Cannabis is one of the most flexible plants out there. It is not only known for its recreational effects but more importantly, it has been used throughout the years for its medicinal attributes. Because of this, more and more countries, including the United States, have been looking into the possibility of legalizing the plant. In fact, US legislators are now looking into the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019 that would de-schedule cannabis when passed.
Today, 15 states and DC have legalized recreational marijuana. Plus, almost all of the states allow cannabidiol (CBD) in many forms, including edibles. If you live in a state where adult-use is legal or if you are a medical marijuana patient looking to spice up your medical treatment aid, you can make your own edible and drinkable.
However, it is important to understand that cooking with cannabis is a science, much like the culinary arts in general. You need to know how your ingredients react when undergoing cooking processes such as heating. Take garlic, for example. Its aromatic flavor remains great when you cook it immediately, but when exposed to air for extended periods, it turns bitter. It also turns bitter when overcooked.
With cannabis, you need to take note of its particular characteristics before cooking, so that you can make the most out of this ingredient. Without further ado, here’s what you need to know about the science behind cooking with cannabis,
Do the effects of cannabis change when cooked?
If you are planning to use your precious buds for cooking, the first question you might ask is whether or not you can expect changes in its effects. This is understandable because, as with garlic, ingredients can react differently in various circumstances.
For this question, you are probably wondering if you will still benefit from the benefits CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) offers. The answer to this is yes, but only if you cook it properly. You should also take note that the effects of the plant when consuming it as food will be a different experience compared to, say, smoking it.
How to Effectively Cook with Cannabis
With this in mind, it is important to look at the proper techniques for cooking cannabis. Chefs, home cooks, and product developers have found ways to infuse cannabis into their culinary masterpieces. They shred, chop, and blend the leaves and buds in order to give their creations a whole new cannabis twist.
The thing about cooking with cannabis as an ingredient, whether as a primary or a secondary one, is that you should know how to make its properties come out. When we say properties, we are talking about the effects it offers thanks to the cannabinoids and terpenes the plant contains. As you would know, this can come in the form of psychoactive and medicinal properties.
To effectively cook with cannabis, you need to decarboxylate the buds and leaves before cooking. This is the very first step to cooking with marijuana. After decarboxylating the plant, you are now ready to use it as an ingredient.
Decarboxylation: What is it?
So, you might be wondering what ‘decarboxylating’ or decarbing means. This term may seem intimidating, but the only thing you need to know about it is that it is the process of optimally heating marijuana buds and leaves to coax the psychoactive component out of the plant. In other words, you decarboxylate your marijuana to make it more effective.
Now, here’s the technical part. You need to understand that marijuana contains more than 100 cannabinoids and over 100 terpenes. Of these chemical compounds, you are probably familiar with CBD and THC, as these are the most popular ones. They are also mentioned in labels to serve as guides for consumers.
However, the most abundant cannabinoid in the plant is tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), which is a non-psychoactive substance. The thing about this compound is that it can be converted to THC by applying heat. This is where decarbing comes in. As mentioned, you heat the parts to make it more effective. During this process, you are actually applying heat to convert THCA to THC, making your ingredients more potent.
However, this process is not as easy as it may seem. You need to make sure that you apply just the right amount of heat because while it is simple to convert THCA into THC, THC easily evaporates when overheated.
For proper decarboxylation, the most advisable heat level is low heat, or around 240 degrees F or 116 degrees C. Meanwhile, THC evaporates at 392 degrees F or 200 degrees C.
Best Ingredients to go with Marijuana
After decarbing your ingredient, you can now easily use it for your recipe. You can simply pop it right into the pot or pan as you see fit. However, if your goal is to maximize the effects of your newly decarbed marijuana, you need to take into account the ingredients you use it with.
The most vital thing to know about cannabinoids is that they are fat-soluble, meaning, they optimally dissolve in and is easily absorbed by fat. So, foods that are high in fat makes for the best cannabis dishes. This is why many chefs and cooks prefer to make cannabis oil or cannabutter after decarbing, instead of directly placing the plant into the dish.
This lets them extract as much cannabinoid as possible, making the ingredient much more effective. Take note that this is not to say that the cannabinoids will have no effects when cooked with less fat.
How Eating Cannabis Compares to Inhaling It
When you consume cannabis in any way, it takes effect after the cannabinoids reach your bloodstream, then goes to your brain, where there are endocannabinoid receptors or parts that absorb cannabinoids from internal and external sources. These receptors are part of your endocannabinoid system, and you have them in parts of your nervous, digestive, and immune systems.
As mentioned, eating cannabis offers a different experience compared to smoking it. One aspect that makes the two experiences different is the timing of the effects.
When you inhale the plant, you will be able to feel the effects within seconds to a few minutes, with peak effects in as fast as 30 minutes. This is because once the smoke or vapor enters your lungs, the cannabinoids are processed immediately and directly enter your bloodstream.
On the other hand, eating or drinking cannabis means that the compounds will first go to your stomach and liver, before reaching your bloodstream and brain. When you ingest cannabinoids, you will feel the effects after 30 minutes to two hours, with peak effects in as long as four hours.
Another thing that makes the inhaling and ingesting different is the intensity of the effect. Say, you have a joint and a chocolate bar with the same level of cannabinoids. You might expect the same degree of effects, but according to the science of consuming marijuana, the effect can be more intense when ingested.
This is because the liver converts THC into a stronger substance. When combined with the original compound, this substance creates a more intense effect. In fact, you can expect the effects to last up to 12 hours after consumption with residual effects lasting up to 24 hours. Comparatively, when inhaled, the effects can only last up to six hours with residual effects up to 24 hours.
What types of cannabis dishes can you cook?
Now that you know more about cooking cannabis and ingesting cannabinoids, you might be interested in whipping up your own infused dishes. There are a lot of infused options you can make. The best thing about cannabis cooking is you can do it for your almost every occasion because a whole lot of special celebration recipes contain fat.
If you do not know where to start, here are some of the easiest recipes you can follow:
Cannabis butter or oil
Butter and oil are two of the most versatile ingredients. They are found in a whole lot of recipes as they serve as the best fats for sauteing, basting, and simply infusing with other aromatics. To make your very own infused butter or oil, you just need butter made from milk fat or any type of oil, particularly neutral ones.
Then, simply place the fat in a pan along with your decarbed marijuana. For the butter, the goal is to evaporate the water and milk solids commonly found in grocery store butter. For oils, you need to take time to infuse the cannabinoids into the fat.
This process can take two to three hours, so make sure to stir the concoction once in a while. Just be careful not to heat the mixture too much to avoid evaporating the THC.
You can use the final product for almost any dish that requires butter or oil. This includes a wide variety of baked goods, roasts, pasta, and a whole lot more.
Cannabis Leaf Pesto Pasta
We know that we mentioned pasta as something that you can make using your canna-oil. However, pesto pasta is a recipe that you can infuse directly with cannabis leaves. You just need basil, marijuana leaves, garlic, parmesan, nuts, and oil to do this recipe. Use a food processor to blend the dry ingredients. When you reach the right consistency, drizzle the oil into the mixture. You can use your canna-oil and regular oil, or regular oil alone. Lastly, season with salt and pepper, run it on the processor a few times, and you are done.
There are a lot of recipes you can try using cannabis leaves and infused fats. If you love home-cooked meals, you can try different recipes every week or every other day. This way, you will find the right dish for you and develop it into your very own signature cannabis-infused dish.
Some Tips for Ingesting Cannabis
Moderate and safe consumption is always important, whether you are a beginner or a veteran. To ensure that you healthily consume edibles and drinkables, here are some things you should do:
As mentioned, your liver can intensify the effects of THC, the psychoactive compound of the plant. This compound is known to give a body high, which means that it offers a euphoric and sedated feeling. This is because THC triggers the part of your brain in charge of pleasure, which then releases dopamine to achieve the aforementioned effects.
Because of this, you want to start with low doses when ingesting cannabis-infused food. After all, you can always consume more if you feel the need to, but you can never take back what you have already consumed.
Take it Slow
Another important thing you should remember is to wait for cannabis to take effect. Remember that it takes 30 minutes to around two hours before the cannabinoids take effect. So, if you are used to inhaling these compounds, you might feel like it is taking a long time. However, do not be tempted to increase your consumption as this can lead to having high amounts of cannabinoids in your body.
While it may come as good news that there is no direct connection between marijuana overconsumption and death. However, as with anything, even legal and medical substances, too much consumption can have undesired effects.
Do Not Mix with Other Substances
One of the most dangerous practices is consuming this plant along with other psychoactives and mind-altering substances. This includes alcohol. Combining marijuana with alcohol can amplify its effects, which can have unfavorable results. To make sure that your cannabis consumption is safe, refrain from consuming alcohol and other similar substances.
The Bottom Line
Cooking with cannabis may seem intimidating at first what with daunting terms such as ‘decarboxylation,’ but when you get the hang of it, you can freely explore what marijuana cuisine has to offer. With this guide, you not only can cook with the plant but also ingest the plant in a safe, fun, and healthy manner.