Jamaican Chicken

This is one of my favorite chicken dishes! And it’s especially great when cooked on your Primo!

Jerk chicken (and pork) is so famous in Jamaica, it’s easy to forget that the island has other barbecued dishes. Among them is this incredibly flavorful, fall-off-the-bone-tender chicken. It’s probably best cooked with a whole chicken, but I’ve only done it with chicken pieces. Also, if you’re in a rush you can skip the marinade and just cook it with the barbecue sauce. It won’t be as tender, but it’s still very flavorful!

Prep time: 1 hour (marinates for 12-24 hours)
Cook time:
1 hour
4 Servings

  • 1 whole chicken (3 to 4 pounds) or 3-4 pounds of chicken pieces
  • 1 bunch scallions, both white and green parts, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 to 1 scotch bonnet or Serrano chile, seeded and finely chopped, or
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon pepper-based hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil


  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 4 scallions, both white and green parts, trimmed and minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar, or more to taste
  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar, or more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum


  1. Remove and discard the fat just inside the body cavities of the chicken. Remove the package of giblets and set aside for another use. Rinse the chicken, inside and out, under cold running water, then drain and blot dry, inside and out, with paper towels. Set aside while you prepare the seasoning. Or clean and dry chicken pieces.
  2. Combine the scallions, garlic, chile, paprika, thyme, salt, pepper, soy sauce, and oil in a blender or mini processor and process to a smooth puree. Spoon half the mixture into the neck and body cavities of the chicken, then rub the remainder over the skin (or under it) to cover completely. Place the chicken in a large, heavy-duty plastic bag with a zip-lock closing. Seal the bag and let the chicken marinate, in the refrigerator, for 12 to 24 hours, turning the bag over several times.
  3. Prepare the barbecue sauce. Combine the ketchup, soy sauce, scallions, garlic, ginger, sugar, and vinegar in a medium-size saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until thick and richly flavored, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the rum the last 2 minutes, then remove from the heat. You should have about 2 cups of sauce.
  4. Set up the grill for indirect grilling, placing a drip pan in the center. Preheat it to 300 degrees.
  5. When ready to cook, toss half the wood chips on the coals. Oil the grill grate. Remove the chicken from the plastic bag and place, breast side up, on the hot grate over the drip pan. Cover the grill and cook the chicken for 30 minutes. If using pieces, cook for about 20 minutes. Open the grill and brush the chicken liberally with barbecue sauce. Close grill and continue grilling the chicken until the skin is mahogany brown and the juices run clear when the tip of a skewer or sharp knife is inserted in the thickest part of a thigh, 30 to 40 minutes more for a whole chicken or 20 minutes for pieces.
  6. Continue periodically to brush the chicken with sauce as it cooks.
  7. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board or platter and let stand for 5 minutes before carving.
  8. Note: An instant-read meat thermometer inserted in the inner muscle of a thigh, not touching the bone, should register 180°F.

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