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Jerk Chicken Thighs: Work in Progress but pretty good

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I've been trying to nail jerk chicken for a couple months but could never get the flavor I remembered from Jamaican places in NYC. After a few less-than-inspiring attempts with homemade jerk I asked some Jamaican folks and they all said, "Go get some Walkerswood. It's what we do." Walkerswood by itself was pretty good but still lacking in pop and acidity. Then I saw this video and started working on a blend, which I finally have at a place where I'd serve it to another human being without feeling embarassed. Unfortunately I don't measure a lot so this is how it goes from memory.

 

CHICKEN PREP

 

I started with 8 thighs from Costco, which is two of the 6 little bags you get when you buy a pack of chicken thighs at $1/lb. I wound up slashing the thighs on the skin side perpendicular to the bone instead of jaccarding. Normally I always brine but not this time as there's a long marinade ahead.

 

MARINADE

 

Start with about two heaping tablespoons of Walkerswood hot. Get the paste, not the thin marinade. They sell this at my local supermarket (kinda hidden though; not a lot of Jamaicans in Minnesota I guess) but you can always get it from Amazon if you absolutely must. This goes into a blender or food processor. Add about 4 cloves of peeled/crushed garlic, a roughly equivalent amount of fresh ginger, 2 or 3 chopped sprigs of fresh thyme or whatever the equivalent in dry thyme is, 1/2 to 1 Scotch Bonnet pepper (leave out if you really can't take heat but want to eat jerk for some reason), and 3-4 chopped scallions. Chop/blend. Add about 1/4c orange juice, 2 tbsp key lime or regular lime juice (I just had some key lime juice and like the acidity), and 2 tbsp soy sauce. Blend again. Pour this over your chicken, working into the cuts, and marinate overnight. I do this in a 1 gal freezer bag but whatever you like is fine.

 

FIRE PREP

 

I'm shooting for an indirect temp around 350F, which usually starts a bit low and climbs to around 375 by the end, which gets me a nice skin. Wait until the smoke clears, etc., you know the drill. I use a heat deflector and an empty pan to catch chicken fat.

 

For wood I like apple. If you want you can make fake pimento smoke by soaking a bunch of bay leaves and allspice berries and putting them in a smoker box/foil packet so they don't just burn right away. It yields a nice fragrant camphor-y smoke similar to pimento but I don't think it adds too much to the product. Actual pimento wood is insanely expensive in the continental US.

 

COOK AND END SAUCING

 

I put the chicken on skin down once the pit is 350-375 and the smoke is blue, pouring the leftover marinade on them. This usually results in a temp drop to about 280 or so so I keep an eye on the temp and fiddle with the vents if needed. This cook isn't super long so you won't go crazy chasing temps like this. I flip the chicken to skin up when I think the skin side is dried out a bit, maybe around 120 internal. I may try just putting it on skin up and not thinking about it next time.

 

Meantime I get a small bowl and mix 1 tsp Walkerswood with about 3 tbsp key lime juice (or regular). You can use something else like Red Stripe if you like but I just think the chicken really pops with some extra acidity.

 

Note: I take my chicken higher than most people, probably because I'm terrified of salmonella, so you may adjust these temps to your liking. At about 180 I spoon/brush the lime jerk sauce over the chicken, then close it again and take it to 195 internal. Then I take it off and let it rest for a bit. The color should be golden brown with some blackening, but not like cajun blackening. The skin should be bite-through, and the slashing I find helps it not all peel off on first contact.

 

For further refinement I may try not flipping the chicken at all during the cook as mentioned. I may try getting some regular fresh limes and adding the zest for a little extra pop instead of bottled key lime juice.

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It looks good!  I’ve made homemade jerk a few different times, but never completely found the one recipe I really liked.  There was a grocery store in another county that sold Walkerswood, but that was in 2017.  I might try my luck with Amazon like you suggested.  

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Friend of a Friend from Tobago uses the following.  I've done this a number of times and they come out perfect.  Bone-in skin on drums or thighs work the best but I've done a whole chicken on rotisserie on the gas grill and also a turkey with great success.

 

3 Tbsp Walkerswood(can use more if you want more heat)
2 Tbsp cooking oil
2 Tbsp ketchup
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 heaping tsp fresh chopped thyme leaves (can use dried, just increase to 1.5 or 2 level tsp)
1 tsp kosher salt, cracked black pepper or to your liking

 

Mix all and marinade at least 24 hours - try to get under skin

Use pimento wood in a smoke pouch if you can - else I blend apple and cherry wood and use on my gas grill(still no Kamado Joe...back ordered for 2.5 months and counting ... so I use a gas grill at this point)

Grill indirect to bake/smoke the chicken out

 

 

 

 

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