Decarb – You’re Probably Doing It Wrong
Cooking cannabis has a science to it. If you want the most from your medicine, read on.
You’ve stepped into your kitchen with a jar of fresh flower in hand. With a recipe in mind, the first step to cooking cannabis is the activate it. You haphazardly throw it on a baking sheet, place it in a hot oven, and wait 30 minutes for the medicine to release. It’s a tried and true method of turning fresh cannabis into potent medicine – right?
According to many experienced cannabis cooks, the normal decarbing process we’ve all come to rely on may not be as effective as once thought. Not only does it make your home (and maybe apartment complex) smell like a commercial cannabis grow-op, it releases the valuable compounds into the air.
The heat triggers evaporation, and it’s this evaporation that pulls the cannabinoids out of the plant and into the atmosphere. The potent infusion you planned on making may contain far less medicinal content than you expected.
There is an easy way to avoid the strong aroma and the loss of medicinal value. A more experienced cannabis chef can tell you cooking cannabis in a mason jar will reduce the pungent smell of cooking cannabis, and more effectively capture the medicine. The complete directions for dry and wet decarbing in a mason jar follow.
The Benefits of the Decarboxylation Process
Most cannabis recipes call for decarboxylation before you get cooking. The process, commonly called decarbing, uses heat (over time) to activate the raw cannabinoids into the active versions. The dried plant contains dozens of different cannabinoids, but most of them are inactive. The compounds most of us are looking for, THC and CBD, have a slightly different molecular structure before activated. They are tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDa).
Do THCa and CBDs have medicinal benefits? There is a growing evidence that they do. For example, THCa may help with pediatric epilepsy, and CBDa may have anti-inflammatory benefits. There is little information available right now, as is true of many secondary cannabinoids under active research. However, most people using cannabis for medicinal applications today are in search of the activated versions of these cannabinoids – THC and CBD. If you are making medibles at home, chances are you want THC, not THCa.
How to Prevent Cannabinoid Loss During Decarbing
Instead of throwing your raw cannabis on to a baking sheet and into the oven, there is an effective alternative to consider. A simple mason jar in a water bath locks in the cannabinoids and terpenes, instead of allowing them to evaporate. Plus, for those who don’t want to release the potent-cannabis smell throughout their house or apartment building, you’ll also have better control over the terpene release.
What You’ll Need:
- ½ quart mason jar (with lid)
- 0.5 to 1 oz cannabis (Don’t jam it in. Leave room at the top. Bud density will determine how much you can get into the QT jar.)
- Roughly grind the raw cannabis and place into the jar. Tightly seal the jar.
- Fill a pot about halfway with water, and place on the stove top on low to medium heat. Make sure the height of the water level is not going to cover over the jar.
- Place the jar in the pot of water before it heats up. If you put the jar in after the water has come to a simmer, the jar will likely crack or explode. You will also note that the heat doesn’t surpass 212 F (the boiling point of water).
- Bring the water to a low simmer with the jar in place. Simmer for up to 90 min. Make sure the water does not evaporate while you are decarbing!
- Remove from heat and allow to cool. Do not remove the lid until completely cooled, as this may release the terpenes (aroma) and some of the valuable compounds you were looking to capture.
The Set-it and Forget it Decarbing Process
Cooking cannabis using the method above is easy and doesn’t require any special kitchen equipment. You will need to keep a close eye on the setup while on the stove top though. It’s not safe to leave a stovetop unattended while cooking cannabis.
If you don’t have the patience to babysit your decarbing mason jar, invest in a slow cooker. While the full decarboxylation process will take much longer, you can essentially set it and forget it while it’s going through the magical activation process.
What You’ll Need:
- ½ quart mason jar (with lid)
- Slow cooker
- 7 oz cannabis
- Roughly grind the raw cannabis and place into the jar. Seal the jar.
- Place the jar inside the slow cooker, and cover with water. Again, it’s crucial to bring the slow cooker and the jar of cannabis up to heat simultaneously.
- Set on high (around 212 F), and simmer for four hours (alternately, set on low and simmer for eight).
- Remove from heat and allow to cool. Do not remove the lid until completely cooled, as once more this may release the terpenes (aroma) and some of the valuable compounds you were looking to capture.
How to Make Cannabis Infusions Using the Mason Jar Method
Want to kill two birds with one stone? Prepare your infusion at the very same time you are decarbing. Place the carrier oil and the cannabis in the jar before setting into the water bath. Use enough coconut oil, olive oil, or other fat to completely cover the plant material. Whether you use the simple pot-on-stove method or use the slow cooker, follow the same steps. At the end of the decarbing process, strain and discard the leftover organic plant material.
Incorporate the infused cannabis oil into any recipe, as you would with the non-potent version. Coconut oil, olive oil, and avocado oil are all great options.
Next time you are headed into the kitchen to cook with cannabis, consider the mason-jar method of decarbing. Whether you are making candies or cookies, the final product is likely much better. Perhaps your neighbors will appreciate the lower pungency, but the final edible may contain higher medicinal value than the cookie-sheet method.