Cooking with cannabis can be a great way to use your medicine without the potentially harmful effects of smoking [*]. Although you may know the basics—such as how much to take or how long to wait between doses—there’s more to the process of infusing foods with cannabis.
In this post, we’re covering five things you probably didn’t know about making cannabis edibles.
#1 The chemicals in cannabis change during cooking
The biggest mistake you can make when cooking with cannabis is to think that you can just throw raw bud into your recipe. If you do this, you won’t be getting the potentially therapeutic effect of cannabis [*]. Your food probably won’t taste very good, either.
The first step to cooking with cannabis is to bake the bud. The reason the bud is baked beforehand is that it activates the THC, which is the intoxicating compound in the plant [*]. Interestingly, raw cannabis contains THCA, which doesn’t give you an intoxicating effect [*]. To turn THCA into the intoxicating THC, cannabis needs to reach a certain temperature [*]. When you vaporize or smoke, this simply happens when your bud is heated [*]. When you're infusing cannabis into your food, this chemical conversion typically occurs in a separate step [*].
To activate your cannabis so it’s ready for cooking, bake it in the oven for 20-30 minutes at 121°C (250°F). This process is known as decarboxylating (or decarbing). After you've baked the bud, you can infuse it into butter, oil, or simple syrup to be used in your edible cannabis recipe.
On the other hand, if you prefer your medicine to be less intense, you can skip baking the cannabis and head straight into the infusion process. Heating the raw bud in butter or oil will decarb it enough to produce some intoxicating effects [*], but it will be less potent than baking it separately beforehand.
#2 You can cook with shake and trim
Whether you buy or grow your own cannabis, you probably have some extra plant material laying around that you don’t use. Many people don’t know that throwing it out is a waste. You can use trim (cannabis leaves) and shake (the flakes that fall off buds) to make a delicious medicinal edible. Although trim isn’t the most potent part of the plant, both trim and shake still have cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids [*], which are compounds that have potentially therapeutic effects [*].
Before baking your trim to decarb it, sort through it and remove any debris or stems. All that should remain are the leaves. If you accidentally miss some stems, it’s okay because you’ll be straining your oil or butter when you’re finished the infusion process. Trim can have a plant-like flavour, so it’s best used in recipes that can mask the earthy taste.
Another option is to start collecting all of the crumbs that fall off your cannabis buds. Although some people smoke or vaporize shake, because the material is so fine, it’s often better used in edibles. Since it comes from the bud, it’s just as potent and can make a high-dose edible.
#3 You can cook with vaporized cannabis
Some people prefer to vaporize cannabis rather than smoke it. You can use vaporized cannabis in your cooking, which can help to reduce waste. Unlike smoking, vaporizing extracts THC without burning the bud [*]. While you inhale most of the THC, there’s still some left in the cannabis that can be extracted.
When you’re done vaporizing, you’ll notice brown grain-like cannabis in your chamber. Since it's already been decarbed, you can infuse it into your recipe right away.
#4 Cooking with cannabis isn’t just for sweets
When you think about cooking with cannabis, brownies and other sweet treats are probably the first foods that come to mind. However, it’s possible to use cannabis in a healthy meal and even a fancy three-course dinner. For example, someone may infuse their salad as the first course and their chicken gravy as the main course. They would dose it according to how much they’re eating and how long they’re waiting between each course.
If you’ve only thought about cooking infused sweets, here are some other dishes you can make with cannabis oil or butter:
• Salad dressings
• Sauces and spreads, such as pesto or gravy
• Soups and stews
• Omelettes or quiches
• Vegetable dishes
#5 There are potential health benefits to using raw cannabis, too
Although we’ve talked about decarbing your cannabis to activate its intoxicating effects, some people use raw cannabis in their meal preparation. Although raw bud likely won't make you feel intoxicated, it may provide relief of certain health conditions, such as insomnia [*].
People use raw cannabis to make:
• Juices or smoothies
• Sandwiches or wraps (similar to lettuce)