The Sweet Heat of Jerk

Jerk spice rub adds sweet, savory, and slightly spicy flavors to chicken thighs and goat chops.

I was living the island life on Martha’s Vineyard last week and did not make it to Jerk Fest. If you missed out on the Caribbean food, drink, and music festival too but are still craving the sweet, savory, and spicy jerk flavors, here’s some relief. This easy rub mimics the famous Jamaican dish/sauce/cuisine without the slow roasting process and sometimes overwhelming heat of Scotch bonnet pepper. Give it a try on chicken, pork ribs, vegetables, or – if you’re authentically adventurous – goat.

¼ cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground thyme
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon ground clove
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

Tip – For extra spice, puree 3 tablespoons of the spice mixture with ½ cup oil, 1 tablespoon lime juice, and half or whole Scotch bonnet pepper.

Combine the sugar with all of the spices and mix until well integrated. This spice mixture will make 3 times the amount needed, but keeps well for 3 months in a screwtop jar or zip top bag.

Place chicken thighs in a large bowl and sprinkle on 3 tablespoons of the jerk spice mixture. Toss to coat each piece then allow the chicken to marinate for at least 1 hour, or up to 24 hours.

Preheat a grill to medium for at least 15 minutes. Place the chicken (skin-side-up) on the grates and lower the grill lid. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes. Flip the chicken pieces on to their skin side and grill for an additional 10 minutes, keeping a close watch for flare-ups and charring. Spray the flares with water or move the chicken to a cooler part of the grill. Probe the chicken with an instant-read thermometer to see how close it is to 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Chicken may be done, depending on thickness, but if it needs more time, flip the thighs over again and cook with the lid down for another 8 to 12 minutes.

Allow chicken to rest for 5 minutes before serving with a Summer Salad with Cilantro-Lime Dressing.

Summer veggie salad with cilantro-lime yogurt dressing packs in flavor without too many calories.
Summer veggie salad with cilantro-lime yogurt dressing packs in flavor without too many calories.