Over the last decade, culinary cannabis has become more mainstream, and its applications more sophisticated – it has been mixed in purees, sprinkled over carpaccio, infused in sous vide and so on. Aside from cannabis fine dining, cooking with cannabis is evolving as a home-based culinary experience too. There are a burgeoning number of home-based cannabis cooks who have, like me, through trial and error, developed a checklist for what should be considered before embarking on cooking with cannabis.
For example, should I be using an indica or a sativa strain for this recipe? What method of infusion should I use? Why do I have to decarboxylate my cannabis before infusing it? What do cannabis terpenes do? What do I need to consider when dosing?
This article is an essential guide for those new to cannabis cooking that will be covered in more detail in the Seedsman Global Kitchen series.
Selecting Cannabis Strains for Edibles
You will get the best enjoyment from cannabis infused recipes by selecting the right strain as the main ingredient. The various strains of cannabis tend to fall into three main categories: indica, sativa and hybrid.
Indica strains are often associated with relaxation, even sedation, and are popular amongst those suffering from chronic pain or extreme anxiety. On the other hand, sativa strains are characterised as being uplifting, energetic and functional. Hybrid strains sit somewhere in the middle, as they are made up of the combined properties of both indica and sativa (as well as by crossing multiple indica or multiple sativa strains). Hybrids are often sought by those wanting to have the uplifting effects of the sativa while experiencing the body effect of an indica – a kind of ‘alert mellowness’.
Selecting the strain you will be cooking with at the start of your recipe creation will enable you to determine the type of ‘high’ you will gain from the cooking experience.
Once you’ve selected the ideal strain for your recipe, it’s time to decarboxylate your cannabis before infusing it with your chosen base ingredient.
What is Decarboxylation and why is it important?
The most critical step to cooking with cannabis occurs before it is incorporated into any base infusion to make edibles. In its raw form, cannabis contains the cannabinoid acids tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA). It is only by heating these compounds, that they undergo decarboxylation and become the active compounds we know as THC and CBD. It is not possible to get the full psychoactive potency of cannabis without it undergoing the decarboxylation process. This is not a problem, as activating the THC and CBD is a straightforward process that can be done in the oven or on the hob in just a few easy steps.
Decarboxylation Process (oven)
- Set the oven temperature to 240F/115C
- Place ‘lightly crumbled’ cannabis on aluminium foil on top of a baking sheet, and then seal with an additional sheet of aluminium foil on top of it.
- Place in the oven and cook for 40 minutes (no longer) .
- Remove from the oven. The cannabis should be lightly toasted. Leave to cool for 30 minutes
- Place in a sealed container, and store for future use.
Once the cannabis has been decarboxylated, it is ready to be infused with an oil or butter of your choice.
Selecting Base Infusions
As THC is only directly dissolvable in fats, butter, and a range of oils, are the foundation to most cannabis infused foods. The most popular types of oils used to infuse cannabis are coconut oil, butter and olive oil. In a similar way to strain selection, it’s important to select the right infusion method for your chosen recipe or applications.
Cannabis infused butter is the most popular and the most versatile of the base ingredients as it can be cooked in anything that requires butter. It is commonly used in baked goods, desserts and sweets. Cannabutter also has additional benefits as its high fat content provides a great metabolic vehicle for producing a stronger, longer-lasting high.
Canna Oil: Cannabis infused oil (such as olive oil) is a versatile medium that can be used for baking desserts, sauteing vegetables and frying at a low temperature. It is also a great inclusion in salad dressings and sauces. Vegetable oils are good infusion options too as they are mild flavoured, versatile to work with and do not burn at a low temperature like olive oil and butters.
Coconut Oil: Coconut oil has a high concentration of fatty acids ( 80% saturated fats) that create a strong binding agent for cannabinoids unlike an olive oil that has less than 20 percent saturated fat. It also contains lauric acid that when digested provides additional health benefits too.
Tincture: Tinctures can be made to infuse drinks such as teas, sodas, energy drinks. They can even be infused by applying a few drops under the tongue.
What are Terpenes and why are they important?
Terpenes are aromatic compounds that are found in a variety of plants. They are commonly associated with cannabis because cannabis plants contain high concentrations of them. In cannabis cooking, terpenes are responsible for the varying tastes, smells and effects. More than 100 unique cannabis terpenes have been identified across strains of the cannabis plant. Although the majority of terpenes are not in themselves psychoactive, their unique smells and flavour profiles help to induce particular moods and come with a variety of health benefits.
Myrcene and linalool are the two most common terpenes found in the cannabis flower that help to produce different effects. For example, myrcene is commonly associated with ‘couch lock’ and boosts relaxation and sleep. On the other hand linalool supports a powerful euphoric effect and a stronger, longer lasting cannabis experience in edibles. Prominent terpene profiles in cannabis like blueberry and pine are good natural pairings in certain food groups.
Matching terpene profiles to a cannabis recipe is not a necessary consideration for those at the start of their cooking with cannabis journey, but it is a top priority if you are keen to elevate the overall taste and flavour of a cannabis-based dish.
This Pairing Chart is a guide to matching terpenes strains to food pairings.
What is the right dosage for my recipe?
Unlike the instant impact of cannabis on the mind and body when smoked or vaporised, cannabis in edibles is processed differently. After eating an edible, the body digests and metabolises it before the effects are felt by the consumer. This slower absorption rate means the effects may take 1 to 2 hours to kick in, often tricking the consumer into thinking that either the dosage was too small, or that they have higher tolerance. This can lead to over consumption, and an unexpected and sometimes unpleasant ‘overdosed’ high.
There are several approaches one can take to prevent this happening:
- Control dosing by reducing either the amount of flower used for the infusion, or increasing the oil or butter ratio;
- Always begin with a low dose and wait an hour or two to monitor the effects. This is particularly relevant if it is not possible to calculate the potency of the cannabis.
- Eat a full meal before trying an edible as having an edible on an empty stomach will induce a faster high.
- If you don’t feel the effects of an edible after an hour, eat a small snack, such as a piece of fruit to turn on the digestion and absorption in your gut.
- Remember, the amount of time it takes for the effects of edibles to take hold will depend upon one’s own metabolism.