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In the Kitchen With: Chef and Steward’s Jamaican Jerk Turkey

by Kristina Gill

Not having whole turkeys readily available where I live has forced me to try alternate protagonists for my Thanksgiving meal over the years. This year, however, I’ve decided to try to find a turkey and to make it something I’ve never tried before. Kari Heron of the blogging team Chef and Steward gave me a great idea for Jamaican Jerk Turkey. A Jamaican expat living in United Arab Emirates – who better to get such a recipe from? If you like spicy, this is definitely a dish to try. Just think about the sandwiches you can have the next day (they are my favorite part of Thanksgiving)! –Kristina

About Chef and Steward: Kari and Lij Heron are the husband and wife team behind the blog Chef and Steward, where Kari takes the photographs and Lij makes the food. Kari, a trained broadcast journalist, is also the columnist of “When Hunger Strikes” currently published in the weekend magazine of Khaleej Times. Lij is an award-winning head chef at the Waldorf Astoria at the Ras Al Khiamah, United Arab Emirates destination. Their work has been featured in Conde Nast’s “Gourmet Live,” BBC Good Food, Culinary Institute of America (CIA) “Mise en Place,” Gourmet, Black Enterprise, Ocean Style, The National, and Gulf News. You can find their Instagram here. If you would like to try more Jamaican food, Kari and Lij will be featuring Jamaican holiday sides on their blog through Christmas.

See how to make Jamaican Jerk Turkey after the jump!


Jamaican Jerk Turkey
Makes enough for a turkey up to 7kg or 16lbs. Will last in refrigerator for roughly 3-4 weeks in an air-tight container.



  • 5 onions (approximately 400 grams)
  • 4 cups chopped scallions/green onions
  • 8 stalks fresh thyme
  • 9 cloves of garlic (approximately 40g)
  • ¼ cup allspice berries or 1 ½ tsp ground allspice
  • 2 whole Scotch Bonnet peppers /substitute with habaneros (with seeds)
  • 1 tbsp chopped ginger
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns or 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp grated nutmeg
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 4 tsp salt
  • ½ cup cooking oil (a plain oil like sunflower)
  • 1 tbsp distilled cane vinegar
  • cornstarch to thicken gravy


Method for Jerk Seasoning

  1. Set salt aside and do not combine with the seasoning.
  2. If using whole allspice berries and black peppercorns, dry roast them in a frying pan until the pan starts to smoke. Remove from heat, and grind the spices in a spice grinder. Combine with all other dry spices and set aside.
  3. In a blender, puree the onions, thyme, garlic, ginger, peppers and vinegar, and oil. Add the dry spices and pulse until incorporated.
  4. Add scallions and pulse several times to shred, careful to not blend them or they will render the seasoning bitter.
  5. Pour the mixture into a bowl and mix with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula to fully combine.


Method to Roast Jerk Turkey

  1. Clean the turkey and pat it dry, removing innards and any plastic ties for the legs. Keep the neck.
  2. Apply jerk seasoning liberally to your turkey. Make sure to get it into every nook and cranny of the cavities and inside the neck cavity and chest area. Season neck as well. Add any excess marinade to the grooves of the wings and legs and on top of the breast. Cover with aluminum foil and return to the refrigerator.
  3. 3 hours before cooking time, remove the turkey from fridge and add salt all over and inside the cavities. Replace cover and leave on top of kitchen counter to come to room temperature.
  4. Preheat oven to 260C /500F.
  5. Grease roasting pan with oil. Tuck the wing tips under the turkey and truss the legs together. Tying the legs together is essential for even roasting.
  6. Place the turkey bottom-side-down in the center of the roasting pan. Place in the center of the oven and cook 30 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 130 C / 265F.
  7. After the turkey has been in the oven for one hour, turn it to compensate for any hot spots in the oven and to ensure even browning.
  8. Bake for 2- 2.5 hours or until the deepest part of the breast gives a reading of 70 C/ 161 F. Remove from the oven to rest for at least 30 minutes. Despite your eagerness to pinch, let the bird rest in peace. Literally! That’s what the neck is for. Grab your phone, take your best shot and brag about it on Instagram. Carve the meat against the grain.
  9. To make a tasty pan gravy, cook excess marinade and add pan drippings. Strain, then skim excess oil. Return to stove and stir continuously. Thicken with a runny paste of cornstarch and water to desired consistency.

All photography by Kari Heron


Why Kari and Lij love this recipe: The Jamaican holiday table is packed with spicy notes that add bang to every bite. We love complex flavours and don’t tolerate bland. Over the years it has become popular along with the staple cured ham at Christmas in a Jamaican home. Even though Thanksgiving is not a traditional Jamaican holiday, as a spiritual people, we are happy to share in the spirit of being thankful for whatever our cups have been blessed with. This is how we ‘Jamaicanize’ our turkey and have an irie jamming Thanksgiving or Christmas.


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