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Barbecue Secrets

Recipes of the week - Jamaican Jerk Pork

Jul 24, 2015

What is perfect jerk? Is it chicken or pork? Should the meat be marinated, or just rubbed? How hot should it be? Is it best smoked, grilled, or baked in an oven?

After many years of experimentation in my own kitchen I have come up with what I think is a pretty good approximation of the best jerk that my wife Kate and I tasted during the two times we visited the beautiful island of Jamaica. Usually I make jerk chicken, but lately I’ve been cooking jerk pork, and it’s super delish.

In the past I’ve made my own jerk marinade, but these days I just use a rub. Some might call it overkill, but I like to serve jerk with a rich, spicy gravy made with chicken broth and jarred jerk marinade.

I’m also including the perfect accompaniments to a jerk dinner, a spicy but refreshing slaw, and the classic Jamaican side dish, Rice and Beans (also known as Rice and Peas).

Jerk Pork 

This recipe also works well with chicken or fish.  

Serves 6

6 nice fatty pork loin chops or pork blade steaks
Jamaican-style Dry Jerk Seasoning
Vegetable oil

Prepare your grill for medium direct cooking. Sprinkle the chops with a generous coating of the rub and drizzle them with enough oil to make them shiny. When your grill is ready, place the pork on the cooking grate and cover the grill. Turn the chops every couple of minutes till they’re done (internal temp of 140F for medium). Let them rest, tented in foil, for at least five minutes. Serve the pork with slaw, rice and beans, and jerk gravy (see recipes below).

[Alternative method: cook the pork in a smoker using mesquite, or if you can get it, pimento wood, as a flavouring agent, and finish it on the grill. This technique works great with pork bellies, or you could even do a whole pork shoulder butt roast like this.]

Jamaican-style Dry Jerk Seasoning

This rub gives chicken, pork or snapper – or whatever else you’re grilling – a classic Jamaican flavor without any fuss.

     2 Tbsp|30 mL granulated onion
     2 Tbsp|30 mL dried onion flakes (get flakes that aren’t too big)
     1 Tbsp|15 mL ground dried thyme
     1 Tbsp|15 mL kosher salt
     2 tsp|10 mL ground allspice
     1/2 tsp|5 mL freshly grated nutmeg
     1/2 tsp|5 mL ground cinnamon
     1 Tbsp|15 mL sugar
     2 tsp|10 mL freshly ground black pepper
     2 tsp|10 mL ground dried habanero chilies (or cayenne or chipotle powder if you can’t find habanero)
     1 1/2 Tbsp|22.5 mL dried chives

Note: Double or quadruple this recipe so you have some on hand. It’s super easy to make a great jerk marinade simply by whizzing 1/2 cup|125 mL of this rub in a food processor with a splash of cooking oil, a chopped habanero, a chopped onion and some chopped scallions.

Jerk Gravy

4 cups |1 L chicken or beef broth
2 Tbsp|30 mL jarred jerk marinade or jerk seasoning paste (Walkerton of Jamaica makes one of the best, and if you’re in British Columbia there’s a local product called Auntie Bev’s that’s really good, too.)
1 Tbsp|15 mL soy sauce (or, if you can get it, 1 tsp of something called “browning,” which is a thick, black liquid made with water, caramelized sugar and salt)
2 tsp|10 mL corn starch
1/4 cup|60 mL cold water
Salt and pepper to taste


Place the chicken broth in a saucepan and bring it to a rolling boil. Reduce it by at least half. Add the jerk seasoning and soy sauce (or browning) and stir it into the broth.

Quickly mix the corn starch into the cold water and immediately pour it into the gravy, stirring constantly until it thickens and turns shiny.  Season it to your liking and serve in a gravy boat.


Jamaican Cole Slaw

This recipe, adapted slightly from the excellent Jerk From Jamaica cookbook by Helen Willinsky (I’ve added raisins and fresh pineapple), is a superb side. If you want to serve it with something other than jerk, substitute your favorite rub for the Dry Jerk Seasoning. 

4 cups|1 L shredded purple cabbage
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh pineapple
3/4 cup|185 mL grated carrots
1/4 lb|125 g golden raisins
1/2 cup chopped toasted nuts (pecans, walnuts, pistachios almonds or anything else you like)
1/2 cup|125 mL mayonnaise
1 Tbsp|15 mL cider vinegar
1 Tbsp|15 mL Jamaican-Style Dry Jerk Seasoning

Combine all the ingredients in a salad bowl and toss. Cover and chill for at least an hour and toss again just before serving. 

Jamaican Rice and Beans

In Jamaica this dish is a staple. Jamaicans call it rice and peas, but it often features red kidney beans so I’ve renamed it to avoid confusion. The creamy, sweet richness of the coconut milk helps make this dish a perfect complement to jerk or any spicy grilled meat. 

     2 14-oz/398-mL cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (if you want to be perfectly authentic, substitute the kidney beans for canned gungo peas, also known as pidgeon peas)
     1 14-oz/398-mL can coconut milk
     2 thick slices double-smoked bacon, chopped
     1 green onion, chopped
     2 sprigs fresh thyme
     1 habanero chile (whole – do not chop)
     2 cups|500 mL long grain white rice
     2 cups boiling water
     kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a frying pan, sauté the chopped bacon until it’s starting to brown but is not yet crispy. Drain off the excess fat and set the bacon aside. 

In a large saucepan combine the beans, coconut milk, bacon, green onion, thyme and the habanero. Cook over medium-high heat just until the mixture comes to a simmer. Add the hot water and stir in the rice. Cover tightly, reduce the heat to low and cook without disturbing for about 25 minutes, until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender. Fluff before serving and don’t forget to remove the habanero so it doesn’t surprise anyone!