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Jamaican Jerk Pork Recipe

Why It Works

  • Cooking the marinade till it’s lowered to a thick puree ensures that it clings correctly to the pork butt.
  • Butterflying the pork roast creates extra floor space for the marinade to cling and in addition creates extra space for the pork to have direct contact with the open warmth.
  • Topping the pork with the inexperienced pimento leaves helps preserve the meat moist whereas cooking. 
  • Utilizing briefly soaked wooden chunks or chips (ideally pimento wooden) creates the smoky jerk taste akin to a standard jerk pit.

Jerk is certainly one of Jamaica’s most celebrated contributions to world delicacies. These days, nonetheless, jerk typically merely implies a sort of seasoning or marinade for meats which can be thrown on the grill—but it’s so rather more. Jerking meat is just not like grilling; it’s a slow-smoking and roasting course of over an open flame. Good Jamaican jerk meat, equivalent to jerk pork, is salty, spicy, and smokey. Historically it’s all the time ready over a pimento wooden fireplace pit known as a jerk pit—a easy concrete flat high barbecue with elevated sides and a bit that holds sizzling coals and is topped with lengthy pimento wooden grill grates.

The Historical past of Jamaican Jerk

The unique methodology was created by the Maroons, a gaggle of free Africans who fled slavery to stay within the mountains in their very own communities, and the Tainos, Jamaica’s indigenous inhabitants. The unique Jamaican barbecue (or jerk pit) is definitely a Taino invention. The phrase “barbecue” is itself a corruption of the Arawak phrase barbacoa, that means “heated sticks.” The barbacoa was manufactured from heated pimento wooden on a raised platform and was used to “jerk” wild pigs. The Maroons developed a signature mix of herbs, spices, sizzling peppers, and pimento leaves, which they used when cooking the wild pigs they captured within the Blue Mountains which perfected the distinctive jerk taste. 

Critical Eats / Lorena Masso

Pimento wooden is a necessary a part of jerk, and with out it, it can’t actually be known as jerk—merely having a jerk marinade is just not sufficient. The meat have to be marinated with the pimento berries (or allspice), and the leaves are additionally used within the cooking course of, as is the wooden itself; this methodology is what makes it jerk.

The pimento tree is indigenous to the Caribbean Islands. It was present in Jamaica by early Spanish explorers who have been astonished by the highly effective style and aroma of the berries and the leaves. The identify pimento originates from the Spanish phrase “pimienta,” for pepper or peppercorn, because the berries have been mentioned to resemble them. Pimento berries have the delicate style of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and pepper, all rolled into one spice—therefore the identify allspice.

The Conventional Jerk Pit Set-Up

In conventional jerk institutions, this cooking methodology that depends on pimento wooden and open fireplace remains to be maintained. A furnace is created, the pimento wooden is lit and stoked till charred and a coal mattress established, and a low and regular flame burns. The wooden sticks are then dropped at the concrete pit and laid excessive of burning coals; the meat is put straight on these pimento wooden sticks and coated with a lid of galvanized zinc to lure the smoke. 

Critical Eats / Lorena Masso

The trick to preserving the sticks and permitting the meat to prepare dinner slowly is to show the sticks each three minutes or so, in order that they don’t get overheated or burn out in a single spot. When fats drippings drop into the coals and flames aptitude up, the pimento sticks are rotated, which prevents them from burning too shortly. The meat on the grill is roofed with a big zinc sheet to permit it to smoke. When a stick does finally burn out or is just too brittle, it’s faraway from the grill and changed with a recent one. The hearth is maintained at a low and sluggish temperature all through the day.

The excessive ranges of smoke and the mix of the coal, pimento wooden, and the seasoning of the intensely flavored jerk marinade is what offers you the quintessential jerk taste—that is what true jerk is. On account of the dedication and time wanted to realize this, jerk is just not one thing we Jamaicans usually make at residence. Conventional jerk is one thing we exit and purchase or eat after we are touring on a highway journey.

How To Prepare dinner Jerk Pork at Dwelling

For many who don’t have shut entry to a standard Jamaican jerk institution, good jerk can nonetheless be loved at residence with the correct cooking set-up. The simplest strategy to recreate the jerk course of at house is to make use of a charcoal grill in a means that mimics the drum pans that we use in Jamaica for roadside pan hen. 

The important thing to cooking any meat with this set-up is to prepare dinner over a mix of coal and wooden. Right here we go for a big pork shoulder roast with a number of robust and flavorful connective tissue that’s ultimate for low and sluggish cooking on the grill. The big pork butt will flip tender, juicy, and extremely flavorful from the sluggish smoking course of.  It’s vital to debone and butterfly the roast to create a flat and enormous floor space for the salty and spicy jerk marinade to cling. This form additionally creates extra space for the pork to have direct contact with the open warmth whereas on the grill.

Critical Eats / Lorena Masso

To imitate the normal jerk pit with a charcoal grill,  the lit and sizzling coals are unfold out evenly over half of the grill backside, leaving half of the grill with out lit coals. This creates an oblique warmth zone for the pork to prepare dinner over. If the pork have been to prepare dinner with an excessive amount of direct warmth the consequence can be pork with an overcooked and leathery exterior with a nonetheless undercooked and difficult inside.

To correctly jerk pork, it’s good to go low and sluggish with oblique warmth so there may be time to tenderize the bigger robust lower of pork whereas additionally growing its smokey nuanced signature jerk taste. It’s key that the temperature on the grill stays low, within the 300°F/150°C or decrease vary. If the fireplace flames up an excessive amount of from the fats drippings whereas cooking, we normally douse it with a little bit Pink Stripe beer or water to mood the flames down to manage the warmth. Alternatively, if the coal is burning out and the temperature drops too low, we add extra sizzling coals (normally round 15 to twenty at a time) to the grill.

What To Serve With Jerk Pork

Though not written straight on this recipe, we usually additionally throw some provisions straight on the coals to roast alongside the meat—ripe plantain, inexperienced plantain, breadfruit, candy potato or yellow yam are nice choices to roast of their pores and skin whereas the pork is smoking.

Critical Eats / Lorena Masso

Jerk can also be scrumptious with festival (a cornmeal primarily based fried dumpling a bit like a hush pet) or just with buttered Jamaican hardo bread. Though correct jerk is sufficiently spicy, a selfmade pepper sauce is nice to serve on the aspect, however this jerk pork does not all the time want it. We personally like to combine plain previous ketchup with some pepper sauce and use that as a dip.

Jamaican Jerk Pork

For excellent Jamaican jerk pork at residence, begin with an intensely spicy and salty marinade then smoke it low and sluggish on a charcoal grill.

For the Jerk Marinade:

  • 1 cup water

  • 8 to 12 ounces Scotch bonnet peppers (227-340g), stemmed (see notes)

  • 6 ounces (170g) scallions (about 3 bunches), ends trimmed and roughly chopped

  • 4 ounces recent ginger (113g), peeled and roughly chopped

  • 1/2 medium yellow onion (4 ounces; 113g), roughly chopped 

  • 1 complete head garlic (about 1 1/2 ounces; 45g), cloves peeled 

  • 1/4 cup Diamond Crystal kosher salt (1 1/4 ounces; 36g); for desk salt, use half as a lot by quantity or the identical weight

  • 1 ounce (28g) recent thyme sprigs (about 1/4 cup), thicker woody stems eliminated

  • 2 tablespoons complete allspice berries

  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) browning, equivalent to Grace model (elective)

For the Jerk Pork:

  • 1 pound pork butt

  • 1/4 tsp salt and freshly floor black pepper

  • 2 cups marinade

  • 1 tsp allspice

  • 4 tbsp pimento

For Serving:

  1. For the Jerk Marinade: In a blender, mix water, Scotch bonnet peppers, scallions, ginger, onion, garlic, salt, thyme springs, allspice berries and browning, if utilizing. Mix right into a easy puree, (in batches if wanted), about 1 minute. (see notes)

    Critical Eats / Lorena Masso

  2. In a medium saucepan, carry jerk marinade to a boil over excessive warmth, then cut back warmth and simmer till lowered to a paste-like consistency and measures about 3 1/2 cups, about 20 minutes.

    Critical Eats / Lorena Masso

  3. Take away from warmth and let cool, about 1 hour at room temperature, then refrigerate in an hermetic container till prepared to make use of.

    Critical Eats / Lorena Masso

  4. For the Jerk Pork: Utilizing a pointy paring knife, Reduce via one aspect of the pork shoulder to the bone, following the size of the bone. Reduce across the bone and preserve chopping to inside an inch of the opposite aspect of the shoulder. Open the pork shoulder flat like a e-book. Reduce below the bone and take away it to complete butterflying the roast open. The roast ought to now be splayed flat and measure about 3-inches thick.

    Critical Eats / Lorena Masso

  5. With the pork shoulder butterflied open skin-side up on the chopping board, use a pointy knife to attain the pores and skin 1/2 -inch deep and 1- inch aside to create evenly spaced parallel cuts. Flip pork over and repeat on the flesh aspect.

    Critical Eats / Lorena Masso

  6. Season pork evenly throughout with salt and pepper. Switch pork to a big baking dish (9 by 13-inch) or a half-hotel pan. Utilizing gloved palms, rub 2 cups of the jerk marinade throughout pork, ensuring to get some inside cuts and crevices. Subsequent, rub bruised pimento (or bay or banana) leaves between your palms to launch the pure oils, then rub leaves all around the marinated pork on all sides. Cowl and refrigerate for at the very least 12 or as much as 24 hours.

    Critical Eats / Lorena Masso

    1. For a Charcoal Grill: Gentle a chimney filled with charcoal briquettes (about 6 quarts). When all charcoal is lit and coated with grey ash, pour out an organize coal on one aspect of charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cowl grill, and permit to preheat for five minutes. Clear and oil grilling grate. Cowl grill and wait till temperature falls to about 300°F (150°C), including chunks of wooden (or wooden briquettes or chips) when at temperature. (Comply with here for easy methods to arrange a kettle grill with oblique warmth as a smoker.) When the wooden is ignited and producing smoke, take away pork from marinade, letting extra marinade drip off into pan, then switch to grill (on cooler aspect if cooking with oblique warmth) pores and skin aspect up. Cowl with the pimento leaves from the marinade, and shut the lid. Prepare dinner, undisturbed, till the meat begins to caramelize and char on the underside aspect, about 1 hour.

    Critical Eats / Lorena Masso

  7. Take away the leaves, flip pork pores and skin aspect down, then reposition on the cooler aspect of the grill and re-cover with the leaves. Proceed to prepare dinner, coated, till starting to char on the now-bottom aspect of the pork, about 1 hour. (Alter warmth by including coals and/or adjusting the air vents to take care of grill temperature round 300℉ (150°C).) Add additional wooden chunks to coals as wanted to take care of smoke.)

    Critical Eats / Lorena Masso

  8. Take away the leaves, flip pork, preserving on the cooler aspect of the grill, re-cover with the leaves, and proceed to prepare dinner till pork is effectively charred throughout and inside reaches 185°F (85°C), 1 to 2 hours longer, flipping pork and repositioning leaves as wanted for even charring. 

    Critical Eats / Lorena Masso

  9. Switch pork to a piece floor, discard leaves, and let relaxation for half-hour. Slice pork into thick slices or chop in tough chunks, which is how they serve it in Jamaica.

    Critical Eats / Lorena Masso

  10. Serve with competition, pickled Scotch bonnet peppers, and ketchup on the aspect.

    Critical Eats / Lorena Masso

Particular Tools

Blender, charcoal- or wood-burning grill, pimento or candy wooden briquettes or wooden chips


Jerk is historically very spicy and salty (and it’s imagined to be that means) so gauge the extent of warmth that you really want and modify the amount of Scotch bonnet peppers and salt that you just use accordingly, primarily based by yourself palate. In order for you it intensely spicy, use 3/4 pound Scotch bonnet peppers; in order for you jerk seasoning that’s nonetheless extremely popular however not fairly as excessive, use 1/2 pound. Equally, you possibly can cut back the salt to fit your desire.

Pimento wooden briquettes and chips can be found on-line in the US. In case you are unable to seek out pimento wooden, use your most well-liked candy wooden for smoking, equivalent to apple or cherry woods.

Allspice (or pimento, because it’s known as in Jamaica) leaves are barely bigger than bay leaves and far smaller than banana leaves, making it troublesome to offer a amount on this recipe. Allspice leaves would be the hardest to seek out. The thought is to have sufficient leaves that you could cowl the meat and lure the smoke. Dried bay leaves which can be soaked to melt will even work as a substitution. If you cannot discover any of those leaves, you should utilize sheets of aluminum foil as an alternative.

Make-Forward and Storage

The jerk seasoning marinade might be made forward and refrigerated for as much as 2 weeks. 

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