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All About Jerk

Jerk chicken is one of the most popular dishes in Jamaica! The word ‘jerk’ refers to a style of cooking — meat is coated in spices and slow-cooked over a fire or grill.


The cuisine has its origins with the Taíno people, who were indigenous to the Caribbean. In the mid-1600s, a group of enslaved Africans (later known as the Maroons) managed to escape plantations in Jamaica and fled to the mountains, where small numbers of Taíno people lived. The Maroons learned the Taíno cooking methods and developed these into jerk as we know it.

The Maroons would marinate wild game with herbs and spices native to Jamaica, like scotch bonnet chilli. They would cook by smoking the meat underground pits because an open flame would have given away their location. This is where the ‘jerk pit’ style of cooking is thought to have originated.

Jerk Centres

These days, meat is marinated or dry-rubbed in herbs and spices and then cooked over flames on a jerk pit. The meat is slowly smoked and skillfully charred for maximum flavour.

You can find jerk "centres" all over Jamaica, often as roadside stalls. The deliciously smoky smell of the jerk pits fill the air, drawing in hungry locals and tourists alike.


Jerk marinade recipes can vary a lot - many people have their own special recipe or ingredients and this often remains a secret. They almost always include allspice, thyme and fiery scotch bonnet. Most jerk marinades are also made with soy sauce, sugar, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, garlic and cinnamon.

Fancy giving it a go?

Try our jerk marinade recipe at home!

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