Tag Archives: Scoville

You’re a Jerk. Chicken, That Is.


Outside of the culinary world, “jerk” is a term that is often used in a derogatory context. “Jerking”, on the other hand, became a dance fad for a solid year.  However, on the island of Jamaica, “jerking” is a unique method of wood-fire barbecue.

The Breadfruit's "Jerk Chicken off the Grill". (Photo by Gabrielle Castillo)

This cooking technique has transformed throughout the years, beginning with cooking meat (traditionally pork or chicken) over a simple, slow flame in a pit, to cooking over fire inside the half of a steel drum.  Jerk-style cooking is not only unique in method, but unique in flavor as well.

The preferred meat uses a dry-rub containing the two most vital ingredients for a Jamaican jerk spice: allspice (pimento) and Scotch Bonnet peppers.  Scotch Bonnet peppers are among some of the hottest peppers in the world, with a heat rating of 100,000 – 350,000 Scoville units.  To put that in perspective, Tabasco sauce has a rating of 3,500 – 8,000 Scoville units.  This pepper means business.

At The Breadfruit in downtown Phoenix, Arizona, I was able to try this intimidating (but delicious) jerk chicken dish for myself.  Their “Jerk Chicken off the Grill” is a chicken breast marinated in their very own house spicy jerk rub, grilled over pimento wood, and topped with a mango chutney.  I’m not particularly adventurous when it comes to spicy food of any sort, but this was well worth it.

Jerk chicken accompanied by roasted pineapple, roasted corn on the cob, baked festival, and ital coleslaw. (Photo by Gabrielle Castillo)

The flavors I experienced in this dish weren’t typical of a spicy Asian or Mexican style food. The jerk chicken had a tropical, spicy flavor about it (enhanced by the mango chutney) and was a flavor I hadn’t been introduced to, but was happy to have met.

Seek out your warm beach, grab a towel, your Jamaican accent, a favorite steel drum band (I have one, don’t you?), and enjoy the tropical flavors a dish like jerk chicken has to offer.

Ya mon, check it deep.

– Gabrielle Castillo

Forgive the cliché pop-culture reference of a title I have chosen. Thank you, New Boyz.