Concocting your own pot brownies has long been a haphazard and inexact science for recreational stoners—instructions will vary on the amount of bud and method of infusion, and often DIY cannabis cooks pay no mind to the potency of the strain they're using. And while residents living in states where medical marijuana is legalized can buy a wide-range of dank, delicious edibles from dispensaries, the average pot enthusiast is more likely to dump an ounce of mids into some brownie batter than whip up something digestible if left to his own devices in an amateur cannabis kitchen.
The forthcoming book The 420 Gourmet: The Elevated Art of Cannabis Cuisine (out June 28 through Harper Collins) bills itself as a cookbook, but it's also an educational guide to cooking responsibly and efficiently with marijuana. Author JeffThe420Chef—a.k.a. the "Julia Child of weed"—is credited with inventing "light tasting" and "tasteless" canna-butter and canna-oil, as well as the immensely helpful online THC/CBD calculator, and he begins the book with an overview of the various methods that are key to perfecting marijuana-enhanced cuisine. Drawing on his experience cooking for medical marijuana patients and hosting classes for recreational patrons, Jeff explains how to tailor your recipes and dosing for the experience you want, whether it's soothing, non-psychoactive pain relief or flat-on-your-back stupor.
With 4/20 approaching, we thought we'd ask Jeff to share some easy ways to improve your cannabis-inclusive cooking.
Don't Throw Actual Weed into the Recipe
That's not the way it works. A lot of people say, "Oh yeah, I put a gram of Blue Dream into my brownies and they were amazing." No, they really weren't. First of all, I don't believe you, because if you're going to put the actual ground-up bud into your brownies, sure, there's going to be some form of decarboxylation that occurs, and you'll get some of the potency of the herb into your brownies. But they'll taste horrible and your body most likely will reject the brownies (read: you'll vomit) because our digestive systems are not designed to digest plant matter like that.
Potency Isn't Everything
Amateur edible makers will often talk about how strong their brownies are, but I don't think they really understand what that means. When I first got into this industry, I went to a dispensary with some friends who wanted to get some edibles. I was hesitant because I'd already had a bad experience with a highly potent edible that didn't taste good and I thought it was a waste of money for me. Meanwhile, my friend was like, "Oh, a 150 milligram brownie, I'll get that!" It was like $30, and I don't even think he knew what he had just bought.
If there's one message I want to get out there, it's that people need to understand that the typical dose is ten milligrams of THC. If you want to have a good experience, you should aim for that. Buying a 150 milligram brownie doesn't mean you'll have a good time—you most likely will not. Once you understand the basics of dosing, then you can actually have a really enjoyable experience with edibles.
Pay Attention to THC Percentages and Get Your Ratios Right
You have to know the percentage of THC in the bud you're using. I cook with a lot of high CBD [cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive compound also found in marijuana that's often used for medical patients] strains as well, so understanding that is also very important if you're cooking specifically for medical patients. But the thing is, you can't really have too much CBD. The worst that can happen if you overload on CBD is you might get tired and fall asleep.
The bigger issue is having too much THC, because if you have too much of that, the negative effects are pretty pronounced—you'll have anxiety, you'll get paranoid, you'll feel horrible, get nauseous, throw up, and then the next day you'll feel hungover and know you had a really bad experience. You don't want that. You have to know the percentage you're starting with, and then you have to know how that nets out in the butter or oil that you infuse it into.
You also need to understand the quantity and how to deal with it when making edibles. For example, let's say you're doing a simple boxed brownie recipe that calls for a third of a cup of oil. A quick fix would be just replacing that with a third of a cup of canna-oil. However, if you do that and you don't understand the potency of that oil, you can't say how many milligrams of THC are in each brownie—you might actually overmedicate that brownie.
But if you understand the potency, you can figure out something like, If I use a third of a cup of oil, each individual brownie's going to be 15 milligrams, and I don't want that. I want each of my brownies to be five milligrams, so I'm just going to make one third of that third be canna-oil, and the other two-thirds will be regular oil. You can actually use my online calculator to figure out how much oil to use based on the THC potency of the bud in order to make edibles with the potency you desire.
Clean Your Weed
Let's just say you took your weed and put it into a crock pot, like a lot of people do, with some butter, oil, and water and let it simmer. What you're really doing, in addition to simmering all of those cannabinoids into the butter and oil, is also adding in any impurities that are in that bud. So anything that tastes really bad could be something as horrible as insecticides, or it could just be the chlorophyl, which also has a specific taste that's pretty powerful.
So to take the taste out, you basically have to extract as much of that stuff as possible by soaking the bud for a couple of days in distilled water, and then after that, blanching it. By blanching, you're basically getting a much purer flower to start with and later to infuse into your butter or oil. It's still going to smell like cannabis, but if you cook with it, you won't taste anything. Most canna-butters are usually green or even black. Mine is yellow.
Don't Cook Above 340 Degrees Fahrenheit
Most recipes call for you to hit 350, and that would be fine if most ovens were precise and didn't fluctuate between ten and twenty-five degrees of where they say they're at. Unfortunately that's not the case, and THC starts to degrade at 365 degrees. So if you're cooking at 350, you're most likely going to start degrading and evaporating the THC.
Also, when you're cooking in a pan to, say, sauté something, you have to be very careful. Obviously people use butter and oil to sauté all the time, but if you're thinking of using canna-butter or oil, just be aware that you can't use it in the same way you'd use anything else. When you're doing a dish that requires [cooking on a stovetop], what you have to do is put [the canna-butter or canna-oil] in at the end. Basically, you shut the heat off and you mix the butter or oil around to coat everything while the pan is still hot. That way, you won't lose any of the potency.
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