DEAR DR. BLONZ: Is it acceptable to cook frozen chicken breasts directly on the grill without defrosting them? My brother cooks them for about 15 minutes on a hot grill, turning frequently. He believes that the meat stays moister than if he started with thawed pieces.
I have eaten his grilled chicken, which was adequately cooked and quite moist. But is this a safe method? -- S.C., Chicago
DEAR S.C.: With this method, you would save the time it takes for the poultry to thaw; aside from that, I don't see the advantage. The freezer-to-grill approach would have to be done with care to walk the line between an overcooked, leathery outside and an undercooked center. The thicker the piece of meat, the smaller the gap between these extremes.
You need time for the grill's temperature to penetrate the meat, which will happen even slower if it is frozen. A grill that allows you to cook with indirect heat can provide more time for this process. Timing is critical with most cooking, but constant attention and a quick hand with the flipper will be the name of this game.
There are, of course, other methods of keeping chicken moist. Marinading before cooking can keep the meat moist and flavorful, and it can also hasten the defrost time. Basting during cooking can also help.
Whatever your method of choice, check the meat before you eat, cutting through the thickest part of the largest pieces. Undercooked chicken has a translucent appearance and rubbery consistency.
Care is needed whenever cooking meat, but taking poultry from freezer to grill leaves little margin for error. Check out tips from the USDA on safe defrosting methods at b.link/kntzj8.
DEAR DR. BLONZ: I enjoy eating herring. I want the benefit of its omega-3 fats, but prefer to avoid the salt that tends to be present in most products. Will I lose anything of value if I soak the fish to remove the salt? How does the omega-3 in herring compare with sardines, salmon and other types of fish? -- A.D., Anderson, South Carolina
DEAR A.D.: Herring is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which will still be there after a salt-removal swim. (Be sure to check for "no-salt-added" products, which would be a win-win.)
The level of the omega-3 fats in herring is impressive. A study in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry reported that EPA and DHA omega-3s are more than 12% of its fatty acids. Pacific herring had slightly higher levels than those swimming in the Atlantic, but both types contained greater amounts of essential omega-3s than sardines, salmon, tuna and trout.
Current recommendations are for about 500 mg of these fats per day. Check this table from the journal American Family Physician (b.link/zaqzfp), which provides a summary of how much of different types of fish would be needed to supply the recommended amounts of fatty acids.
Send questions to: "On Nutrition," Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.