A Beginner's Guide to Cooking with Cannabis
Like many other herbs, cannabis is a food-friendly plant that is full of aromas, flavors, and nutrition. Whether you're planning to cook with CBD or THC, there are several techniques that you can use to ensure your infused foods turn out well after baking, mixing, and heating.
The major difference between cooking with THC versus CBD is the intoxicating effects. Yet, when it comes down to technique the same rules apply for both. Below is a five-step checklist every beginner should know before stepping foot in the kitchen.
Choose the Right Strain or Product
The first step to creating infused foods is selecting the correct strain or product that will be used in the recipe. If you’re making a cannabis flower infusion, the best piece of advice I can give is to smell a selection of different strains, if possible, to see what type of flower smells best to you. This is usually an indication of what terpenes your body is craving—your nose knows!
When selecting a strain, it’s also important to consider how you want to feel. What effect are you trying to achieve? Remember, it isn’t just about looking for “sativa” or “indica.” To find the best product, it is important to understand the strain’s terpene profile and consider the entourage effect of THC, CBD, THCA, and other cannabinoids that are present.
Chef Coreen Carroll, a professional cannabis chef and co-founder of the Cannaisseur Series in San Francisco, also notes that quality infusions start with quality material. You can really taste the difference between an infused good that was made with high-quality flower versus old, dry, or stale material.
Once you select a strain, make a note of the pronounced aromas and flavors, plus cannabinoid percentages that are listed on the packaging, then do your dosage calculations to best estimate final CBD and THC per serving. It’s incredibly hard to accurately measure dosages in infused beverages and cuisine, so do your best, stick to one strain per infusion, and serve responsibly. For dosage calculation instructions, be sure to pick up a copy of my book, The Ultimate Guide to CBD.
If you don’t plan to use cannabis flower in your infusion, there are many other professionally made products that you can use in your recipe. Cannabis oils, infused honey, and cannabis cooking powders are all great options. Before integrating it into a recipe, make sure to taste the product so you know how the flavors will interact with your other ingredients and, above all, figure out the proper dosages before you start cooking.
Choose Your Ingredients
Now that you know what cannabis product you’d like to use in your recipe, it’s time to think about the ingredients that you’ll be cooking with. Will the flavors work with the strain or product you’ve selected?
As you might have encountered, at-home infusions and professionally made items can often have a green taste to them. Some chefs are experts at masking herbaceous flavors, while others like to enhance cannabis and hemp’s natural characteristics by using complimentary ingredients. Trust your palate on what flavor combinations work best. As you will learn, mastering flavor pairings takes practice, but it’s incredibly fun. Click here to explore my Terpene & Aroma Pairing Guide
Decarboxylate, Decarboxylate, Decarboxylate!
The number one rookie mistake that’s made when cooking is forgetting to decarboxylate your cannabis or hemp flower. If you want more intense and enhanced effects, decarboxylating is your best option. Activation for CBD begins at 295°F (146°C) for 30 to 60 minutes and at 240°F (115°C) for 30 to 60 minutes for THC; however, some chefs prefer to decarboxylate at slightly higher temperatures.
Chef Coreen recommends setting your oven to 275°F (140°C), line a pan with parchment paper, cut up your flower into pea-sized pieces, and bake for 20 minutes. No matter what method you choose, stay within the 240–295°F (115–146°C) range when decarboxylating and do not exceed 300°F (150°C).
Chef Calvin Eng, a professional chef based in Brooklyn and founder of Loud Grandma CBD Infused Chili Oil, also recommends using all parts of the flower when decarboxylating including stems, buds, and shake. Don’t waste! Just make sure it’s the same strain.
Consider Infusion Options
After successfully decarboxylating your product, the next step is creating your infusion. Using a substance that is fat-based (i.e. oil or butter) to extract CBD and THC is one of your best options, especially when mixing with food. If you’ve purchased a professionally made cannabis or hemp product, most of the hard work has already been done for you. Your task now is to start cooking, using the product as directed.
The last step on this checklist is to finally make the recipe by incorporating your infusion. Treat the infusion as an ingredient and make sure you have the proper equipment and accessories on hand that allow for accurate measurements. This is the most important part of creating infused cuisine. Know your dosages and measurements!
For more tips on how to cook with cannabis or hemp, be sure to check out The Ultimate Guide to CBD. Cheers, and happy cooking!
About the Author:
Jamie Evans is the founder of The Herb Somm and author of The Ultimate Guide to CBD: Explore the World of Cannabidiol and Cannabis Drinks: Secrets to Crafting CBD and THC Beverages at Home. She is an author, entrepreneur, and writer specializing in cannabis, food, recipes, wine, and the canna-culinary world. In addition to her work in the cannabis industry, Jamie has over a decade of wine industry experience and is a Certified Specialist of Wine. Having represented a wide array of organizations and wineries, she is best known for her literary work and producing high-end events. She was also named as one of Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s Top 40 Under 40 Tastemakers in 2018. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @TheHerbSomm.