Jerk Chicken Legs in the Style of Yallahs with Hellfire Hot Sauce


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Planet Barbecue

Planet Barbecue

By Steven Raichlen

Published 2010

  • About

Yallahs is the first sizable town you drive through on the way from Kingston to Port Antonio, Jamaica. Capitalizing on the opportunity to feed hungry passersby, the locals have lined the main street with 55-gallon steel drum grills, one after another, each accompanied by an industrial-strength sound system. The town specialty is jerk chicken—or more precisely, jerk chicken legs. These succulent, mahogany-hued chicken legs are considerably less salty and fiery than the jerk one associates with Boston Beach (see here for a jerk pork recipe). Here’s how chicken legs are “jerked” by a tall, lanky grill jockey named Eric Morgan. If you do want a little more heat, Eric serves an incendiary Scotch bonnet salsa on the side.


  • 2 pounds bone-in chicken legs, or pounds boneless chicken legs or thighs, with skin
  • 1 bunch scallions, both white and green parts, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 shallots, coarsely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 to 2 Scotch bonnet chiles or habañero peppers, seeded (for a hotter chicken, leave the seeds in)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • teaspoons Coarse salt (kosher or sea)
  • 1 teaspoon Freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil or water, or more as needed
  • Hellfire Hot Sauce


Advance Preparation

hours to overnight for marinating the chicken

  1. Rinse the chicken legs under cold running water, then blot them dry with paper towels. Arrange the chicken legs in a nonreactive baking dish or bowl just large enough to hold them in a single layer.
  2. Place the scallions, shallots, garlic, Scotch bonnet(s), thyme, salt, pepper, and allspice in a food processor fitted with a chopping blade and puree to a smooth paste, running the machine in bursts. Add enough oil or water to obtain a pourable consistency.
  3. Pour the marinade over the chicken legs, turning them to coat all over. Let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for at least 4 hours or as long as overnight; the longer the chicken legs marinate, the richer the flavor will be. Turn the chicken legs several times so they marinate evenly.
  4. Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat it to medium. Leave one section of the grill bare for a safety zone.
  5. When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Drain the chicken legs well, discarding the marinade. Arrange the chicken legs skin side down on the hot grate and grill them until they are nicely browned and cooked through, 6 to 10 minutes per side, turning with tongs. If the chicken skin or meat starts to burn or you get flare-ups, move the chicken to the safety zone. When cooked, the meat at the bone will have lost all traces of pink; make a tiny slit with the tip of a knife to check it.
  6. To serve, place the chicken on a chopping block or substantial cutting board, and, using a cleaver, hack the chicken meat into bite-size pieces. Jamaican jerk is always served in bite-size pieces and is always eaten with your fingers.