Do you crave spicy food when it’s hot outside? It may sound counterintuitive, but when you eat food that packs a punch in the heat department, it cools you down. Spicy food makes you sweat, because it speeds up your metabolism, and once the sweat evaporates, it cools you off. This is a reason why hot peppers and spices are generously used in many warm-weather cuisines, such as this Caribbean barbecue recipe for Jamaican jerk chicken. Jerk cuisine is a method of rubbing a spice blend or marinating meat in a thick paste, packed with island-fresh chilis, herbs and spices. The marinade and spices infuse flavor and tenderize the meat, so the longer the chicken can soak in the marinade, the better the flavor.
Jerk paste is meant to be hot—really hot—which is traditionally achieved by adding Scotch bonnet or habanero peppers to the blend. I lean more gently when it comes to the peppers and substitute jalapeños or serranos—I wouldn’t want my dinner guests to self-combust. But if you prefer the rock stars of the Scoville Scale (the measurement of the heat units of peppers), then by all means go for the Scotch bonnets—and remember to carefully seed the peppers with gloved hands!
The list of spices and aromatics in this jerk paste is lengthy, but don’t let that deter you. All you need to do is pile them into a food processor, blend away and slather on the chicken. (Just don’t inhale any of the peppery air that may waft up from the feed tube while it processes.) The only other requirement is the fire of the grill to unify the flavors, add smoke and char, and crisp the chicken into spicy finger-licking deliciousness.