Can Jerk Chicken Be Made in the Oven?

Chef Samantha holding a platter of jerked chicken and breadfruit

Everyone told me not to do this! One pan chicken chef that I interviewed said, “Ah nuh jerk dat! Ah bake chicken dat!” (Translation: By definition, anything jerked in an oven is baked chicken)

Yet, I see so many people on Tik Tok attempting jerk chicken in their oven. So, I wanted to test and see if I can come up with a solution on how to truly create authentic Jamaican jerk chicken in the oven! Watch my video experiment below. This makes for a good lunch break diversion. 🤓

What Makes Jerked Chicken, Jerk?

What makes jerk chicken jerk? From everything I’ve researched about the history of jerk chicken (or any jerked meat or vegetable), Jamaican Jerk consists of two techniques:

  1. the seasoning style
  2. the cooking method – specifically the heat AND smoke from pimento wood

Authentic Jamaican Jerk Seasoning

The seasoning style is quite easy, and each person has their own marinade/wet rub/dry rub/all of the above. This is my wet rub. However, you only need three ingredients to make jerked chicken –

  • salt,
  • scotch bonnet peppers and
  • pimento.

Everything else is added to enhance those core ingredients. This is a controversial statement, but that’s what I think! You must consider that ancient Maroons and Tainos wouldn’t have had access to all the fancy stuff we add to jerk today. So anyway, I won’t go off on a rant today, make your jerk seasoning however you’d like, once it’s not using Gordon Ramsay’s recipe (watch this to see what I mean – I was shocked). Or try my wet marinade recipe.

How to Jerk Chicken – The Cooking Method

Jerk Chicken was originally cooked similar to modern Barbacoa tacos, i.e., buried in a shallow pit and covered over. Some persons today still jerk meat in this ancient way, but it is going to very hard to do this commercially as it takes significantly longer. Nowadays, we attempt to replicate that using a drum, an American style BBQ pit or on a grill covered in a sheet of zinc metal.

Essentially to be called authentic jerk chicken as it was originally created: –

  1. you must jerk chicken using smoke AND heat from pimento wood
  2. the cooking process must be completed in an enclosed heat box (not like grilling which is done open air)

Pan chicken is a version of jerk chicken, but it is not grilled over pimento wood.

In Portland, at Boston Jerk Centre, nobody digs a pit. Instead, they layer zinc on top of the meat to simulate the enclosed box of heat. If these two styles can be considered Jamaican Jerk, then my theory is that you can jerk chicken in an oven.

However, to do that, you must make this one mandatory tweak that I demonstrated in the video experiment!

My Recommended BBQ Smoker

Need a grill to try jerk at home? The BBQ grill I use at home is similar to this one. It has adjustable grill heights, temperature gauges and is quite sturdy.

A black grill on a white background

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How to Bake Jerk Chicken

In the video experiment, I tried jerking chicken in my oven to see if it truly can be done. I’ve already accepted that the oven is sufficient. Therefore, we only have one thing missing – the element of smoking from wood.

My Hack on How to Cook Jerk Chicken in the Oven

To smoke chicken in the oven with pimento wood, you swap out the traditionally used trunks and limbs for leaves and branches. Once you get the pimento leaves and branches, you lay them on a tray (for easy clean-up) at the bottom of your oven and spray with oil. The heat and oil will cause smoke to generate and permeate the chicken. You’ll occasionally have to swap out the pimento leaves though.

When I did this, the whole house smelled of pimento and smoke filled the entire neighbourhood.

Check Samantha runs a test to see if jerk chicken can be made in the oven and is surprised
Chef Sam runs an experiment to test if jerk chicken can be done in an oven

So, Can Jerk Chicken be Cooked in the Oven?

Click on this link to watch and determine if my experiment yielded the desired results (and comment your opinion below). If you’ve made it this far, my conclusion is that you can jerk chicken in an oven! I stand by it and if you don’t believe me, watch the video yourself.

So, the question is, why would you? Well, if you live in a cold country or don’t have an outdoor BBQ grill, you can jerk chicken in an oven. To get the pimento, you can source it at

Oh, and there’s one advantage to jerking chicken in the oven – but to know what it is, you must watch the video.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! You can jerk chicken in an oven! That’s my opinion and I am sticking to it!


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About The Chef
Chef Samantha

A formally trained chef, Observer Food Awards scholar, graduate of The University of Technology in Hospitality & Food Service management, young wife and mom of two.

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