The Tasty History Of Pan Chicken

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Jamaicans love their pan chicken, whether it is from an established spot such as Red Hills Road in St Andrew, or a lone vendor strategically set up at a busy intersection. Wherever they are established, the pan chicken man (or woman) can almost always be seen doing brisk business, whether day or night – and especially on the weekends.

Pan chicken is another name for jerk chicken, which has been smoked over pimento or other wood coal. Unlike ‘traditional’ jerk chicken, it is not smoked over large ourdoor pits, but in repurposed oil drums. The technique of jerking meats came from our Amerindian ancestors, who would roast meat over a pimento wood fire, a technique that produced a distinct taste. It was carried on by the Maroons, who adapted the technique to preserve meat – usually wild boar. Jerk is now a renowned method of food preparation and everything, from chicken, fish even lobster, shrimp and rabbit is now on the menu.


Pan chicken became a part of the local culinary landscape in the 1960s, when enterprising vendors began utilising old oil barrel drums that they split in half, attached hinges to and drilled in holes for proper ventilation. Although chicken is the most popular meat prepared and sold in this manner, the other meats mentioned above are also popular menu items for many ‘pan chicken’ vendors. The meat is usually served with thick slabs of hard dough, wrapped in aluminum foil.

The practice has also gone abroad, with members of the diaspora. Whenever there is a Caribbean festival, you can be sure that the pan chicken pros are on the scene serving up mouthwatering delights.

Click here for jerk recipes.