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Don’t Make These Rookie Mistakes When Cooking With Cannabis

Jessica McKeil

The absolute worst crime in cooking with cannabis is ruining good medicine.

Everyone is cooking with cannabis. But, not everyone is getting the same therapeutic results. Unlike other culinary herbs (basil, parsley, and the like), you can’t just throw a handful of fresh cut cannabis flower on top of a dish. I mean, you CAN, but there will be no THC or CBD benefit until you decarboxylate. Certainly, there are some great health benefits to raw cannabis, but today, we are talking about cooking.

People are turning to edibles as a discreet and effective way to treat a wide variety of health issues. Many patients are also making the leap from store-bought varieties to ones made at home. Fortunately, this means you can learn from the mistakes of others! Here are four common rookie mistakes to avoid when cooking with cannabis.

Mistake #1: Forgetting to Decarb 

The most critical step when cooking with cannabis is decarbing. Decarboxylation is the process of applying heat (over time) to cannabis to transform the raw cannabinoids into activated compounds. In practice, this process changes THCa and CBDa into the cannabinoids we are typically seeking: THC and CBD. The length of time you bake an item is not enough to make this chemical conversion happen.

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For example, if you added a scoop of fresh flower into a green smoothie, you may be disappointed with the effects. With minimal activated THC available, you likely won’t feel much of anything. This means less pain relief (THC) or less anxiety relief (CBD).

There are many ways to decarb, but these are the basics:

  • Roughly chop the flower and spread out onto a lined baking tray.
  • Place in an oven heated to 240 F and bake for 45 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and add into an infusion for your recipe.

For a full breakdown on the entire decarboxylation process, check out Decarbing 101.

Mistake #2: Didn’t Strain Out the Flower

Way back in college, most of us didn’t know how to cook, let alone how to cook with cannabis. Many pot brownies were passed around at parties that tasted like a bale of fresh cut hay. On top of having to chew the edible, you also had to make your way through the stems, leaves, and other trimmings.

Needless to say, today the medibles are of a much higher caliber. Now we understand that through cannabis butter infusions and tinctures, the entire plant isn’t needed to reap the benefits.

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After making a cannabutter, oil, or coconut oil infusion, strain out the leftover plant material using a cheesecloth.After a full infusion, the remaining plant material is almost void of medicinal or recreational value. All the valuable cannabinoids and terpenes are now in the infusion.

Cooking with cannabis infusions is texturally much more pleasing and more flavorful than what you’d experience stirring in a handful of flowers. Compost the spent material, as there is little use for it beyond nutrients for your garden.

Mistake #3: Cooking at High Temperatures

Cannabinoids are all very sensitive compounds. Too much heat and they burn away. While THC and CBD are some of the most robust cannabinoids, they also can’t take the higher temperatures. That’s why even decarbing is done at a relatively low temperature – to protect the end cannabinoid (and terpene) content.

If you are cooking with cannabis based on a medible recipe from a reliable source, you won’t have to worry about varying the recommended temperature. It’s tried and tested, and the author should know about heat sensitivity.

However, if you are experimenting and adding cannabis into a new recipe, keep in mind the compounds’ heat-sensitivity.

The highest recommended temperature for cooking with cannabis is 375 degrees F. Anything higher, and you risk losing the valuable medicinal compounds. Naturally, this restriction means you won’t be able to add cannabis to recipes calling for a pan fry. Pan frying is too hot to keep the cannabinoids alive.

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Mistake #4: Going Back for a Second Helping

After spending all afternoon cooking with cannabis, it’s time to try out the final results. Do you know how potent your dish is? How much THC each serving contains? One of the biggest rookie mistakes with medibles isn’t during cooking, it’s during dosing.

Anyone who’s had an edible before can tell you how different it is compared to inhaled methods. Because of the difference in dosing (and lag time) between smoking and eating cannabis, there is a reported spike in emergency room visits across legalized areas. Without knowing how much THC is in the serving, or how much THC you can handle, you could very well end up overdoing it.

Calculating dose isn’t difficult, especially with pre-portioned medibles like cookies, squares, and candies. The only number you need to find out, in the beginning, is the THC potency. Most strains have between 15 to 25 percent THC.

Let’s walk through an easy infused cookie example (recipe here) as an example of dose calculation.

  • You have one gram of sativa with 25 percent THC. That equals 25 mg of THC per one gram.
  • If you throw the entire gram into a ½ cup of butter to make cannabis butter, eventually you’ll end up with ½ cup of butter with 25 mg of THC.
  • If you add the ½ cup of infused butter into a cookie recipe, your final result is 25 mg spread out over the cookies.
  • Let’s say the recipe works out to 10 equally sized cookies – that’s 2.5 mg per cookie.

Even if you stumble to calculate the exact THC levels, keep in mind the golden rule: start low and go slow. Never go back for a second helping if you haven’t felt the first helping yet. It can take up to two hours to come into effect, so resist the urge to grab another THC cookie – no matter how hungry you are. If you’re a cookie monster who just can’t help themselves, munch on non-medicated treats.

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Have you made any of these mistakes before, and ended up with an ineffective and inedible product? With so many patients experimenting with potent home-edibles, you are not alone if you’ve had lacklustre results.

Stick to medible recipes from experienced cannabis chefs. You can also practice with recipes which require little to no cooking skills – like no bake cannabis treats. Once you get a handle over the most common rookie mistakes, even the worst home cook can take control over their cannabis therapy.

Jessica McKeil
Jessica McKeil

Jessica McKeil is a freelance writer focused on the medical marijuana industry, from production methods to medicinal applications. She is lucky enough to live in beautiful British Columbia, Canada where the cannabis industry is exploding. When not writing, she spends much of her time exploring in the coastal forests.

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