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Pan Hen Recipe

Why This Recipe Works

  • Rubbing the marinade underneath the hen pores and skin ensures seasoning and taste penetrate extra deeply. 
  • Cooking the hen first away from the direct warmth of the coals permits the meat to cook dinner by way of earlier than ending it over the embers for satisfying browning and char.

Think about this acquainted Jamaican scene: It’s 2 A.M., and also you’re in your approach dwelling from an evening in town. You are hungry, so resolve to cease at your neighborhood “pan hen man.” As you method, you instantly discover the candy odor of barbecue smoke mingling with a bouquet of aromatic island spices, like Scotch bonnet pepper, scallion, and thyme. These first daring bites, deep with the flavour of char from the grill, set your abdomen relaxed and put together you for night time of sleep to come back.

As you may inform, we—and so many others—love pan hen, famously made by enterprising cooks who vogue a grill out of an oil drum by reducing it in half and including handles, legs, a mesh grill grate, and a chimney to permit smoke to flee. These distributors normally place themselves alongside common roadways and  accessible areas between the hours of 4 p.m. and 4 a.m., making it simple for drivers to cease and buy meals on-the-go when they’re out and about.

Armed with a big Igloo of uncooked marinated hen, a chopping knife, tongs, and a reducing board, the distributors stoke the hearth in preparation of serving patrons piping sizzling hen immediately from the grill all night time lengthy. When you place your order, a freshly cooked piece of hen is faraway from the drum pan and chopped into items on the reducing board. It’s transferred to aluminum foil and doused with ketchup and home made sizzling pepper sauce (the latter is non-compulsory). Two recent slices of Jamaican hardo bread are positioned on prime of the hen and the foil is closed, wrapping every thing inside.

Usually misinterpreted to be jerk hen, particularly exterior of Jamaica, pan hen is a totally completely different dish, and there are some key differentiators that make it so, the absence of pimento wooden being the primary one. Pimento, a necessary a part of the flavoring, seasoning, and cooking course of for genuine jerk, is just not used when cooking pan hen, which lacks the smoky woody sweetness that pimento imparts.

Severe Eats / Karina Matalon


Pan hen remains to be, nevertheless, extremely flavorful, with a touch of smoke and a pleasant char from the coal drum. Moreover, pan hen is just not spicy; it’s extremely seasoned however lacks the mouth-burning Scotch bonnet warmth of jerk. Sadly, most individuals who go to Jamaica don’t understand that pan hen and jerk hen are two utterly various things, and thus by no means find yourself sampling this pleasant late-night roadside snack. For many who are within the know, although, pan hen distributors are arduous to overlook, populating each locale, city, metropolis, and parish. It must be famous that there is no such thing as a mounted recipe for pan hen, and each vendor creates their very own signature model and distinctive cooking type.  

Each self respecting Jamaican has their favourite pan hen vendor. In actual fact, it’s such a well-liked dish that one of many island’s main hen purveyors hosts an annual Pan Hen Championship, the place one of the best distributors from all throughout the island collect to compete for the highest prize.

That is the final word Jamaican quick meals—it’s fast, sizzling, moist, smoky, and properly spiced. The one destructive factor about pan hen is that it’s not out there all day lengthy. Except you cook dinner your personal, following a recipe like this one.

For this model, we marinate the hen in an natural mixture of scallions, ginger, garlic, Scotch bonnet pepper, thyme and extra, ensuring to rub the marinade throughout together with underneath the pores and skin, for even higher taste preparation. To make it simpler for dwelling cooks to get tender and moist hen that is additionally properly browned on the surface, it begins out on the cooler facet of the grill, away from the direct depth of the coals. With the grill’s lid closed and the vents (in case your grill has them) open above the hen, smoky warmth wafts over the meat on its approach up and out, cooking the hen by way of with out danger of it burning.

As soon as cooked by way of, the hen takes a ultimate journey over the coals to brown and char it. Do not be afraid to let it get a bit singed in spots—when you do not wish to burn the hen, slightly little bit of char is a crucial a part of pan hen’s taste, replicating the style of these beloved roadside spots.

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