As we kick off another edition of our annual “July Month of Grilling”, I thought I’d hit you with a recipe we first did in the oven during the early days of this website. However this time we’ll try to replicate that authentic pimento wood flavor as you’d normally get at jerk joints in Jamaica. Yes, it’s time for the Ultimate Jamaican Jerk Chicken Wings. The marinade and technique can also be used on larger pieces of chicken with great success. But for now let’s rock some of the best chicken wings you’ll ever make/serve.
5 lbs chicken wings
1/4 cup orange juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1-2 tablespoon brown sugar
2 scotch bonnet peppers
1 med onion
3 cloves garlic
2 thick slices ginger
1 teaspoon allspice (+ add 8 berries)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
10 sprigs thyme
3/4 lb wood chips + tin foil + allspice berries (for the smoke pouch)
Important! If making this jerk marinade gluten free, please go through the entire list of ingredients to make sure it meets with your specific gluten free dietary needs. Especially the soy sauce.. use a gluten free version please.
Give the garlic, onion, scallions and scotch bonnet peppers a rough chop, then place in your blender or food processor. Remember to wear gloves when handling the scotch bonnet peppers and wash your hands immediately after with soap and water. Additionally, you can leave out the seeds if you want to control the heat a bit. Add the juice of the limes along with everything else (except the chicken wings and stuff for the smoke pouch) into the food processor.
Instead of the sugar you can use honey, maple syrup or any of your fav sweetener. I like to pulse the food processor so I get a sort of chunky marinade at the end. However you can go as smooth as you like. This marinade will keep in the fridge for at least a week (in the event you want to make it in advance). I used a combination of allspice berries and powder (aka pimento).
Pour the marinade over the chicken wings (you can use a large zipper bag). Give it a good mix and place the fridge overnight. Feel free to mix it around if you remember during the night.
I like using my hands to work the marinade on the wings, but I’d recommend using gloves if you do. To help us achieve that lovely pimento smoke you expect to taste in good Jamaican Jerk, we’ll need to create a smoke pouch. I don’t have access to pimento wood, so I usually use a combination of (hard) fruit wood and pimento berries (see the video below). Soak the wood chips of your choice with the berries for a few hours in a bowl with water.
Remove the wings from the fridge about 30 minutes before you’re ready to grill. Using tin foil create a pouch with the wood and pimento berries. Seal and poke with a fork so you’ll have some holes for the smoke to escape and perfume the grill. I used a propane grill, but you can use a charcoal grill with better results.
I placed the smoke pouch directly over my flame, covered my grill and ensured I saw smoke before I got the wings on. After I saw smoke I turned my heat down to low. I have two levels on my grill so the wings went on the top rack and the smoke pouch directly below them. While they were directly above the heat source, they did’t get raw heat as the heat was low and the smoke pouch shielded them a bit. You’re free to grill these with indirect heat.
With the lid closed I kept the wings on the top level for about 35 minutes. Remember to move them around so they cook evenly. I then moved the pouch to the side and moved the wings to the lower level of my grill. To help them develop some color and fully cook over the direct heat. My heat was at about 325 F.
Here is where you MUST keep a close eye on the wings or they will burn. Slightly charred edges is perfect.. but NOT burnt. The sugars in the marinade will encourage it to burn fast. I kept them on the lower level for 10-15 minutes. It will depend on the size of the wings you use.
While I didn’t mention it in the video below, I’d recommend drizzling on some fresh lime or lemon juice just before you remove these jerk wings from the grill. It will help to brighten them up a bit with that kick of citrus. Feel free to add some water, beer or apple juice to the bag you marinated the wings in and use that to baste the wings as they grill. IMPORTANT! Remember the raw chicken was in that marinade, so stop using it to baste-on after about 25 minutes. You really need to cook out any rawness.
That smoke punch will make a huge difference and YES I really want you to marinate the wings overnight for maximum flavor.