Cooking With Cannabis: The Essential Guide for Beginners

by jessica Mckeil
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Learning to cook with cannabis is about understanding the star ingredient, getting into the kitchen and experimenting with new recipes. But for beginners, cooking with cannabis may seem daunting. There is a lot of ground to cover, and you’ll want to get a handle on the basics.

Start by understanding the key ingredient (hint: cannabis), and how to work it into any recipes. Then conquer the essential infusions: cannabis butter, cannabis oil, and cannabis coconut oil.

Once you have created these base ingredients, cooking with cannabis is precisely like cooking anything else. Follow the recipe, swap out cannabis-infusions for the regular ingredients, and soon you’ll be enjoying a deliciously, potent dish.

This Essential Guide to Cooking with Cannabis covers everything you need to get started, including:

  • Getting Starting with Cannabis in the Kitchen
  • How to Decarb Cannabis for Edibles
  • Cannabis Infused Butter (cannabutter)
  • THC Infused Oil
  • Cannabis-Infused Coconut Oil
  • Tips for Cooking with Cannabis
  • … and 10 great suggestions to get started

Getting Starting with Cannabis in the Kitchen

Long ago, college kids may have thrown a handful of herb into a batch of brownies and hoped for the best, but cannabis cooking has become much more refined since these good old days. We know a lot more about how different cannabinoid profiles create different experiences, as well, which ingredients make these compounds more bioavailable.

Let’s start with the concept of bioavailability. This term describes the percentage of cannabinoids we absorb through the process of digestion. Several factors, including our choice of other ingredients, influence bioavailability.  

How can you increase the bioavailability of an edible? Work with the cannabinoid’s natural tendencies. For example, cannabinoids are naturally fat-soluble. Our bodies find it much easier to absorb them when combined with fats. 

It’s why so many basic infusions are fat-forward. Think cannabis coconut oil, cannabis oil, and cannabis butter. Infusing THC and CBD into these fatty ingredients allows our bodies to reap the most benefit from them. 

Truthfully, there are other ways to use cannabis in the kitchen, which is covered within the Essential Guide for Advanced Chefs. For more experienced edible makers, they may want to experiment with cannabis tincture, concentrates, and sugar. These all require slightly more advanced techniques and lose out with bioavailability. 

For beginners, we’d recommend conquering the butter and oil infusions first. These infusions are simple and consistently deliver superior results.

They are a good place to start before tackling the more advanced techniques.

Strain Selection for Edibles

potency of edibles represented by chocolates and bud

Cannabis contains well over a hundred different cannabinoids, including the two primary ones: THC and CBD. It also contains dozens of terpenes, which develop the aromatic profiles of the flower. 

Selecting strain is now almost as important as the recipe’s spice selection. Pay attention to potency, cannabinoid content, and for those with a refined palate, the terpene profile.

  1. Potency – What is the percentage of THC? If you are making candies and single-serving items, you may want to aim for a higher-potency strain to pack as much into each serving as possible. But, if you are crafting a cannabis-infused multi-course meal, you’ll want to choose strains with low to medium THC content to avoid overdoing it.
  2. Cannabinoid Profile – Although many people focus exclusively on the THC content, you may want to explore other cannabinoids for their medicinal content. You may also want to source well-balanced strains with both THC and CBD to keep the experience a pleasant and mellow one (remember, CBD reduces the length and intensity of the intoxication from THC).
  3. Terpene Content – While not necessary, matching the terpene profile to the final dish can elevate it. Don’t be afraid to smell the flower and note any dominate flavors. Match these potent essences to the dish you plan to make. For example, strong blueberry tones might work well in desserts, and pine-scents would pair well with red meat.

How to Decarb Cannabis for Edibles

The process of decarboxylation, also known as decarbing, is necessary. Decarbing transforms the raw cannabinoids into the active cannabinoids. Cannabis, in its dried form, contains cannabinoids THCA and CBDA, which are the precursors to THC and CBD. Although these acidic compounds are just as likely to have medicinal potential, most cannabis chefs want higher levels of THC and CBD in their cooking.

Decarbing transforms THCA and CBDA by exposure to heat over time. It removes the “A” or the acidic component. After smoking, vaping, or baking cannabis (all types of heat), the raw cannabinoids become the ones we know and love – THC and CBD.

Technically, throwing a handful of cannabis flower into a batch of brownies before baking would transform some cannabinoids – but this rudimentary method is not consistent nor efficient. 

The most critical step to cooking with cannabis occurs before you begin cooking. You need to decarb cannabis first, then combine into an infusion. The decarbing process ensures total transformation in a consistent and uniform manner.

If you learn nothing else from this guide – learn to decarb cannabis before baking into a delicious treat.

How to Decarb Cannabis in the Oven

To Decarb Cannabis You Need:

  • Large glass baking dish
  • Tinfoil
  • Oven
  • Dried cannabis

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 240°F (115 °C).
  2. Roughly grind or chop cannabis flower into a loose crumble.
  3. Spread in an even layer on the baking dish. Cover with tinfoil.
  4. Bake for 45 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat, and allow to cool.
  6. Store in an airtight glass jar until ready to use.

The 3 Basic Ingredients Every Cannabis Chef Needs

With decarbing out of the way, it’s time to work on the three basic THC-infusions. These form the basis of nearly every cannabis edible. 

Cannabutter is the classic and versatile in both savory and sweet dishes. Cannabis-infused oil is also a handy kitchen staple, but more useful for main dishes and sauces. Finally, cannabis coconut oil is a vegan alternative, useful in no-bake cannabis treats, sweet baked goods, and regional cuisines like South Asian and Indian.

Cooking with Cannabis Butter – The Basic Recipe

For Cannabis Butter (or Cannabutter) You Need:

  • Mason jar
  • Cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer
  • Large pot
  • Water
  • 1/4 to 1/2 oz cannabis (already decarbed)
  • 1 cup butter (unsalted is best)
  • 1 tsp of sunflower lecithin (optional)

Directions:

  1. If needed, finely grind the cannabis flower into a fine consistency.
  2. Combine cannabis, butter, and sunflower lecithin in a mason jar. Loosely close the lid
  3. Place the jar inside the large pot, and fill the pot with water until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the mason jar.
  4. Turn the stove to low-medium heat and simmer for 2 to 3 hours. Add more water as needed.
  5. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  6. Strain old plant material out using a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer. Dispose of leftover cannabis.
  7. Store in a mason jar or other glass container in the refrigerator. 

Cooking with Cannabis Oil – The Basic Recipe

For Cannabis Oil You Need:

  • Mason jar
  • Cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer
  • Large pot
  • Water
  • 1/4 to 1/2 oz cannabis (already decarbed)
  • 1 cup olive oil or other cooking oil of your preference
  • 1 tsp of sunflower lecithin (optional)

Directions:

  1. Finely grind the cannabis flower into smaller pieces.
  2. Combine cannabis, oil, and sunflower lecithin in a mason jar. Loosely close the lid.
  3. Place the jar inside the large pot, and fill the pot with water until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the mason jar.
  4. Turn the stove to low-medium heat and simmer for 2 to 3 hours. Add more water as needed.
  5. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  6. Strain old plant material out using a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer. Dispose of leftover cannabis.
  7. Store in a mason jar or other glass container in the refrigerator. 

Cooking with Cannabis Coconut Oil – The Basic Recipe

For Cannabis Coconut Oil You Need:

You Need:

  • Mason jar
  • Cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer
  • Large pot
  • Water
  • 1/4 to 1/2 oz cannabis (already decarbed)
  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • 1 tsp of sunflower lecithin (optional)

Directions:

  1. Finely grind the cannabis flower into smaller pieces.
  2. Combine cannabis, coconut oil, and sunflower lecithin in a mason jar. Loosely close the lid.
  3. Place the jar inside the large pot, and fill the pot with water until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the mason jar.
  4. Turn the stove to low-medium heat and simmer for 2 to 3 hours. Add more water as needed.
  5. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  6. Strain old plant material out using a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer. Dispose of leftover cannabis.
  7. Store in a mason jar or other glass container in the refrigerator. 

Tips for Cooking with Cannabis

  1. Determine Potency: Because edibles can lead to stronger effects than other methods of consumption, you’ll want to clarify per-serving dose before handing out to friends. A standard dose for the average consumer is about 10 mg per serving. When in doubt, start with a bite and only go back for seconds after a minimum of 3 hours. 
  2. Decarb: Above all else, do not forget to decarb. This is the number one mistake for all first-time cannabis chefs. 
  3. Filter out Flower: If you tried edibles before, but found yourself picking stems and leaves out of your teeth, it’s because the plant material wasn’t filtered out. Improve the edible experience by infusing fats with cannabis, but then straining out the waste material. 
  4. Label and Storage: Label each infusion to ensure no, unfortunate mix-ups in the kitchen. You don’t want anyone accidentally cooking with infusions. Ensure each THC-laden product gets a label with the date of infusion, and rough potency. A clear label will keep everyone in your kitchen informed and safe.

10 Best recipes for Cooking with Cannabis

With a pantry stocked with the cannabis basics, you’re ready to roll. Here are a few popular cannabis recipes to get started with (including the infusion required):

  1. Infused Hummus (cannabis oil)
  2. Infused Barbeque Sauce (cannabis oil)
  3. Cannabis Coconut and Vanilla Honey (cannabis coconut oil)
  4. Cannabis and Herb Marinated Rack of Lamb (cannabis oil)
  5. Infused Con Carne (cannabis oil)
  6. Peanut Butter Cups (cannabis coconut oil)
  7. Cannabis Banana Muffins (cannabis oil)
  8. Cannabis Cheesecake (cannabutter)
  9. No-Bake Cannabis Cookie Bars (cannabutter)
  10. Cannabis Brownies – A Classic! (cannabutter)

Like we said, cooking with cannabis is easy, so long as you have the basics down. Infusing butter, oil, and coconut oil with cannabinoids leads to never-ending experiments in the kitchen. Making the infusions ahead of time means you’ll also have all the necessary ingredients handy for whatever you are craving. 

Once you’ve conquered these fatty infusions, it’s time to move on to more advanced techniques. That means making your own cannabis concentrates, cannabis tinctures, and don’t forget to satisfy your sweet tooth with canna-sugar. The Advanced Cooking with Cannabis Guide also includes tips on how to sous-vide cannabis infuses to reduce smell, and work cannabis into just about any recipe your heart desires.

So, what are you waiting for? We can wait to see what you cook up!

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