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Sep 18, 2003 10:06 AM

Jerk Chicken

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Hi all! I desperately need help! The husband and I are craving some authentic Jamaican style jerk chicken. Any recommendations so I can feed this craving?


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  1. Negril in Silver Spring is exceptionately good. There are also several other locations.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Joe H.

      I concur with Joe's remark. That said, the term "authentic" when applied to jerk chicken is like the term balsamic vinegar--the real stuff is almost never found, and the term has become so degraded that it has lost all its meaning. Even in Jamaica, authentic jerk is hard to find (I have often said you must find a place that covers their pit with corrugated roofing--otherwise its not the real thing). I don't think many places around here have corrugated roofing over their pits--most don't even have pits.

      It's all a little like discussing authentic BBQ--depends on who you talk to. Enjoy Negril!

      1. re: Joe H.

        I'm a big fan of Negril, but I would caution that their Jerk chicken is pretty mild, by usual jerk standards. If your definition of authentic includes "so hot that you start to sweat," you might want to see if you can get them to kick up the spice a few notches.

        If you're ever looking for a DIRT cheap meal, at Negril you can get a "side order" of rice and peas with gravy from the curry or jerk chicken for only $2.50. It's a huge serving of rice and field peas, with a side salad, and a generous spoonful of gravy, veggies and even a few small pieces of chicken. It's probably not quite enough if you're a big eater, but if you're looking for something simple the price can't be beat.

        1. re: Nate Martin

          Jerk chicken is not necessarily hot at all.
          Jerk chicken originated in Boston Bay in the county of Portland, Jamaica. Throughout Jamaica, the dish is simply referred to as "Boston." (unless your stuck at a resort, then they'll call it jerk chicken.)
          Boston chicken is basically BBQ chicken cooked over an open pit. They also BBQ pork regularly in Boston. It has, of course, Jamaican spices on it, which immediately sets it apart from the flavor of BBQ we're used to. But it is not supposed to be hot unless you put a hot sauce on it, and I saw plenty of people, including Jamaicans, get it mild.
          The chicken at Rita's on Georgia Avenue tastes authentic to me, but since it is served from a steam table, you do have to time it right so that it hasn't dried out.

          1. re: Steve

            Whatever the authenticity, you can check out Tropicana at 8th & Florida Avenue N.W.

            They've got good jerk chicken, although it's brutally hot. Comes with rice & beans & steamed vegetable or salad. They also serve curry [chicken, fish & goat], fricasee, callaloo & ackee, and a bunch of other stuff I can't recall. A good place, although they tend to run out of stuff later in the evening.


            1. re: JT

              Negril is fast- food. Tropicana is restaurant quality cuisine. (there is a Tropicana by Howard and up Georgia Ave toward Silver Spring)

              p.s. But I will say I have an addiction to Negril's beef patty...

        2. re: Joe H.

          I recently tried a jerk chicken sandwich at Negril's in N Gaithersburg. Greasy & sloppy to eat, but yummy nonetheless. They told me their sandwich is milder than their entree size platter. They also had some homemade chicken soup, and even homemade fruit punch. They serve some very dense carrot cake...

          1. re: Lauryn

            I find Negril's food fairly bland in general. The jerk chicken is forgettable, and often dry and overcooked. However, when they put a mound of it on one of those delicious buns and throw some of their sauce on it...well, that's a great sandwich!

        3. I haven't yet had the chicken (though I will within the week) but Caribbean Grill has it - in a couple of different formats.

          Also, Jamaica Jamaica in Herndon.

          1. My favorite is the Jerk Pit in College Park. I love the jerk chicken sandwich there. Its jerk chicken cooked with bbq and spices, lettuce, tomato and a little bit of some white sauce stuffed in coco bread. It's also a really nice sit down place with about 8 tables, reggae always playing on the big screen tv. You gotta try it. They also offer the usual jamaican fare, jerk platters, curry, ox tail, stewed chicken.....

            Other good places:

            Carribean Delight- 2 locations, Langely Park and Beltsville but I like the Langly Park location better but not really a sit down place like the Beltsville location.

            Red Snapper-opened about a year ago in Laurel. it's in the shopping center with chuck-e-cheese on RT1. I have been there 2 times and the jerk has been pretty good

            1. Before today, I didn't get the whole fascination with jerk chicken and I measured good Caribbean food by the rice and peas. I just went to Just Jerk (Lanham, MD) for the first time and I am very impressed. That was some of the best and most authentic Caribbean food I have had in this area. I can't believe I've lived less than 3 miles from this place for the last 10 years and I never bothered to go there; probably because of it's awkward location. It is worth every U turn you have to make to get there and back.

              I tried the Jerk Pit once, but it was a while ago and apparently not memorable enough for me to travel back given all the Caribbean places that are closer to my home. I was never impressed with Negril. It always seemed bland for Caribbean food to me. I've tried Muffin Man and was never impressed by anything on their menu besides the muffins. Muffin Man lost me with their rice and peas which seemed to be made of instant rice; a no no in my book. Weekness for Sweetness in Greenbelt was really good, but Just Jerk just knocked them out of the running for me if I ever get a craving for jerk chicken again. Just Jerk has obviously mastered their limited menu. To add to my experience, the Just Jerk staff was friendly and despite the roadside dive feel, the place looked clean.

              19 Replies
              1. re: MScribe

                How do they cook the chicken?

                1. re: Steve

                  As far as I can tell, they must have a jerk pit in the back somewhere because the meat is definitely grilled/ BBQ'd. It was freshly made and juicy; not sitting around for hours under a heat lamp.

                    1. re: Steve

                      I hope you get a chance to try it. Make sure you tell us about your experience at Just Jerk. I'm tempted to go back there for lunch today.

                      1. re: MScribe

                        I had to drive out here and try this place today. I miss jerk chicken. There is a great place in Atlanta called Eats where for five bucks you get a good half chicken and rice and beans. It was a staple for years, so I drove the hour to Just Jerk.

                        The chicken was grilled and chopped evenly with a flavorful wet marinade (Eats uses a very spicy dry rub with a lot of rosemary which I am obviously used to). The rice and red beans were mixed and good. I also got the deep fried cornmeal things which the name escapes me. They were slightly sweet and good. I have to admit my favorite thing I tasted was the "shanga" (maybe) hot sauce. It was deliciously sweet and spicy. The cornbread was awesome dipped in it.

                        I will leave the address in the gps. It is worth the trip once in a while, but I wish there was a place to eat there. The smell in the car back to Arlington is sheer torture.

                        1. re: sekelmaan

                          A two hour round trip between you and your Just Jerk meal - I guess you were feeling tortured. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I need to find out about this fried cornbread of which you speak. That sounds like it would be good there. If you recall the name, please post it so I'll know what to order on my next trip.

                          I have to admit to being to chicken (oops, there goes a pun) to order the spicy jerk. They put the shanga (?) on the side for me. Surprisingly, I really enjoyed the creamy hot sauce. Although hot, it was very tasty.

                          1. re: MScribe

                            The fried cornbread is called festival.

                            1. re: sekelmaan

                              Thanks! I'm sure I'll be having it at least once this week.

                              This is the first time I've ever had a real craving for jerk chicken besides my own. Admittedly, my oven version cannot compare to the wonderful grilled deliciousness that I had from Just Jerk last week.

                              1. re: sekelmaan

                                Hey sekelmaan! I went back to Just Jerk for dinner last night. I tried the festival and enjoyed it. Thanks for the recommendation. It tasted like a cross between a churro, cake donut, and cornbread.

                                1. re: MScribe

                                  Cool. I am glad you liked it. I wish it was an hour closer for me :P

                        2. re: Steve

                          Hi Steve! I'm not sure the other photos of my Just Jerk dinner were uploaded successfully, so I am going to try this again. I wanted you to see just how good their jerk is. I am pleased with the consistency of the quality on my second trip.

                          1. re: MScribe

                            WHoa - that looks good. That does it, I'm setting my GPS first thing in the morning.

                              1. re: MScribe

                                Tried Just Jerk yesterday. The chicken looks even better in real life than the photo!

                                I ordered a 1/4 dark chicken. The sign says to order it spicy, and I did. I didn't order any sides or bread. It was excellent. They are smoking it, though I didn't necessarily detect any wood. Not blazing spicy, but very satisfying on that score.

                                If this were downtown, there would be lines out the door. One of those places you really wish would open up near you. A gorgeous mess of food.

                                Also, I got a beef patty from The Muffin Man a few minutes away on Severn Lanham Rd. Near the Jerry's Seafood. It was made in house. Good stuff, nothing extraordinary. Their huge display of muffins looks serious, with some tropical flavors as well as traditional. I'm just not much of a muffin fan.

                                1. re: Steve

                                  I'm glad the trip was worth your while. I'm fortunate to be surrounded by several Caribbean eateries in this area. I just drove past Just Jerk this morning and was trying to figure out where the jerk pit must be. Based on the smoke that was pouring from the chimney, the smoker must be in the kitchen on the left side of the building.

                                  The muffins are indeed very good at Muffin Man. I'm thinking about giving them another try, but Just Jerk has won my loyalty when it comes to all things jerk. The Just Jerk patties were very good too.

                                  Perhaps I'll give the Muffin Man oxtail stew a try. I just hope they have real rice for the prices they're charging. I think I recall them being on the pricey side for Caribbean food in this area.

                    2. re: MScribe

                      If you liked Just Jerk, you should give Pimento Grill in NE a try. Their chicken is equally rich and flavorful like Just Jerk but they augment their menu with several seafood dishes like jerk shrimp and salmon.

                      1. re: monkeyrotica

               has Pimento Grill listed as:

                        4405 Bowen Rd., SE
                        Washington, DC

                        1. re: monkeyrotica

                          Thanks for the recommendation. I'll try to check out Pimento Grill. BTW - I think I noticed seafood on Just Jerk's menu as well.

                          1. re: monkeyrotica

                            I just went the the Pimento Grill website and now I am drooling. Gotta get there!

                        2. All this Jerk talk got my mouth watering. The last really good jerk I had was at D-Bus in Negril more years ago than I can exactly recall.

                          I received today a shipment of Walkerswood Jerk Seasoning, and plan to cook my own at home in a Big Green Egg. I've never seen pimento wood chips.
                          Anyone know of a locally available wood chunk type that would be suitable? I imagine Just Jerk must be substituting wood types in their cooking.

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: mdfoodlover

                            You could call and ask.... I can't say for sure they use wood at all.

                            1. re: Steve

                              My skinless breasts are smoking in the egg right now. I used pecan wood chunks in with the hardwood charcoal. Only bean on about 10 minutes so far, but the smell is great already..

                              I prefer dark meat, whole legs, but my cardio diet prohibits the fat. I'm hopeful the breasts are not a disapointment, what with reading all this good jerk talk lately

                              1. re: mdfoodlover

                                So how'd your jerk turn out?

                                I'm tempted to buy a smoker myself. I'm just not sure I want the work and clean up. Besides, Just Jerk is too close buy to make it worth my while - for jerk anyway.

                                1. re: MScribe

                                  Excellent. I went a little too heavy on the quantity of Jerk & time of marination for my wife's taste. I however enjoyed a nice sweat while consuming it. My fellow workers, Latinos who love spicy food, gave it high reviews when I offered them some he next day.

                                  The Big Green Egg is far more than a smoker. It can sear a steak better than most fancy gas grills, braise a burger, slow roast a turkey, bake pizza, the list goes on & on.

                                  My next Jerking will be on Country Style pork ribs, which I think is similar to the cut of meet the Jamaican Jerk uses.
                                  (Lips smacking in anticipation)

                                  1. re: mdfoodlover

                                    Mmmm.... you're making me hungrier as I contemplate what to cook today.

                                    So you really like the big green egg? I'll have to look into that. It does sound like it's pretty versatile from your description and holds a large quantity (e.g. turkey). Don't even mention outdoor gas grills to me. I don't see the point of them. To me, you might as well cook on the grill inside.

                                    1. re: MScribe

                                      I've got the Kamado grill (same design as the Big Green Egg, both reflective ceramic cookers) and they are both excellent cookers. They're also a serious investment that will likely outlive the user. I also have three Weber Smokey Mountains and get a great deal of use out of them, but at a fraction of the cost. Like the ceramic cookers, they smoke and, by adjusting the grill height, can sear, braise, and bake as well. With the new models just out, you can get a used model off eBay for a good price.

                                      Once you've used these cookers, you get spoiled. Store bought barbecue doesn't taste the same anymore. And if you want to cook jerk over smoking pimento wood, there's really no alternative.

                                      1. re: monkeyrotica

                                        Shopping at Giant today, jumbo packages of boneless pork (chops?) were on sale for a great price. I bought 2 packages & intend to try my hand at jerking again this Wednesday.
                                        I plan to be much more conservative in the quantity of sauce while marinating.
                                        I'm going to use pecan wood again, because that is what I have.
                                        Reading a few other sites got me thinking I should do a very low temp cook for up to 2 hours in order to really infuse the meat with flavor.
                                        Does this sound right?

                                        1. re: mdfoodlover

                                          Given the leanness of pork loin/chops, I'd be inclined to brine them overnight. Otherwise, you risk ending up with a dry, smokey pork akin to Canadian bacon rather than jerk. Regardless, make sure you use a remote thermometer and pull at the requisite internal temperature. Any decent cookbook will provide this. Given the fluctuations of outdor cooking and the fattiness of the meat, I always go by temperature rather than cook time. Good luck.

                            2. re: mdfoodlover

                              This is an old string, but in case anyone is still looking for Pimento woodchips, there is one place in the US where you can order: