Chef Suzanne Barr's whole jerk turkey

A game-changing spin on the traditional roast turkey

Image for Chef Suzanne Barr's whole jerk turkey

Thanksgiving dinner might be looking a lot different this year in terms of a guest list (or lack there of), but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't shake up your traditional dishes a little bit. Being at the forefront of most holiday dinners, now is as good a time as any to give your roast turkey a delicious makeover.

Known for her vibrant cooking in the kitchen, celebrated chef and judge on Food Network Canada's Wall of ChefsSuzanne Barr, has created a unique roast turkey recipe brimming with Caribbean flavours and a little heat.


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"I am a fan of slow and low approach, allowing the flavours to slowly infuse with the bird and sweeten and caramelize the skin to perfection," sys Barr.

She does say that jerk turkey is typically smoked and then grilled, but to simplify things for home cooks while still adding that smoky flavour, the chef chars scallions, scotch bonnets and carrots before adding them to her jerk paste.

Her process for cooking a turkey should take two days between brining the bird and letting it marinate in jerk paste, but if you're hoping to cook a bird on Thanksgiving Sunday, you can probably get away with an overnight brine and morning marinade. Hop to it!

Jerk brine

1 turkey, approx. 12 lbs
10 litres of warm water
3 1/2 cups kosher salt
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 Orange, sliced lengthwise
1 head garlic, cut in half lengthwise
6 tsp allspice berries
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 whole scotch bonnet pepper, cut in half
6 dried bay leaves

Mix all brine ingredients together, making sure all of the sugar and salt is completely dissolved.

Place the bird into large brining vessel (a large stock pot works well) and pour brine mixture on top. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.

Note: please make sure the whole bird is submerged in the brine. 

Suzanne Barr's jerk paste

5 bunches scallions
6 small carrots, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
5 scotch bonnet peppers
1/2 cup peeled and thinly sliced ginger
3 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
5 garlic cloves
1/3 cup ground allspice
1 cup good quality orange juice
4 tbsp white vinegar
3 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground cloves
splash fresh lime juice

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place scallions, carrots and scotch bonnets in a bowl and drizzle 2 tablespoons of canola oil. Toss by hand until vegetables are coated well.

Prepare two sheet trays with parchment paper and spread ingredients evenly on the tray. Roast in the oven until ingredients are charred but not burnt, approximately 20-25 minutes. 

Remove from the oven and allow it to cool before roughly chopping.

Place charred vegetables in a food processor with remaining ingredients and purée until a thick paste forms.

Remove turkey from brine and pat dry with paper really well. Rub the jerk paste all over the turkey including the wingtips, turkey neck and the cavity under the skin to marinate for a minimum of 24 hours. 


Roast turkey

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and place the bird in a roasting pan with a grate to elevate it from the base of the pan. This allows for the juices to gather and eventually to pour off these juices and use for basting the bird.

Cover the bird with foil and set your timers. Your bird will roughly take between 4 - 4 ½ hours depending on your home oven if you have a convection option on the stove. You are seeking an internal temperature of 170 degrees, juices running clear.  Every hour baste your turkey by using a baster or spooning the jerk juices collected in the roasting pan back onto the turkey. 

Approximately 30 minutes before the bird is fully cooked, carefully remove foil and crank the oven up to 425 degrees to help caramelize the bird.

Once removed from oven, let rest, covered, for at least 30 minutes before carving.

Serves 12
Prep Time:
2 days (brine and marinade)
Cook Time:
4.5 hours