Jamaican Jerk Pork

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

The jerk in jerk pork is a spice mixture that was used to preserve meat before refrigeration. These days, the spices are used to season meats for barbecue and to tenderize rather than to preserve. An inexpensive smoker or a covered grill can be substituted for the traditional jerk pit, and is a lot easier than digging a hole in your backyard. Serve with cornbread, Peas ’n’ Rice, a tropical fruit salad, and a cold Red Stripe beer.

NotesThis recipe requires advance preparation.

Cooking Methodgrilling, smoking


Total Timea day or more

OccasionBuffet, Family Get-together, game day

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, lactose-free, low carb, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free

Equipmentblender, grill, smoker


Taste and Texturegarlicky, herby, meaty, savory, smoky, spiced


  • One 3- to 4-pound pork butt or loin roast
  • 3 to 4 Scotch bonnet chiles, stems and seeds removed, chopped, or substitute habanero chiles
  • ¼ cup chopped green onions, including some of the greens
  • ¼ cup crushed allspice berries; or substitute 2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 3 tablespoons fresh thyme
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice, preferably fresh
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil


  1. To make the jerk paste, either pound the ingredients together using a mortar and pestle or place in a blender or food processor and process. With the motor running, slowly add enough of the oil to make a paste.

  2. Place the roast, fat side down, in a nonreactive pan. Make slashes in the pork about 1½ to 2 inches apart and almost through the roast. Rub the jerk paste over the meat, making sure to get it thoroughly into the slashes. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator overnight.

  3. Remove the roast and bring to room temperature.

  4. Prepare either the grill or smoker. If using a grill, be sure to use a pan under the pork to catch the drippings so that they don’t flare up and burn the meat. Smoke the pork for about 2 to 3 hours, turning the roast every 30 minutes to ensure even browning. Cook until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 150°F. Allow the meat to sit for 10 minutes to reabsorb all the juices and for the temperature to rise to 160°F. Then carve the meat and mound on a platter to serve.

  5. Variations: Substitute lamb chops, chicken, or turkey for the pork.

  6. Variations: Substitute lamb chops, chicken, or turkey for the pork.


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