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How Long To Marinate Jerk Chicken For Grill

jerk chicken salad on white plate

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Loaded with flavor, this juicy chicken can be made on a charcoal grill or a gas grill.

It can be made with a whole chicken. It can be made with chicken breasts or chicken thighs or chicken quarters.

In fact, use any chicken pieces you have! I love grilled chicken. To me it is the smell of summer!

The most important thing is to just make this chicken!

For that matter, this jerk marinade can also be used on pork or beef or fish!

how long to marinate jerk chicken on cutting board

Jerk originated in Jamaica.

So a little history, but no quiz, I promise. 

Jerk is believed to be derived from the Dutch work gherk, which means pickled or preserved. 

The original purpose of jerk seasoning wasn’t to make the meat spicy, but to preserve it. 

Jerk could also have been derived from  the act of jerking or shredding the meat off the bone. 

In Jamaica a group of runaway slaves who were known as the Maroons, lived in the country where they hid from the British. 

They hunted wild pigs and cured the meat on wooden frames. 

Today jerk is considered the spice mixture or wet marinade that is used upon your protein of choice.

how long to marinate jerk chicken and jerk chicken salad on white plate

Jerk has many components but the prominent ones are allspice (known as pimento in Jamaica), thyme and most importantly Scotch Bonnet peppers or hot peppers, which have an intense heat and are similar to habanero peppers.

Lime juice, scallions and fresh ginger, black pepper, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon, are also on the list of marinade ingredients.

Soy sauce is often used in place of salt.

Throw it all in a food processor or blender and make your own jerk sauce!

Yes, I know it is technically a marinade, however it can also be used as a sauce.

You can use this on whatever meat or fish you want to jerk. 

I chose chicken, but pork is also common.

Why did I use Busha Browne’s hot sauce?

For the simple reason I could not find Scotch bonnets to use and I felt a bit of this would add more authentic flavor.

I was not wrong!

Additionally, I made a glaze which I used similar to BBQ sauce.

Brushed on before the chicken comes off the grill, this simple glaze contains similar ingredients that are used in the marinade.

how long to marinate jerk chicken for salad on white plate

Jerk should be smoked on a grill or it isn’t really jerk, but I have an easy way to do that if you don’t have a smoker. 

In Jamaica they use green pimento wood, but I used hickory.

Trying to make Jamaica’s most iconic dish in Colorado is not so easy!

I have seen recipes where jerk chicken is baked in the oven, but I have not tried them.

However if this is the only way to eat jerk chicken then go for it!

Just know that it won’t have the same flavor as grilled and smoked.

Frankly, I like a smoky flavor.

I chose to marinate boneless, skinless chicken breasts because that is what was in my freezer. 

Skin on chicken would have been the better choice, because it would have helped keep the chicken from getting too dry. 

I marinated the chicken about 15 hours and then I smoked the chicken for 45 minutes on a gas grill. 

how long to marinate jerk chicken on cutting board

To do this, all you have to do is put some hickory chips in a double thickness aluminum pouch and fold it up tightly. Poke some holes in the pouch for the smoke to escape. 

Pro Tip: If you wish take some dry seasonings such as bay leaves, allspice, thyme, cinnamon and fresh shavings of nutmeg and add a few tablespoons of water to dampen the seasonings. 

Add these seasonings to the wood chips and this will help mimic the pimento wood.

Heat the entire grill to high and then turn one side off. 

Place a pouch of wood chips on the side that is still lit. 

Shut the grill and when you see smoke escaping, place your chicken skin side up, on the side that is turned off, or the cooler side of the grill!

Smoke for about 45 minutes for boneless breasts but be sure to not let the chicken dry out. 

Also make sure the lid is down, when not basting, so the smoke doesn’t escape. 

Keep basting the chicken with leftover marinade. You may have to add more wood foil packages to the hotter side of the grill to keep the smoke going.

I loved this delicious jerk chicken.

how long to marinate jerk chicken with salad on white plate

Well, my guess is there are probably a million ways to make authentic Jerk chicken.

And since I’m not Jamaican I have no idea what the real way is.

However, I can say that this is about as close as I can get to Jamaican cuisine right now unless someone wants to send me a ticket.

My last trip there was 28 years ago and I’d happily go again!

How does this great Jamaican chicken taste?

Amazing with mellow, smoky undertones and a finish of spicy sweetness is the best way to describe this golden brown chicken.

The zingy flavor of ginger and the unmistaken essence of garlic comes through, too. 

Allspice gives it  a perky flavor and the peppers give it heat. 

Glaze brushed on 5 minutes before removing from the grill, adds an extra layer of flavor in the form of sweet, spicy and tart.

My taste buds were very happy.

jerk chicken salad on white plate

Most recipes say to marinate about 24 hours.

If you are using a recipe with a lot of acid such as lime juice or vinegar I would not let it go to past that.

You don’t want the fibers in the meat to break down.

However, this recipe does not have too much acid and up to 48 hours should be fine!

Use the glaze not only on the chicken, but to make salad dressing.

Add a few tablespoons of water or oil to the glaze and you’ve got dressing! 

Rather than using the chicken straight up, I used it on a salad. 

Last but not least, I added the sliced chicken breast and then drizzled the dressing on top. 

Yes, it was a healthy meal and the good thing is I have leftovers to do it again. 

Well, on second thought, I might just make a chicken sandwich!

Don’t be afraid to use the jerk rub to brush on grilled veggies!

And you can also add a bit to potato salad.

Jerk seasoning is great on just about anything!

jerk chicken with busha browne's hot pepper sauce

Grilled veggies brushed with glaze are great.

Coconut Rice

Coconut Corn


Grilled Sweet Potatoes. (I did this while cooking the chicken.)

Black Beans

Corn Bread

Hope you love this great recipe! Let me know what you think!

Jamaican Patties

Jamaican Patties

Pickapeppa Shrimp

Pick-a-Peppa Shrimp

palm hearts salad

Hearts of Palm Salad

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jamaican jerk chicken and how long to marinate jerk chicken

How Long To Marinate Grilled Jamaican Jerk Chicken

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  • Author: Abbe
  • Prep Time: 20 Minutes*
  • Cook Time: 45 Minutes
  • Total Time: 0 hours
  • Yield: 4 to 6 Servings 1x
  • Category: Main Course
  • Method: Grill
  • Cuisine: Jamaican


Jamaican jerk chicken is a complex and addicting dish. Spicy and loaded with spices, this amazing chicken is a culinary delight!


Units Scale

2 T Caribbean hot Sauce (I used Busha Browne’s)
4 T coarsely chopped garlic
2 T freshly grated ginger
3 scallions chopped
2 T rum
1 1/2 T molasses
1 lime’s worth of juice
1 T dark brown sugar
1 1/2 t ground allspice
1 t dried thyme leaves
1/4 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 t smashed cloves
1 t freshly ground black pepper
Salt or 1 T of soy sauce
2 T canola oil

46 Chicken Breasts (About 3.5 pounds)

1/4 c molasses
1/4 c water
1 T balsamic vinegar
2 T dark brown sugar
Juice of half a lime
1 smashed garlic clove
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
1/4 t allspice
1 T Caribbean Hot Sauce


For Chicken Marinade:

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and process to a paste.  Place the marinade in a big zip lock bag.

Poke holes in chicken breasts. Place in bag and make sure each breast is well covered with marinade. Refrigerate for up to 48 hours.

Preheat grill for indirect grilling and see tips for smoking on a gas grill in post above. Cook chicken for about 45 minutes. Slather with glaze about 5 minutes before chicken is finished.

To Make Glaze: Mix all together. Use as glaze or dressing.  If you use this as dressing, add 2 T oil or water and drizzle over salad.

Pull out the Red Stripes, put one some Bob Marley, and pretend you are in Jamaica. Ya Mon.


Please see post above for tips on grilling and smoking on a gas grill.

*Does not include time for marinating.

Recipe rating 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

Karen (Back Road Journal)

Sunday 26th of May 2024

Your version sounds delicious and having smoked the chicken, it would really give it that Jamaican flavor.


Thursday 6th of June 2024

Smoke adds so much flavor to food and one of my memories of Jamaica is that the island smelled like smoke!