Updated: Jul 27, 2021
The current assortment of ready-made cannabis edibles includes baked goods, gummies, chocolates, lozenges, and beverages. There is also an emerging group of cannabis chefs who host private dinners and treat cannabis simply as another ingredient in their toolkit. Edibles can be a safe, discreet, and effective way to try cannabis, especially when the user is educated about proper dosing. Here I will outline three levels of cooking with cannabis so you can take more control over your edibles experience.
Level I: Commercially available extracts.
It is quite straightforward to add infused oils, butters, tinctures, honey, and seasonings to any entree, dessert, or beverage. My first homemade edible was a beverage akin to Bulletproof Coffee: Add 1 cup coffee, 2 tbsp CBD-infused coconut oil, and 1 tbsp grass-fed butter to a blender. Mix for 20-30 seconds until it looks like a rich, creamy latte.
The next cannabis ingredient I bought was a THC-infused grapeseed oil. This purchase came with a cookbook including such recipes as guacamole, tomato soup, and chocolate pudding. It was very simple to add this THC oil to any recipe, from sweet to savory.
There is an increasing range of infused products available for your pantry: water soluble cannabis powders, full-spectrum extracts, terpene extracts, infused salts and spice rubs, and other items that can supplement or completely replace ingredients in any of your recipes. Your first cannabis cooking experiment can be as simple as adding water soluble cannabis to your next batch of rice or pasta or drizzling THC oil on your next salad.
Commercially available extracts, while easy, quick and convenient, can be quite pricey (I paid $50 for 210 ml of THC oil). However, it is a great way to learn about safe and accurate dosing since exact concentrations are listed on the package (e.g., 10 mg THC per tsp oil).
Level II: DIY infusions using traditional kitchen appliances.
If you want more control over the cost and quality of your edibles you can opt to make your own infusions. Dosing can be estimated by comparing effects to commercially available products. For example, spread ½ tsp of homemade cannabutter on a piece of toast and compare its effects to ½ tsp of a store-bought oil or butter.
Making cannabutter is a two-step process:
Step one, decarboxylation, is the application of heat for the conversion of THCA to its active form, Δ-9-THC. This is typically done in an oven or a slow cooker. Step two is the infusion of the activated plant material into either an oil-based (coconut oil, ghee, butter) or alcohol-based (vodka, grain alcohol) solvent. This can be done over the stovetop or in a slow cooker.
Once the cannabutter is made, use it within a few weeks or store in the freezer for longer-term storage. Cannabutter can be used in your favorite chocolate chip cookie or brownie recipe, or simply spread on toast. I typically replace only half the butter called for in a recipe with cannabutter, since my patients prefer to microdose and/or consume more than one cookie.
Using an oven and/or stovetop is convenient, but it is not the most consistent or efficient process. The temperature fluctuation in a typical oven can be as much as +/- 30° F, and many cannabinoids or terpenes can be lost using this method.
Level III: Specialized equipment for temperature control.
If you want to make edibles on a regular basis, it is probably wise to invest in one or more gadgets to improve process consistency and yield. Commercially available devices specifically made for cannabis decarboxylation are available. These devices maintain a constant and correct temperature, thereby reducing loss and degradation of active components. Other options for decarbing include pressure cookers or sous vide machines, both of which are more precise than a typical oven. An added benefit of these options is that they employ a sealed bag or jar, so that your nosy neighbors won’t know what you’re cooking. In addition, these devices can be used for a wider range of applications as compared to a dedicated decarb machine. The sous vide can also be used for a more precise infusion process since it is difficult to maintain a low, constant temperature on the stovetop. There are also dedicated cannabis extraction devices that maintain discrete temperature set points while providing intermittent agitation. These methods are preferred for alcohol infusions since the boiling temperature of alcohol (173°F) is quite lower than that of water. I make cannabutter at 160°F and alcohol tincture at 130°F. A properly made alcohol-based tincture is shelf stable and can last for years with no degradation. It can be easily added to any hot or cold beverage or can be used to make cannasugar. I use cannasugar for making lozenges and other candies and desserts. I check the dosage by adding ½ tsp sugar to my coffee and recording its effects. I hope this brief introduction will inspire you to try new edibles. It’s not just limited to gummies and brownies anymore!