Jerk is a style of cooking native to Jamaica, in which meat is dry-rubbed or wet marinated with a hot spice mixture called Jamaican jerk spice. “Jerk” became associated with the particular spice rub used to spice up those meats and the name stands today. Jerk can refer to jerk spice blends, jerk marinade and the cooking technique in general.


Some historians believe it was originally developed by Maroons, enslaved Africans who escaped into the wilds of Jamaica when the British captured the island from Spain in 1655. Adapting to their new surroundings the former slaves made use of the natural food sources available to them, creating the spicy sauce and slowly cooking the meat over a smoking wood fire. 

The smoky taste of jerked meat is achieved using various cooking methods, including modern wood-burning ovens. The meat is normally chicken or pork, and the main ingredients of the spicy jerk marinade sauce are allspice and Scotch bonnet peppers. Jerk cooking is popular in Caribbean and West Indian communities throughout North America and Western Europe.


Jerk seasoning principally consists of allspice and Scotch bonnet peppers. Other ingredients include cloves, cinnamon, scallions, nutmeg, thyme, garlic, brown sugar, ginger, and salt.