handle scorching hot chiles and searing curries. I think it’d be sexy desirable kinda-cool if I could down tacos slathered in the hottest hot sauce. I’d probably even lie to someone if they asked if I could handle the hot stuff. I’d even bite my lip and handle the hot stuff, holding back tears and swallowing chiles whole—trying to keep the stuff in contact with my tongue for as short of a time as possible—and gulping down glassfuls of water whenever heads turned, cursing my bull-headedness all the while.

But seriously, I’m kind of a pansy. I mean, not a total wimp, no. I do add hot sauce to my rice and beans. But it’s like 2, maybe 3 drops of hot sauce. I enjoy spicy foods but I’ve never overloaded on the stuff. And sometimes, when I’ve gone a while since eating anything too-spicy, I can even convince myself that I am a champion of heat. I’ll look at a recipe that’s far to spicy for my taste like it’s baby food. I’ll scoff at the less-spicy (but equally delicious, I’m sure) versions of the dish. I’ll even go to extremes to make it as spicy as possible. And then I’ll only be able to have a few bites at dinner.

This jerk chicken recipe is not for the faint at heart and the sauce that accompainies it is certainly useless, as I don’t see any sane person needing it, unless, I don’t know, you are a Jamacian who eats the hearts of men who eat scotch bonnet peppers for breakfast. If you do like heat, however, this recipe is for you. The flavor combination of allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and all that heat is really interesting—pungent, peppery, and zippy up the wahzoo. The molasses gave it a rounded-out sweet depth that I really enjoyed. It’s well worth making the recipe even if you can only have a bite or two. I was actually able to eat a few pieces after rubbing off the chile paste and Jim polished off the rest of it. Jim’s a hot-kind-of-guy, which is why I say forget about making the sauce—even he wouldn’t touch it.

This recipe was found on Elise’s Simply Recipes and reproduced here. Go there to see her pretty pictures and take note of the one where she wears gloves—you cannot, can not forget that step, or you’ll be weeping scorching-hot tears for the rest of your romantic Valentine’s Night.

Jerk Chicken

serves 6-8//from Simply Recipes Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup malt vinegar (or white vinegar)
  • 2 Tbsp dark rum
  • 2 Scotch bonnet peppers (or habaneros), with seeds, chopped
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 4 green onion tops, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp dried thyme or 2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons molasses

1 (5 or 6 pound) roasting chicken, cut in half, lengthwise
1/2 cup lime juice
Salt and pepper


Safety note. Scotch Bonnet and Habanero chile peppers are very hot and can cause extreme pain if they come in contact with your eyes. We strongly recommend wearing protective gloves while handling the chilies and the jerk paste.

Put vinegar, rum, hot peppers, onion, green onion tops, thyme, olive oil, salt, pepper, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and molasses into a blender. Pulse until mostly smooth.

Place chicken in a large freezer bag, or in a large roasting pan or baking dish. Pour lime juice over the chicken and coat well. Add the jerk paste to the chicken pieces and coat well. Seal the bag or cover the chicken in the pan with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.

When you are ready to cook the chicken, remove chicken from the marinade bag or pan. Put the remaining marinade into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside to use as a basting sauce for the chicken. If you want you can reserve a little of the marinade (once boiled for 10 minutes since it has been in contact with raw chicken) to serve with the chicken or to mix with some ketchup and a dash of soy sauce for a serving sauce. (You probably won’t need to do this unless you have a death wish.)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place chicken halves in a rimmed baking pan, skin side up. Roast until chicken halves are cooked through, about 50-60 minutes. The chicken is done when the juices run clear (not pink) when a knife tip is inserted into both the chicken breast and thigh, about 165-170°F for the breast and 180-185°F for the thigh. Transfer chicken to platter. Tent loosely with foil to keep warm and let stand 15 minutes.

Cut chicken into pieces. Serve with black beans and rice.