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A Few Things to Know Before Cooking with Cannabis


There are many different ways you can choose to enjoy cannabis. It can be smoked, vaporized, used topically, and – a favorite to many – it can be eaten. When ingested, it takes longer for the initial effects to become noticeable, and after those effects set in you will likely feel them increasing in intensity, possibly coming in waves and lasting anywhere from four to ten hours depending on a number of different factors, including how much you ate, how potent the product was and what strain was used to make the edible.

Many people are fortunate to have the option of going to a dispensary – whether it be medical or recreational – to purchase a pre-made marijuana edible. This is definitely your best chance at a consistent product, or at least one that has been tested by a lab and ensured to have a certain percentage of THC. If this is the route you choose to take, then you should be aware of the fact that you don’t need to consume much when it comes to edibles, due to the increased psychoactive effects experienced when THC turns into 11-hydroxy-THC, which is released when THC is processed by the liver. 

However, if you don’t have the option of getting a pre-made edible and want to make your own – and if you’ve never cooked with cannabis before – then you should definitely do a little research before you head into the kitchen. Otherwise you’re likely to waste a lot of bud, and no one wants to see that happen. Here are a few things to keep in mind before cooking with cannabis:

Decarboxylation is Key

One of the biggest mistakes made by cooks who are new to the world of cannabis is to just throw the bud directly into something like brownie or cake mix, and then following the normal baking or cooking directions from there. While throwing bud directly into the mix is not the most desirable way to make an edible (more on this when we get to cannabutter and oil), it won’t work at all if you simply toss the ground up plant material right into the mix. Before you can even think about doing that, you need to make sure you decarboxylate your cannabis. 

Decarboxylation is the process of heating the plant matter just to the point where the non-psychoactive THCA (which is the cannabinoid found in marijuana in its raw plant form) becomes the psychoactive THC that we all seem to enjoy so much. Both active cannabinoids, THC and CBD, start out in acid forms. THCA and CBDA, are completely non-psychoactive – meaning they won’t get you buzzed at all. So if you’ve ever tried to make a batch of edibles that just didn’t seem to have any effect, the reason is likely that this step was skipped. 

In order to decarboxylate cannabis all you need is a shallow glass baking dish or rimmed baking tray, your oven, some aluminum foil and as much bud as you will be cooking with. Then, use the process below to completely decarboxylate your cannabis.

  1. Grind up your buds – but not too fine
  2. Preheat your oven to 225 degrees
  3. Spread the ground buds evenly over the bottom of the dish or baking sheet
  4. Cover the dish or baking sheet with a single layer of aluminum foil
  5. Bake the ground up bud for a minimum of 20 minutes to a maximum of 60 minutes

The longer you leave the cannabis in the oven, the more potent the final product is likely to be. However, if you leave it in the oven too long you will end up burning off all the THC and it will be just as worthless for cooking as it was to begin with. Always remember to set a timer!

Infusing Butter and Oil Makes For More Options

When cooking with cannabis, we are no longer limited to the simple idea of throwing ground up and decarboxylate bud into a pan of brownies, a cake or a batch of cookies. Cannabutter and canna-oil are both amazing options to cook with and both are relatively simple to make. However you should note that it generally takes a minimum of two hours to make – and that’s before you make the dish you’re serving – so always ensure you have plenty of time to prepare this in advance if you are going to be making “enhanced” or “special” baked goods of foods for an event or party. 

One of the biggest benefits to using cannabutter or canna-oil – rather than simply throwing the decarboxylated flower into your mix – is the fact that you will not get the rough, ground bud in every bite you take. Instead of having a slightly grainy texture like it would otherwise, you will find that baked goods made with cannabis infused butter or oil have the same texture and more or less the same taste as any other baked good – although there will probably still be a more earthy hint to the flavor. 

If you’re planning on using cannabutter or canna-oil for your recipe then you can follow the directions below.

Cannabutter Recipe:

Before getting started you will need butter, decarboxylated ground cannabis, water, a double-boiler or slow-cooker, a glass jar or bowl and cheesecloth. 

  1. Cut up sticks of butter, and add butter, water and decarboxylated ground cannabis together on a low heat in the double-boiler or on the lowest setting of the slow cooker
  2. Continue to heat on low for a minimum of 2-4 hours, maximum 12 hours, stirring occasionally
  3. Once removed from the heat and cooled, strain butter/water mixture into glass jar or bowl using the cheesecloth as a strainer
  4. Squeeze out the cheesecloth with plant matter wrapped in the middle to get all of the butter
  5. Cover or close jar and let it sit in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours (or until butter is solidified) 
  6. Once cooled, use a knife to separate the butter from the water and put in a jar or container for storage in the refrigerator

Canna-oil Recipe:

Before getting started you will need cooking oil (any sort will do fine, vegetable oil, olive oil, peanut oil are all acceptable so use your preferred oil), ground cannabis, a saucepan or slow cooker, a glass jar, cheesecloth (though even a coffee filter will work well enough for this).  

  1. Add ground cannabis to the bottom of the saucepan or slow cooker
  2. Add oil gradually, ensuring that all the ground buds are coated and evenly distributed
  3. Heat oil on low to a simmer – allow it to simmer on low for a minimum of 2 hours, maximum of 10-12 hours, stirring occasionally
  4. Once removed from heat and cooled, strain oil into a glass jar using the cheesecloth
  5. Press ground cannabis in the cheesecloth to remove all the oil
  6. Close jar tightly and store for cooking as you would any other oil 

When making cannabis oil you do not necessarily need to decarboxylate the cannabis, because it does so while it is heating and infusing with the oil. It does work similarly with butter, but most will suggest you decarboxylate bud for butter to reduce chlorophyll as well as creating a more potent product. When finished, butter will be a pale green to golden color and oil will be a murky brown (if you use regular vegetable oil) to gold. But, of course, depending on the strain of marijuana used and how long it was cooking the results will vary.  

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Clearly, when it comes to cooking with cannabis, low temperatures seem to be a running theme. Heating the cannabis too quickly or at too high of a temperature will destroy your bud, rendering it burnt up and useless. On top of using low temperatures compared to normal cooking, you also need to let things like butter and oil sit and simmer for hours – which is time-consuming but well worth it for the results. 

If you try and rush the process, you will likely end up with a very dissatisfying end result. Cannabis is tricky because in order to release the THC without burning it off, the buds cannot go over a certain temperature.

The Only Limitation is Your Own Creativity

For many, one of the best things about cooking is the endless possibilities and combinations of different flavors that blend together to make a mouthwatering snack, meal, or dessert – so why stop at something as simple as brownies or a batch of extra special Christmas cookies? With cannabutter and canna-oil, the possibilities are truly endless – anything you would normally make can now be infused with cannabis to enhance the experience and flavor. 

Cooking with cannabis is definitely an adventure. And although it sounds like a lot of work and preparation, most of the time you spend doing this is just waiting and/or stirring your butter or oil while the THC infuses. Once you’ve got your final product, whichever it may be, you are ready to start cooking and you can simply follow any recipe you have, swapping out plain butter for cannabutter or plain oil for canna-oil. If you plan ahead and make enough of it, you can store the leftover butter or oil for the next time you want an extra special treat.