Jamaican Jerk Chicken

In 2018, Food & Wine named this recipe one of our 40 best. There are as many takes on jerk chicken in Jamaica as there are cooks on the island, but most share the same method: Chicken is coated in a seasoning mixture dominated by spices and chiles, then grilled. This version comes from Paul Chung, a self-taught cook of Chinese and Jamaican descent who worked in the mail room at Food & Wine. It’s wonderfully spicy, smoky, and fragrant — everything you want jerk chicken to be.

But what puts this one above all others? The key is including five-spice powder in the marinade, a Chinese spice blend made of cinnamon, fennel seed, cloves, Sichuan peppercorns, and star anise. “This spark of cinnamon enhances the rich clove flavor imparted by the allspice berries,” former F&W test kitchen supervisor Marcia Kiesel wrote.

How to make Jamaican jerk chicken

For all the depth of flavor this dish provides, Jamaican jerk chicken is fairly simple to prepare. Once you’ve gathered all your ingredients, everything but the chicken gets whizzed in the food processor to make a marinade. It’s important to let the chicken marinate overnight, so the seasoning has time to thoroughly penetrate the meat. Then, all that’s left to do is bring the chicken up to room temperature and grill it until well-browned. The chicken can also be roasted in the oven if desired.

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