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The barbecue never really gets boring–the food is just too good–but it doesn’t ever hurt to add some variety to your meals and cook outside your comfort zone. You can make a marinade out of pretty much anything you already have in your kitchen, but how about spicing it up next time and trying out the complex flavours of the Caribbean?

Now, cooking with jerk spices can be intimidating but we’re here to help with that. Here are some tips for cooking with jerk and making the most of that barbecue you love so dearly.

The spice is right

Sorry, but there was no way we were passing up an opportunity to use that pun. There are a ton of different types of jerk spice combinations out there and you can either make your own or buy them pre-made. There are varying degrees of heat to different blends so it’s really up to you which type you go with. Chef La-Toya Fagon recommends adding extra ginger for an increased depth of flavour and heat.

Don’t let your spices cook your meat

When you add a lot of strong spice to meat, the heat can actually start to cook it. That’s not such a big deal with hearty meats like chicken, pork and beef, but it can make your shrimp rubbery. If you’re doing shrimp skewers (yum!), buy uncooked and don’t let them marinate for too long. Between the spice and the additional cooking time on the grill, the pre-cooked stuff will just get rubbery and hard.

Tip: if you’re going with the skewers, don’t forget to soak them in water for at least 20 mins before you put them on the grill so they don’t catch fire.

Know when to use oil and when to go dry

Jerk can be a dry rub (which is what you typically find in the store) or a marinade when you add oil to it. Different techniques are better for different recipes. For something small like shrimp or chopped veggies, an oil marinade works best so your spices stick to your food as you toss. A dry rub works better for larger items like chicken, pork and fish.

Tip: if you’re grilling fish, your best bet is going to be a thicker and denser type like cod rather than something like basa that will stick to the grill or burn quickly.

Mango is your jerk’s best friend

If you’re making fish tacos (highly recommended), try offsetting some of that Caribbean heat with with a homemade salsa. The secret ingredient for the best taste of your life? Mangoes. Not only are they summery and light, they are the perfect compliment to the jerk flavours. De-lish.

Happy barbecuing!

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