Cooking with Cannabis: A Beginners Guide
Thanks to widespread legalization pushing cannabis products into the mainstream, there are virtually endless types of cannabis edibles beyond the token space brownie or cookies—there’s no disrespect to the OG options, but the world of edibles is so much more than that nowadays. If it involves cooking with some kind of fat, butter, oil, etc., you can use it for cooking with weed! And while you can pick up pre-packaged edibles here, you can also whip up your own cannabis edibles at home.
Cannabis-infused edibles serve as an excellent alternative for anyone looking to consume without smoking. Learning how to cook with cannabis and make your own edibles is not only a fun process, it’s also quite interesting. You don’t need any expensive specialty tools, though you can use them if you want. But for most, all you need is a bit of knowledge, the required ingredients, and time to experiment.
So, let’s get to it so you can get to making some edibles of your own.
Preparing To Cook With Cannabis
It has been said that once you get the hang of cooking with cannabis that the most complicated part is acquiring your ingredients in order. The most challenging part may be one of the most incredible things about cannabis: all its variety.
Unlike buying ingredients for a meal or dessert, infused meals have plenty more options to choose from. Sure, you can choose from a range of different groceries, from peppers to broths to flours, but no ingredient has more varieties than cannabis. Thanks to the range of strains and their plant profiles, choosing one type of flower over the other can significantly shift the outcome.
Essentially, it’s not as simple as buying “some cannabis” from the dispensary and throwing it in some brownie mix.
Strain selection is just one component of cooking with marijuana. There are numerous elements to consider when cooking with cannabis. For now, focus on getting the fundamentals down, then branch out and experiment. Once you know how to make edibles, then the real fun can begin.
But, before we step into the kitchen, let’s go over what you’ll need.
THC vs CBD: An Important Difference You Need To Know
Before making edibles, it’s essential to know the difference between the hundreds of cannabinoids found inside various strains. Most of us know THC and CBD, the two most prominently discussed cannabinoids, but there are other forms of cannabinoids that are becoming more prevalent, like delta-8 THC, delta-10 THC, THC-O Acetate, HHC, and so much more.
The most significant difference between CBD and THC is that THC creates the feeling we usually call a ‘high.’ CBD does not produce these effects, often producing subtle or undetectable effects in the consumer. When consumed around the same time, CBD can even offset some of the high produced by THC.
Be sure to read up on the contents of the flower or oil you’re buying. Be sure the flower or oil you’re going to use has the plant profile that produces your desired effects. If you’re not looking to feel high, opt for a CBD-rich product. Those looking to feel it in their head should pick up some THC-rich cultivars. And if you don’t want to get too heady, consider finding a strain that strikes more of a balance with its CBD:THC ratios.
Heads up, THC-wary consumers: even products labeled as “pure CBD” may contain trace amounts of THC. This is a concern many consumers, from those about to take a drug test to someone who doesn’t want to feel psychoactive effects. If you fall into that range of consumers, be sure to look for an isolate or distillate product, and read those labels thoroughly before making any purchases.
Find A Recipe That Sounds Appealing To You
Now that you know what you need for making edibles, what should you cook?
The best place to start is with something you’re already comfortable putting together.
It can be anything you’d like. A box brownie mix is just as good of a choice as your favorite savory dish. It’s recommended that newcomers follow this approach to ensure that the process doesn’t get too confusing by combining a new recipe with learning how to infuse your creations.
Feel free to stick with the baked goods, but don’t be afraid to shoot for the moon either. Go big and make a five-course dinner, creating your own infused dining experience if you like! Just be sure to dose your meals properly when cooking with cannabis—more on that in just a bit.
If you need some inspiration, be sure to check out social media for scores of chefs using their culinary skills to make edibles. Then, check out Cooked with Cannabis on Netflix for some additional ideas. You can dive in more on your own by doing some research on leaders in infused meals and drinks.
The Basics You’ll Need In The Kitchen
Making edibles requires a few needed utensils. Typically, a recipe calls for the same required instruments for regular baking. They include your mixing bowls, measuring cups and a mixing spoon, among other equipment, depending on what you’re making.
For example, suppose you’re planning to make cannabis-infused butter, oil, honey or something similar. In that case, a cheesecloth will be needed–as will a baking tray, parchment paper and, ideally, a thermometer. Be sure to read the recipe beforehand when assembling your items. Your tools are just as necessary as the ingredients.
When cooking with weed, be sure to have the time needed to prepare your kitchen and edibles. Butter and other fat infusions are time-consuming, typically taking around two hours to complete.
Do The Math: Use A Cannabis Calculator To Measure Your Dosage
It’s vital to know just how potent each portion of your edibles will be. Instead of relying on your own estimations when cooking with cannabis, try an edible dosage calculator to do the number crunching. It’s worth the time doing the minimal data entry. You don’t want to end up having a bad outcome because you made a simple math error along the way.
When using an edible calculator, input the following information:
Amount of cannabis used
THC and CBD percentages in the cannabis
Amount of oil or butter used
Most calculators will tell you how many milligrams of THC and/or CBD your edibles will have per tablespoon. Then, enter the number of tablespoons of the infused oil or butter your recipe calls for. (FYI, there are 16 tablespoons in a cup.) Once completed, you should have your mg per serving figured out.
Now That We’re Ready, Let’s Head To The Kitchen
Now that the prep work is complete let’s start cooking with cannabis and making edibles.
Getting Your Cannabis Ready For Cooking
Cooking with marijuana calls for decarboxylation. That’s because when using dried flower, you’re mostly getting the cannabinoid THCA and/or CBDA. Put simply, these cannabinoids are acid forms that our body can’t do much with when consumed.
For more effect, we must convert the cannabinoids to THC or CBD. Otherwise, you won’t feel much from the plant. Conversion is done with heat or decarboxylation. Think about it like smoking weed. You can grind that raw flower and feel the effects because the heat converts the cannabinoids.
The decarb process is simple to complete and can be done at home with DIY equipment or sophisticated tech. Keep in mind that each will create a potent aroma in your workspace.
The Decarboxylation Process
Be sure to have:
A baking tray
Some parchment paper
Cannabis — you’ll get the closest results to your potency calculations if you clean away the seeds and stems, should there be any
Once assembled, follow these steps for DIY decarbing:
Preheat the oven to 225°F
Break up the dried flower into small pieces–don’t use your grinder
Line the baking tray with parchment paper. Then, place the cannabis on top in a single layer with little space between each piece
Once preheated, place the tray in the oven on a middle rack—heat for 45 minutes.
Once complete, remove the tray and allow it to cool
After cooling, place your decarbed flower in a sealed container until ready for infusion
Making Your Own Cannabutter For Cooking
When making cannabutter, be sure to have the following:
Decarboxylated cannabis with the amount determined by the calculator mentioned above
Butter with the amount dictated by your recipe
¼ cup of water
With everything in hand, it’s time to get cooking:
Over low heat, melt your butter in the saucepan
Once melted, add water and dried flower
Keep the temperature at a low simmer for two to three hours. If possible, use a thermometer to keep the temperature below 190°F
Remove from heat and set aside for cooling
Wait until butter is cool to the touch but has not solidified. Then, pour through the cheesecloth and into a sealable food-safe container
Store the sealed cannabutter into the fridge to finish cooling and to solidify.
Look for any remaining water that has separated. Pour out the excess as it appears
Are you looking to make larger batches for several recipes? A good idea would be to infuse 10 grams of flower for every one cup of butter. It makes the math easy. For instance:
1 gram of 20% THC cannabis contains 200mg of THC, so 10 grams infused into 1 cup of butter would be 2,000mg THC per cup of butter.
A typical chocolate chip cookie recipe that uses 1 cup of butter yields about 60 small cookies. 2,000mg/60 cookies equals about 33mg of THC per cookie.
If the percentage of THC were 25%, that would be 2,500mg/60 cookies, which would yield about 41.7 grams per cookie.
The math is very easy with these proportions as long as you know the potency of your cannabis!
Be sure to check with the calculator before making your cannabutter to ensure you’re on the right track for potency.
Making Your Own Cannaoil
Next, let’s tackle another common infusion ingredient, cannaoil. Like butter, there are several approaches. A saucepan is the option most have access to at home. After finishing up this article, check out our full article about how to make cannaoil for more specific details.
Here’s what you’ll need to make your infused oil:
Decarboxylated cannabis with your amount tabulated by the calculator
Your cooking oil of choice with your amount tabulated by the calculator
Larger batches typically call for a 1:1 ratio of one cup of dried, decarbed cannabis to one cup of cooking oil, but you’re better off using a scale to measure your cannabis by weight. Be sure you use the calculator before going forward.
Once verified by the calculator, it’s time to infuse:
Add the oil and cannabis into the saucepan
Set to low heat, ideally 240°F, cooking for three hours
Once complete, set aside for cooling
Once cool to the touch, pour through the cheesecloth into a sealable food-safe container
Store the sealed oil in the fridge to finish cooling
Once fully cooled, your oil is complete and ready for your next cooking endeavor.
Time To Add It To Your Favorite Recipes, But Watch The Temperature!
With your oil or butter prepared, you can start to substitute out all or part of your regular oil/butter for any alternative you’d like. Just be sure to refer to the dosage calculator for accurate results.
Be sure to avoid the pitfalls:
A common mistake when cooking with cannabis using high temperatures. This can be costly, especially when cooking with THC, as it will degrade at temperatures above 365°F. Unfortunately, your oven and/or stovetop is rarely 100% accurate with temperatures. Be sure to cap temperatures at 340°F to be safe.
It’s best to leave out your oil and butter until the end. While tempting to add at the beginning to saute onions and garlic on a medium-high temp, for example, this may strip much of the THC out. Instead, infuse once the creation is almost complete. Remove the pan from heat, then add your oil or butter and mix it through.
Always Mix Thoroughly
Accurate dosing is essential with edible cannabis products, especially for those with a low tolerance for THC. If your product is unevenly mixed, the THC won’t be distributed evenly and you’ll risk having some portions with several times too high a dose, and others with barely any at all.
When making edibles, be sure to mix your oils and butters thoroughly with every recipe. This will help distribute the THC evenly and achieve a more accurate, uniform dose.
For products that may settle as they cool, be aware that your cannabis oil can also settle a bit to the bottom with some items like chocolate, oils, fudge, etc. This is why it’s always a good idea to use containers with a flat base to minimize the risk of higher density ingredients pooling at a low point and disrupting the evenness of distribution.
Storing Your Edibles
You can store cannabis edibles in the same way you store your other foods. Savory creations get put in the fridge. Cookies usually go in the pantry. There’s no special requirement here. But there are certain things you should consider in addition to food safety:
Try to store edibles, butters and oils in a sealed container, especially if your edibles gave off a strong cannabis scent.
Make cannabis-infused foods are very clearly labeled to avoid mistaking medicated food for non-medicated food–especially if you have children in the home.
Lastly, and most importantly, keep out of reach of children. Cannabis dosing depends on body size, and small children can suffer acute cannabis intoxication from much smaller doses of cannabis than an adult.
Imagine a six-year-old eating a 50mg cannabis cookie. The average-sized six-year-old weighs about 45 to 50 lbs. This would be equivalent to an average-sized adult taking a 150mg edible! Now imagine if this child ate two or three of these cookies or even more. It would be very easy for a child to eat what would be the equivalent of a 1,000mg dose for an adult without knowing what they just ingested.
So ALWAYS remember to properly label any cannabis-infused products and keep them out of reach of children — even locked away if possible. There are many affordable refrigerator lock boxes that can be used to keep perishable cannabis products locked up safely for as little as $40–a small price to pay for peace of mind.
THC Edibles Differ From Smoking
Remember that smoking and eating cannabis involves different processes in the body. Smoking or vaping results in an effect that kicks in and dissipates much faster than an edible, which can take 30 minutes to two hours before setting in. Edibles also create a much more powerful and longer-lasting high than smoking.
It’s always best to take a small amount of your edible — what you’ve calculated to be a 5 or 10mg dose — and then wait at least an hour and preferably two before eating any more. Do this even if you have a high tolerance just to make sure you got the math and even distribution right.
Seriously, with any new recipe, just wait it out a bit more than you may like. If you take another portion after 30 minutes thinking you aren’t feeling anything, you could be setting yourself up for a rough day.
Be sure to learn more about how long the effects of edibles last before cooking with cannabis or eating any edibles.
Know What To Do In Case You Have A Little Too Much THC
Mistakes happen to even the most experienced consumers. Thankfully, nobody has died from a cannabis overdose, and the effects don’t tend to last more than a few hours.
Still, overdosing is unpleasant. There are ways you can offset the ill effects like eating fresh ground pepper. Check out our guide on how to sober up from weed to find out how. If you know there’s a chance you’ll have to pass a drug test, it’s important to avoid THC edibles entirely. If you’ve been experimenting with edibles and just found out you need to pass one though, we have some tips on how to pass a drug test to give you the best chance.
If you’d like to talk to a doctor about whether edibles are the best form of cannabis for you or how many milligrams of THC to take per dose, we're happy to assist! Give us a call or shoot us an email!