Cooking With Cannabis: Advanced Techniques

by jessica Mckeil
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Cooking with cannabis is about more than just a plate full of delicious brownies. Cooking with cannabis is an evolving culinary experience. It’s time to elevate your cooking (in more ways than one) by combining gourmet kitchen techniques with potent THC-infusions. 

When you have the basics down (and if you are still learning the basics of cooking with cannabis, that’s okay too), gourmet dishes and advanced infusions are the next logical step.

This Essential Guide to Cooking with Cannabis: Advanced techniques, we show you how to bring your edibles up a notch, including:

  • Decarboxylating Without the Smell
  • Pairing the Perfect Strain to Every Dish
  • Making Any Recipe a Cannabis-Infusion

Plus, advanced cooking with cannabis techniques which go far beyond a simple fatty-infusion:

  • Cannabis Tincture
  • Full Spectrum Cannabis Extraction (Food Safe)
  • Cannabis Powder 
  • Cannasugar

Cooking with cannabis (Without the Smell)

As a reminder, decarboxylation is the process of heating dried cannabis flower to the point that the raw cannabinoids like THCa and CBDa, transform into their active forms: THC and CBD. 

While this process does occur naturally in baked goods, it’s very inconsistent. Decarbing the flower before it becomes an ingredient ensures you get the most out of the product.

We covered the basic process of decarboxylation in Essentials for Beginners. This technique involves placing cannabis flower in an oven-proof baking dish at 240°F (115 °C) for 45 minutes. 

The only issue with this method? The smell.

As the cannabinoids transition from acid-carboxyl groups into their more desirable forms, the plant material releases quite a potent aroma. Depending on your living arrangements, a powerful cannabis aroma wafting through your kitchen might not be ideal. 

How can you cook with cannabis, but reduce the overwhelming smell? Thanks to a technique perfected in French cuisine, you can decarb cannabis without the overpowering aroma. 

Sous vide (or water bath) is the process of cooking foods in a temperature-regulated water bath for long periods. Commonly this technique is executed for tender, choice cuts of meat, but here we can use the method for aroma-controlled cannabis decarbing. After decarbing you can use the same method for the infusing process. Some specialty equipment is required.

Sous-Vide Decarboxylation

You Need:

  • Vacuum Sealer (or in a pinch zip lock bags)
  • Dried Flower
  • Immersion Circulator 
  • Large Stockpot (or similar-sized container)

Directions:

  1. Set up the sous vide water bath by filling the stockpot with water, and placing the immersion circulator securely to one side. Follow the instructions for the immersion circulator to determine suitable water depth as well as max temperature. Most circulators have a maximum temperature of around 205°F (98°C). Set the device to the maximum point.
  2. While the water is heating up, spread your ground cannabis flower into a vacuum-sealed bag. The thinner you can spread the cannabis before sealing the better. If you do not have a vacuum sealing device, a ziplock bag will also work, but you may want to double bag to avoid leaks. Squeeze out as much air as possible within the ziplock bag.
  3. Place the vacuum pack or ziplock bag into the water bath for at least 60 minutes. Clip the bag to the side of the pot to ensure it remains immersed for the duration.
  4. Remove from the water bath, and allow to cool.
  5. Remove from the plastic bag for storage. Glass containers in a cool dark area are best.

Pairing the Perfect Strain to Every Dish

Cannabis isn’t just chock full of cannabinoids like THC and CBD. It also contains dozens of terpenes (essential oils) that blend into unique flavor profiles. Just like the cannabinoid profile predicts the experience, the terpene profile describes the aroma and flavor profile of each strain.

Developing your skills in the kitchen, whether you are cooking with cannabis or not, is about evolving your palette. Learning the flavors of different herbs and spices means you have a better idea of which flavors blend with others to create a delicious dish. For example, a mint cheesecake sounds delicious, but a cilantro cheesecake does not. Adopting the same consideration towards the flavors of cannabis is the next step to advancing these cannabis culinary skills.

Suggested Flavor Profiles

You’ve got two options for building a delicious cannabis-infused meal:

  • Choose the dish, then pair with the perfect strain
  • Build the dish around the strain you have on hand

Here are a few suggested ideas for the top five strains in California:

Blue Dream

  • Flavor Profile: Blueberry, Citrus
  • Suggested Pairing: Fruit-filled baked goods, sweet sauces (BBQ Sauce), and vinaigrettes

Gelato

  • Flavor Profile: Sweet, Floral
  • Suggested Pairing: Candies, sweets, chocolates, and baked goods

Purple Punch

  • Flavor Profile: Berries, Grapes, Sweet
  • Suggested Pairing: Cheesecakes, chocolates, candies, and smoothies

Wedding Cake

  • Flavor Profile: Sweet, Sour, Earthy
  • Suggested Pairing: Asian dishes, pork dishes

Original Glue

  • Flavor Profile: Skunky, earthy
  • Suggested Pairing: Herbaceous marinades, chicken dishes, Italian and French classic dishes 

These are only a few suggestions. Let your senses guide you as you plan a cannabis-forward gourmet meal. Get creative in the kitchen as you match the perfect strain profile with the perfect dish.

Making Any Recipe a Cannabis-Infusion

Did you know you can virtually transform any meal, snack, or drink into a cannabis edible? The secret is knowing which essential cannabis pantry staple is best suited to the recipe you have on hand. 

The easiest edible adaptations are recipes that already contain a fatty element like butter, cooking oil, or coconut oil. Swap out butter for cannabutter, or olive oil for cannabis oil. You can swap out the ingredients in equal parts, or you can dilute the cannabutter with regular butter for a milder final product.

But not all recipes contain a butter or oil component. In this case, there are other options like cannasugar, cannabis tinctures, and cannabis oil powders. Knowing how to incorporate each of these into a new recipe is a bit of trial and error. 

To get you started here are a few examples based on popular cannabis infusions you might have in your cupboards:

Cooking with Fatty Infusions

Most baked goods and main dishes have a fat component like butter, olive oil, canola oil, or coconut oil. These are the easiest to adapt into an edible because it requires a simple swap of regular butter for cannabutter, or regular oil for cannabis olive oil.

As mentioned above, you can also easily dilute the potency of these dishes by cutting the cannabis butter or oil with regular products. For example, instead of using a full cup of cannabis butter, you use 1/2 cup regular non-infused butter with ½ cup of cannabutter.

Cooking with cannabis Tinctures

What happens if your new recipe doesn’t have a fatty ingredient? Tinctures are the next best bet. Cannabis tinctures (full recipe below) are a solvent-based extraction, using high-quality grain alcohol like Everclear to pull out the cannabinoids from the plant material.

Tinctures work well in recipes with no fat component. They are perfect for anything which starts as a liquid mixture such as candies, gummy bears, and lollipops. Cannabis tincture is also a simple ingredient to combine into smoothies or cocktails.

Cooking with cannabis Powders 

Cannabis oil powder is a powerful ingredient. It actually increases the potency of any dish and speeds up the time of onset. Cannabis powder is an advanced technique, but it is more versatile than cannabis fat-infusions and tincture. 

Cannabis oil powder combines maltodextrin (a natural, corn-based carbohydrate) with cannabis tincture. The result is a fine white powder that quickly dissolves when placed on the tongue. When all else fails, cannabis oil powder is an easy way to infuse any dish with a potent THC element. It works best when mixed in after cooking, right before serving.

Cooking with cannabis Sugar

Cannabis sugar is a simple mixture of white sugar and cannabis tincture. For those recipes which call for a sprinkle of sugar as a finish (ex: coating of a gummy bear, a sugary crust of an apple pie), cannabis sugar is the answer. It also is a simple way to infuse coffee, tea, or other hot beverage with a little cannabinoid content. A spoon full of cannabis sugar is a perfect final touch to any sweet dish

Don’t Forget to Calculate Dose

This brings us a very important point – if you are conjuring up your own cannabis recipe, it’s vital to calculate dose. We covered the basics of edible dose calculations in the Essentials for Beginners. 

You’ll know from the basics of dose calculation how much THC is in the cup (or gram, or milliliter) of your cannabis infusion. For example, one cup of cannabutter contains 100 mg of THC. 

But, what happens if you only need a ½ cup for your recipe? Your final recipe will contain a total of 50 mg of THC, divided by the number of total servings. It’s crucial to know the individual servings before dishing out to friends and family.

Beyond Cannabutter: A Full Pantry of Cannabis Ingredients 

A gourmet chef keeps a well-stocked pantry, and so too should any gourmet cannabis chef. It’s much easier to cook with cannabis if you already have all the ingredients on hand. If you’ve mastered the basic infusions covered in Essentials for Beginners, where to next?

How to make Cannabis Tincture

You Need:

  • 1/2 oz Cannabis
  • 500 ml Vodka
  • Glass jar
  • Mesh sieve

Directions:

  1. Combine both vodka and cannabis into the glass jar.
  2. Mash cannabis for three minutes using the end of a wooden spoon.
  3. Close the jar tightly, and store it in a cool dark location for two weeks. Gently shake the jar every day.
  4. After two weeks, strain out the plant material using a mesh sieve.
  5. Store the tincture in a cool dark place until ready to use.

How to Make Full Extract Cannabis Oil (FECO) (Food Safe)

You Need:

  • 1 oz Cannabis 
  • 500 ml Solvent (high-grade grain alcohol like Everclear)
  • Rice cooker/slow cooker
  • Coffee filter
  • Mesh sieve
  • Oral syringe

CAUTION: avoid stove-tops, red-hot elements, sparks, cigarettes, and open flames as the fumes can be extremely flammable. Make sure you are in a well-ventilated area and set up a fan to carry the solvent fumes away.

Directions:

  1. Add all dried cannabis into a container. Crush into a rough grind if not already done. 
  2. Add solvent and using the end of a spoon or another utensil, mash the solvent-cannabis mixture for three minutes.
  3. Strain the solvent into a bowl.
  4. Repeat steps 1 to 3 for a secondary wash, adding all infused solvent into the same bowl.
  5. Discard the leftover plant material.
  6. Using a coffee filter, strain the solvent one final time to remove any grit.
  7. Add the solvent into a rice cooker, set to high heat. Do in batches if needed. 
  8. During the final stages of evaporation, when there is a thick layer of concentrate covering the bottom of the rice cooker, at a few drops of water. These drops help release lingering solvent residue.
  9. When there is less than an inch of concentrate left, set the temperature to low, keep the mixture under 290 ̊F (140 ̊C). If the rice cooker does not have a low enough setting, the low setting on a slow cooker can also work.
  10. Keep a close eye on this mixture for a few hours, and when all surface activity has ceased, it is ready. Consistency should be like molasses.
  11. Store in a small glass jar, or oral syringe for easy dosing.

How to Make Cannabis Oil Powder 

You Need:

  • 1/4 cup Full Spectrum Cannabis Extraction
  • 3/4 cup Tapioca Maltodextrin
  • Mesh Sieve
  • Medium bowl

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine cannabis oil with tapioca maltodextrin. Mix until completely combined.
  2. Sift through the fine-mesh sieve to remove any clumping. 
  3. Store in an airtight glass jar.

Cannasugar

You Need:

  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup cannabis tincture
  • Medium bowl
  • Parchment paper
  • Baking sheet
  • Blender

Directions:

  1. Combine sugar and cannabis tincture in a bowl. Mix to combine completely.
  2. Spread in an even layer over a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  3. Evaporate for 12 hours.
  4. Break up crystalized sugar into chunks. Using a food processor or blender, grind until fine.
  5. Store in an airtight glass jar.

Advanced Techniques in Cannabis Cooking

Evolving as a cannabis chef is part of the fun of cooking with cannabis. It’s exciting to learning new ways to infuse and concentrate cannabis into potent-pantry staples. With more staples at the ready, you’ll have more options for each meal.

Although there is nothing wrong with rich, chocolately special brownies, cooking with cannabis can be about so much more. Broaden your horizons with cannabis extractions, tinctures, and sugars. Let your senses guide you and approach cannabis like a new and potent culinary herb.

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