Jerk is a style of cooking native to Jamaica in which meat is dry-rubbed or wet marinated with a very hot spice mixture called Jamaican jerk spice. Jerk seasoning is traditionally applied to chicken. Jerk seasoning principally relies upon two items: allspice (called “pimento” in Jamaica) and Scotch bonnet peppers. Other ingredients include cloves, cinnamon, scallions, nutmeg, thyme, garlic, and salt.
The term jerk is said to come from the word charqui, a Spanish term of Quechua origin for jerked or dried meat, which eventually became jerky in English. The term jerk spice (also commonly known as Jamaican jerk spice) refers to a spice rub. The word jerk refers to both the spice rub and to the particular cooking technique. Jerk can be applied as a cooking method for many different types of proteins, including goat, chicken, fish, shellfish, tofu, and others. Jerk cooking has developed a following in US and Western European cosmopolitan urban centers with Caribbean/West Indian communities.