by Alex Robles
We understand how to cook with cannabis better today than we did 25 years ago. Back then, it was more like wizardry than science if you could make a good batch of edibles that weren’t too strong. Luckily we now live in the future and the home chef in us all can get pretty sophisticated when we cook with cannabis. Before we start cooking with our weed, we have to understand decarboxylation and dosing. I think we should start with a little bit of math to help us understand the dosing part better. It’ll also let us know how potent the cannabis that we’re going to use should be.
A couple of other things I want to say before we get into cooking with cannabis. I want to encourage you to have a high CBD tincture on hand when you’re eating food that’s infused with THC. CBD will help dampen the intoxicating effects of THC. It’s easy to overdo it and forget when we’re eating THC in delicious food. CBD won’t bring you back to “sober” but it will help make that “high” feeling less. Also, THC that’s passed through our liver into our bloodstream is going to be more potent and intoxicating (11-hydroxy-THC) than smoked THC. So always double check your math.
Legal cannabis has made it really easy to calculate how strong homemade edibles are going to be. That’s because all cannabis bought in a legal dispensary will have the THC percentage on the packaging. Knowing that percentage is vital in calculating the exact amount of THC that’s going to be in your edibles. When I use my own homegrown cannabis or some that someone gave me, I always calculate it at 18% THC. There’s no science behind my choice, that’s just what I assume it’s at. Sometimes my guess is really off and the edibles are more powerful than my math. Wait, am I rambling, I think the edibles kicked in. Let me get it together. The formula below is the easiest way I know to explain how much THC is in one cup of infused butter/oil.
1 gram of cannabis = 1000 milligrams
If your cannabis has 25% THC, the math says 25% of 1000 milligrams is 250 milligrams (using my phone calculator 1,000 x 25%= 250).
I.e. 3.6g (⅛ oz) of cannabis = 3600 milligrams.
25% THC of 3600 = 900 mg THC (3,600 x 25%= 900).
Infused into 1 cup (8 oz) of butter, the butter will now have 900 mg of THC.
When you use 1/2 cup of that butter (4oz) to make 36 cookies, then that batch will have 450 milligrams of THC. Divide 450 mg by the number of cookies. For 36 cookies there will be about 12.5 milligrams of THC in each cookie.
Decarboxylation: What is it and why do we need to do it?
Every cannabinoid molecule made by the cannabis plant starts its life with an extra carboxylic acid ring attached to the end. This means that in the raw plant THC is first THCA and CBD is first CBDA and so on for all the cannabinoids. THCA is non-intoxicating and won’t give us that euphoric high because it’s the precursor to THC. So according to science, THCA isn’t considered pharmacologically active (some of its effects aren’t activated) until it loses its carboxyl ring at the end of the molecule. Losing that carboxyl ring is known as “Decarboxylation”. Think of it this way, that acid molecule is holding back the intoxication and high feeling of THC. When we smoke cannabis, decarboxylation happens pretty instantaneously because the evaporation or conversion of that acid molecule starts to happen between 140° – 230° F. But since we’re cooking with our cannabis today, we need to decarb our bud without setting it on fire.
Before I go on, I want to take a moment to connect some dots here. Hollywood and the media likes to make us think that if we eat raw, fresh, wet cannabis we’ll get stoned out of our minds. On average, this isn’t true and just another prohibitionist lie wrapped in a sorry attempt at comedy. You may get a little high and euphoric from eating cannabis that’s been dried and cured. This is because a small amount of THC will become decarboxylated during the drying and curing process. That high is going to be very mild compared to eating fully decarbed cannabis.
How do I decarboxylate my flower?
Before we turn the oven on, let me go over a couple of things that I think are important. First of all, some of you smart people are thinking “if I turn up the oven I can decarboxylate for less time”. Yes that is correct but please understand that the boiling point for THC is about 315° F. Which means, at that temperature your THC is evaporating into the ether and away from your flower. Second, terpenes are mostly alcohol based and have a very low boiling point. Some of them will start to evaporate away at about 100° F. What that means is that while your cannabis is decarboxylating, your house will smell like you smoked a joint, so be prepared.
Preheat the oven to 250° F. While the oven is warming up, break up the cannabis flower by hand into smaller pieces. I don’t grind it up because the clean up seems to take me longer when my weed is ground up. Once it’s broken up, spread it evenly on a shallow baking sheet and cover it with aluminum foil. When the oven reaches 250° F, slide the cannabis in and set a timer for 25 min. I don’t set the oven higher than 250° F because most home ovens aren’t calibrated to exactly what the oven dial reads, sometimes they run a little hotter. After the timer goes off, turn off the oven, take the cannabis out and let it cool completely before you use it.
In Case You Didn’t Know
The cannabis trichomes (oil glands) are hydrophobic which means that water will not wash them off the plant material or your hands. This is why it’s so hard to evenly infuse non-alcoholic drinks with cannabis oil, water and oil don’t mix well. The best thing to use to strip the cannabis oil off the leaves if you’re going to cook with it is fats like butter, cooking oils and alcohol. For tasty cooking oil infusions, you can use coconut, olive, grapeseed, sunflower, almond, walnut, sesame, avocado, macadamia peanut and hemp seed oil. Chefs have told me NOT to use margarine, ordinary soybean, canola, extra virgin olive or corn oil.
When I infuse butter, I make sure to use clarified or Ghee butter. It’s a little more expensive, but well worth it. Regular stick butter has water in it, not a lot, but it’s still there. Since oil and water don’t mix very well, it can cause that butter to blend unevenly with the cannabis oil. If it blends unevenly, it can throw off your dosing calculations.
Note: There are a lot of videos on the internet that will show you how to clarify stick butter on your stove top. Just in case you can’t find clarified butter
Something else I add to my butter and cooking oil infusion is Lecithin. You don’t have to add this but I highly recommend it. Lecithin is an emulsifier used in the cooking industries for binding ingredients in fats (lipids). It helps to increase the bio-availability of plant compounds in high fat infusion. This helps intensify the potency of our infusion. I usually find it at local health food or vitamin stores in granules, powders or liquid form. I’m sure you can find lecithin in all forms online. It’s not recommended to use capsules because they have too many binders and fillers. If you use liquid, use only one tsp per cup of oil.
Note: If possible, make a tea bag with the decarbed flower and some cheese cloth. This will make the straining of butter and the clean up a lot easier.
Please remember that things are going to be hot so be careful.
Infusing Butter & Cooking Oil
Skill Level: Easy
Cook time: 2hrs
Ingredients & Tools:
- 2 cups butter
- 7g of decarboxylated cannabis flower
- 2 tablespoon of lecithin (1Tbls per cup of butter)
- Saucepan, double boiler, or crockpot.
- Candy Thermometer
- Wooden spoon or chopsticks
- Butter Molds
- Cheesecloth to make a tea bag and strain the butter.
- Small strainer
- Mixing bowl
On very low heat, melt the butter and turn off the flame when it’s fully melted. Then add the cannabis, the lecithin and mix it all up using the chopsticks. Once it’s all mixed together put the candy thermometer in and turn the stove back on. Slowly bring the mixture to 160° F. The infusion will take 2hr, so set a timer but remember to revisit it every 15-20min or so to check the temp and give it a quick stir with the chopsticks.
If you don’t have a candy thermometer……don’t panic!!
Butter will typically boil at around 212°F and will burn (Smoke Point) at around 375°F – 414°F. If there isn’t a candy thermometer on hand, just try to keep the butter from boiling. Keep it on a low simmer.
When the timer goes off, turn off the butter. Get your butter molds, tongs and mixing bowl ready. Put a few layers of cheesecloth over your strainer to help catch any plant material that will be floating around in your butter. CAREFULLY take your pot of hot butter and slowly pour it through the strainer into the mixing bowl. When you’re done pouring, use your tongs or chopsticks to push the plant material down to squeeze all the butter out that you can. If you’re working with a crock pot I suggest spooning the butter into the strainer since they can be heavy and awkward. After it’s strained, pour the butter into your molds and let them cool. When they’re cool and solid, you’re all set.
Note: If you don’t have cheesecloth, you can use a CLEAN cotton cloth like an old t-shirt with no graphics on it. The paint from the graphic won’t let the butter sift through.
Infusing Cooking Oil
When I infuse any cooking oil, I use the same process as the butter. The only difference is that cooking oil has a shorter infusion time of 1hr.
Now we have some infused butter and cooking oil. Let’s get to cooking with cannabis. I want to share with you two recipes that I’ve used canna-butter and canna-coconut oil with. I did not come up with these recipes, I found them and changed them to suit my needs. The oatmeal cookie recipe I got off of the oatmeal box and the Bar-B-Q / Buffalo wing sauce I got off the internet.
Oatmeal craisins / raisin cookies
- 11oz of canna-butter (1cup 6Tbls)
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla
- ¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup craisins ½ cup raisins
- 3 cups oatmeal
- Heat oven 350° F. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars on medium speed of electric mixer until creamy.
- Add eggs and vanilla; beat well
- Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well
- Add oats and raisins; mix well
- Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets
- Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 1 minute
- Makes about 4 dozens
- DON’T FORGET YOUR DOSING MATH
Bar-B-Q sauce / Wing sauce
- ½ cup canna-coconut oil
- ¾ cup Sriracha hot sauce or gochujang (Korean-style red chili paste)
- ¼ cup raw local honey, plus a little more for drizzling
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup mango puree
- Put all the ingredients into a sauce pan and stir until fully blended.
- Put the saucepan on the stove and bring it upto 160°F or to a very low simmer.
- For Bar-B-Q sauce ,let it simmer for 35min.
- Spoon or brush the sauce onto your meat ( I couldn’t get around it. There was no other way to say it).
- For a buffalo wing sauce, let it simmer for 45 min
When the time is up your sauce is ready. Please remember to bring a bib, because you will get it on your shirt.
Well like my buddy Jim sang in that song “this is the end, beautiful friend, the end”. There is one last thing I want to mention. You can use this method to infuse butter and cooking oil with different herbs like Rosemary, Thyme, or Basil, it doesn’t have to be only cannabis. Have fun and remember to always, life is fluid. Take a moment, smoke a joint and let me how it goes.