Recipe: Jerk Chicken Wings

Published on: September 11th, 2019

Here's a new way to make your next batch of wings.

The term "jerk" refers to both a seasoning mix (with lots of characteristically Jamaican ingredients like thyme, allspice, and scotch bonnet peppers) and a style of cooking (long, slow, low heat barbecue). Only meat that stands up to long slow heat can take the latter, pork and poultry being the most common. Chicken wings are perfect: since they have a high bone-meat ratio, they're harder (but not impossible) to overcook.

The most authentic jerk recipes result in a seasoning mix with a paste-like texture that's spread on the meat by hand. The version presented here uses liquid ingredients to make a more conventional marinade: it's much easier to baste with, and works a little better for serving extra on the side.

The recipe below includes instructions for cooking in an oven and over a grill. The latter is definitely a lot more authentic. At jerk stands in Jamaica, the wood of choice comes from the allspice tree. Charcoal is fine, even better with some soaked wood chips.

Another mark of authenticity comes in the choice of peppers. Habaneros (a close relative of the Jamaican scotch bonnet) are not only very hot, they have a distinctive fruity heat that a hallmark of jerk. Of course, the result is delicious with any source of heat. If you substitute with jalapenos, consider adding some habanero-based hot sauce.

If you can, it's worth the trouble to toast and grind whole dried allspice and black pepper berries. 

Leftover jerk sauce can be stored covered and refrigerated for a month.

20 chicken wings, with tips removed and separated into segments

For the jerk sauce/marinade: 
1 medium onion
1 bunch scallions, both green and white parts
3 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons dried thyme or a large sprig of fresh thyme
1 tablespoon ground allspice (or 2 tsp nutmeg + 1 tsp cinnamon)
1 or 2 minced fresh habanero chiles, or less to taste 
1 tablespoon fresh ginger grated
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
water as needed to loosen sauce

In a food processor, blend all the sauce ingredients, adding enough water to make the result thick but pour-able. You should have about 1-1/2 cups. Save about a third to serve with finished wings.

Use the rest of the jerk sauce as a marinade. Pour over the wings mix to evenly coat. Marinate for several hours or up to a day. Remove from refridgerator an hour or so before cooking to allow the wings to come to room temperature.

Cook in oven
Cook in a hot oven (425-450F) on a rack over a pan to catch drippings, until cooked through, 30-40 minutes depending on the size of your wings. Baste with more sauce several times while cooking. 

Cook on grill
Cook over a low charcoal fire, turning and basting the wings regularly, until cooked through. Test for done-ness by removing a large wing drummie and cutting it open. 

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