Cannabis Cooking Tips

You probably know how we feel about edibles on our blog by now. Should you decide to eat or drink decarboxylated cannabis, microdose (5 mg of THC or less, and see how you feel after 1 – 2 hours), only take a little at a time, and pick edibles that have been tested for safety and cannabinoid-terpenoid profile wherever possible. Some people, who either don’t have access to edibles or are disappointed with what’s available on the market, decide to make their own. Should you be one of those people, here are five simple, basic tips and things to consider for when you’re cooking with cannabis …

1. Homemade vs. mass or batch production

There are pros and cons on both sides.

Pros of mass/batch production – it is arguable that, due to the equipment, expertise and ability to test their products, some companies are able to create edibles that have a greater degree of standardization.

Cons of mass/batch production – as we’ve seen, many edibles are not appropriately labelled. Many mass- & batch- produced edibles have a higher or lower amount of THC and/or CBD than stated on the packaging. Hopefully, this will change as better regulations start coming in, and there are likely to be some companies who take testing their products more seriously than others, but in the meantime, the state of edibles on the most part leaves something to be desired.

Pros of homemade – Greater degree of control over what you make. Picking your recipe is up to you, and you needn’t make the same sugar-laden treats that usually make up most edibles.

Cons of homemade – Making a consistent product at home is quite difficult. For example, if you’re making a cake, it is very difficult to get a consistent dose throughout the entire cake. Some pieces of the cake will likely have more THC and other cannabinoids than others. Also, cooking with cannabis tends to produce a certain flavor that may be unappealing to many (it’s full of a huge number of terpenes, remember!). Yes, learning some culinary skills will help with both of these issues, but there is definitely a learning curve.

2. Strong, moderate or weak?

If you’re thinking of making edibles, one of the first questions that pops into your head is “How strong should I make it?” Some, like Sheri Sicard, recommend making relatively strong butters and oils infused with cannabis. Why? This could be to ensure a relatively even dose throughout the fat you’re using. Plus, only small amounts are required this way for whatever recipe you’re using.

However, this doesn’t mean you can’t experiment with making weaker oils. Double-boiling, say, 3.5 grams of cannabis in around 500 ml olive oil or extra virgin coconut oil over 3-5 hours at a temperature of between 70°C and 95°C (158°F and 203°F) may be a good place to begin. Usually, the rule is to use equal amounts of cannabis to the fat you’re using (no more), but even smaller amounts can be strong enough for beginners.

The resulting oil can be stored once cooled and the plant material’s been strained using cheesecloth, and can be used in many recipes. This is just one method. There are a variety of ways of making edibles out of cannabis, but the key is to use fat – cannabinoids are lipophilic (“tending to combine with or dissolve in lipids or fats”).

Cannabutter; Cannabis Butter; Marijuana Butter; Edibles
Picture by Eli Christman. Source:

3. Decarboxylating the cannabis

Using the double-boiling method above ensures that the cannabis oil doesn’t go above 100°C (212°F, although you’ll want to keep it to a temperature of between 70°C and 95°C using this method). However, if you’re using large amounts, it can certainly impart a taste to the oil. Simply cooking with raw cannabis flower can be wasteful, and cooking at too high a temperature can burn off the cannabinoids and terpenoids you’re seeking (slow-and-low is the best method).

In order to avoid an unpleasant flavor, as well as to activate the cannabinoids properly, most people recommend “decarboxylating” (removing a carboxyl group and releasing CO2) the cannabis first. This means coarsely grinding the flower, spreading the flower on a baking sheet, and cooking the cannabis in a preheated oven for 30-40 minutes at a temperature between 105°C and 120°C (221°F and 245°F), mixing the cannabis every 10 minutes. This can then be used in butter or oil.

4. How easy is it to make cannabidiol (CBD) oil?

“Very difficult” is the simple answer. Making an oil that is CBD-only from a cannabis plant is very difficult, if you’re just looking for the CBD. However, you can use the flowers from a CBD-rich strain of cannabis (which will have lots of other helpful cannabinoids and terpenoids) and infuse them into an oil. Using whole plant cannabis oils is likely to be a better option, anyway, as you want to take advantage of the entourage effect. Should you want an oil or butter that is not too strong, simply use a strain that is generally low in THC.

Saving any vaporized cannabis and using it to make butters/oils is another way of getting the most out of your cannabis, as well as ensuring that smaller amounts of THC get into the edible, although this does mean that you will likely be getting fewer of any other cannabinoids you’re seeking as well.

Cannabis Indica Medicine Bottle from 1900s
Cannabis tincture oil from early 1900s.

5. Remember: eating cannabis is stronger than vaporizing it!

Eating cannabis means that the cannabinoids will pass through the liver and then onto the brain. This means that the greater amounts of THC will be converted into 11-OH-THC, and the THC will also stay in your body for a lot longer. Also, as you’re ingesting the cannabinoids, they will usually take between 30 minutes and – 2 hours to take effect, so take it slow! For this reason, if you’re thinking of making cannabis edibles at home, it may be worth making edibles that aren’t too strong. Use small amounts of cannabis in the infusion process, or make the fat you’re using strong and use small amounts in other recipes, and experiment no more than one teaspoon at a time, over 1 – 2 hours. Take it slowly, and see what makes you feel at ease and comfortable, not anxious and generally feeling unpleasant.

And that is all. As the market for edibles and cannabis in general is not properly regulated as of yet, if you’ve decided to grow your own plants and start making your own edibles, oils and tinctures, we commend you! Take your time, learn all you can about the plant and how it affects you, take it seriously (but have fun taking it seriously, of course!), and your work, patience and perseverance will pay off. Other than going to highly specialized pharmacists who take their work seriously and will try and match a specific cannabinoid-terpenoid profile to you and the condition you suffer from, growing and cooking your own is is the best and safest way of utilizing cannabis as medicine effectively at the moment.

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