What to Avoid When Cooking with Cannabis
Update: An earlier version of this piece had an incorrect measurement of cannabis tincture. It should be .5 ml.
Ready to move into the next era of cooking with cannabis? The first step is to avoid that whole “cooking” part.
The woody, bitter herb has long been relegated to cookies and brownies to mask the flavor while delivering on the high. You might choke some sweets down to get baked, but often, the methods that helped extract the THC in the edible make the end product pretty inedible.
Michael Cirino, a chef behind the culinary performing arts company A Razor, A Shiny Knife, is teaching classes on the subject at Brooklyn Kitchen (keep an eye out here for class schedules) and says there’s a better way. Here’s what he thinks most home cooks get wrong and should avoid while trying to cook with pot at home:
Don’t cook directly with weed, make infusions and extracts.
To incorporate the chemicals that make you feel good from pot into food or drinks, you need to take two steps. The first step is to “decarboxylate,” which means using heat to unlock the drug’s psychoactive effects. Then, you have to infuse that weed into either fat or alcohol (unlike the caffeine in coffee or tea, it isn’t water soluble).
There are a couple ways to do this. Cirino recommends lightly roasting the pot in a 325-degree oven for six to eight minutes, or putting it in a mason jar in a pressure cooker for about 25 minutes at pressure. Using a whipped cream canister, he makes an alcohol infusion with high-proof vodka and the toasted pot, injecting it with nitrogen gas to infuse and letting it sit for about 10 minutes, then straining it after with an AeroPress coffee maker. The end result is a tincture that can be added to cocktails, coffee or applied to food.
Don’t cover up the flavor.
It’s not necessary to mask the flavor of pot with a bunch of sugar. Lightly toasting it brings out “green” flavors like anise, tarragon, hops and floral notes. A darker roast brings out coffee, thyme and smoky flavors. Making an infusion with a dark roast cannabis and adding it to coffee amplifies that rich flavor, Cirinio says.
Try using a cannabis alcohol infusion like you would a bitter liqueur like Amaro Montenegro or Cynar, which can add depth of flavor to both drinks and dishes, or as a finishing herbal or truffle oil, added at the end of cooking to bring out more flavor to pasta, soups and meats.
Don't let it settle.
THC is a heavy compound, and if you let an infusion sit, it will settle to the bottom. Just like a salad dressing, make sure you shake it each time before you add any to a dish, or one member of your dinner party could have a VERY different experience than another.
Don't ruin your butter.
One way to decarboxylate and infuse the pot into food at the same time is to cook it in a double boiler on the stovetop into butter or another type of fat. The pitfalls of using butter, though, are that it can burn and the water can evaporate during the process, leaving an end result that tastes more like ghee. For a compound butter that can be served on top of steak, Cirino suggests using beef tallow to infuse the herb, and then incorporating that with butter before serving instead.
Add it to the end.
An infused oil isn’t something you want to sauté with – you’ll waste a lot and the results will be inconsistent. Use it as a last minute addition to sauces and something that you add with precision.
Don't overdo it.
Given that strains vary wildly in intensity and it’s hard to know what you are getting, be sure to do some testing before throwing any parties, and keep in mind the tolerance of the people you are feeding — a regular medicinal user and a dabbler shouldn’t consume the same amounts.
Cirino uses the metaphors of drinking a cup of coffee or a cocktail for consuming cannabis, and his dosages are a whole lot less than you would find with medicinal edibles — think of a little lift to help you through an afternoon of working writing code or to relax a bit rather than full-on couchlock.
For “coffee strength,” he recommends 1 gram of pot for every 30-50 grams of solvent. Stronger “cocktail strength” (about three puffs on a joint) is 1 gram for every 20-25 grams of solvent. A typical dosage per person would be .5 milliliters of oil or tincture.
Remember, you’re going to have to digest the food before you feel an effect, so give it time. For an extended effect, try one dose and then another 90 to 120 minutes later.