How to make the best jerk chicken on the BBQ at home, with advice from Rudie’s Jerk Shack

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Jerk chicken is the perfect summer recipe to make at home, especially if you’re trying to impress guests. Here, Michelle Miah, the co-founder of Rudie’s Jerk Shack, talks us through her recipe for jerk chicken that she has spent years perfecting.

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Jerk chicken is a dish native to Jamaica and its unique blend of herbs and spices makes it a one-of-a-kind food beloved by many. Jerk flavourings can be applied to beef, pork, and vegetables but it has traditionally been paired with chicken as it compliments it perfectly.

It’s great for summer BBQs, in particular, as most of the legwork required to make the perfect chicken happens days before you cook it, so you can sit back and relax on the day.

Michelle Miah, the co-founder of Rudie’s Jerk Shack, has spent years perfecting her jerk chicken recipe, experimenting with different blends of herbs and spices to create the tastiest combination. Michelle and her husband, Matin, travelled around Jamaica to learn about the history of jerk. They explain that it is believed that jerk was developed by native Jamaican maroons who had escaped slavery when the British captured the island in the 1600s. “They developed a way of curing the meat and preserving it by using pimento and other spices because obviously, in that time, they didn’t have any other way of curing the meat,” Michelle explains.

Jerk is still Jamaica’s signature dish to this day, and Michelle and Matin were able to make sure their process of making jerk is as authentic as possible by spending a lot of time watching native Jamaicans prepare jerk. “It’s an essential, everyday cuisine in Jamaica,” Matin explains.

You can cook it all year round in the UK too, although it is more traditionally associated with summer, pairing it with a traditional combination of rice and peas or making your own jerk fries (using the same jerk recipe), which is Matin’s favourite way to serve it. Or, as Michelle recommends, with a red cabbage slaw and Jamaican Johnny Cakes.

Below, Michelle shares her recipe to make the best jerk chicken, as well as her top tips for cooking it from scratch at home.

Ingredients

  • 1 whole free-range chicken
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3 spring onion stalks
  • 1/2 scotch bonnet pepper (preferably Jamican yellow variety)
  • 1/2 tsp of fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp of freshly grounded pimento or allspice
  • 1/4 tsp of grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp of sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
  • 100g of brown sugar
  • 1 tsp of vegetable oil

Method

  1. Blend all the ingredients for the jerk marinade (every ingredient other than the chicken) together in a blender or food processor
  2. Cut the chicken lengthways through breastbone and spatchcock. This means removing the spine and pressing down on the bird to flatten it out to lie against the surface. It helps to shorten the cooking time and there are useful tutorials on how to spatchcock a chicken on YouTube
  3. Use a sharp knife to put three slices in each breast and thigh
  4. Rub the jerk marinade all over the chicken, ensuring it gets into all nooks and crannies
  5. Clingfilm the chicken tight and leave for at least 24 hours (preferably 48 hours) in the fridge
  6. When you’re ready to serve, light the charcoal on a BBQ (or, if you have one, a jerk drum) - be patient in lighting and getting the charcoal to the right temperature before starting to grill. There should be no flames, just simmering white coal
  7. Cook the chicken on slow indirect heat for 60 minutes by placing the charcoal on one side of the grill and chicken on the other
  8. Finish off by lightly covering the skin over direct heat for 15 minutes to crisp it up
  9. Chop the chicken into 2 inch pieces using a large cleaver before tucking in

Michelle’s expert tips for cooking jerk chicken at home

  • Use authentic Jamaican ingredients where possible to make fresh marinade and leave it to absorb all the flavours for at least 24 hours
  • Throw in a handful of soaked wood chips onto the coal for a really smoky flavour
  • Cover the chicken whilst grilling with a few bay leaves for added aroma
  • Serve with BBQ caramelised corn on the cob and homemade coleslaw
  • Michelle Miah, co-founder of Rudie's

    Michelle Miah behind bar at restaurant
    Photo: Michelle Miah

    Michelle co-founded Rudie’s Jerk Shack in Borough Market and Shoreditch in 2015 with her husband, opening a new site in Brixton Village last year. Michelle spent many years visiting the best Jerk Centres in Jamaica to perfect her signature Rudie’s jerk.

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