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Cooking with cannabis can be an excellent alternative to smoking. We call these weed-infused items “edibles.” The goal of this guide is to demystify edibles, teach you the science, and help you begin your journey toward making your own. Let’s begin.
Why might edibles be for me?
We think there are a few reasons edibles could be a suitable replacement for, or supplement to, smoking cannabis.
- A more customized experience. Once you’ve learned how edibles work, you can make nearly anything you want. That means you have more choices than dispensary shelves. Furthermore, since the dosage is customizable, you can make servings stronger or weaker depending on your preferences. If you need a brownie-induced coma for the night, you can have that. If you’re just starting or want to micro-dose during the day, you can do that too. If you’re new, we highly recommend starting with small amounts.
- Longer-lasting effects. The effect of edibles can last around 4 to 8 hours. The length of time depends on factors such as whether you’ve eaten, your metabolism, and edible potency. The longer-lasting effect can be advantageous if it’s going to be inconvenient to use other methods to medicate.
- Easy on the lungs. Since we aren’t inhaling smoke, edibles give your lungs a break. That could be awesome for someone with respiratory trouble already.
- Discreet and convenient. Let’s face it – eating a cookie or devouring some gummies is far more accessible and discreet than lighting your bowl or torching your dab rig while walking down the street.
Why make edibles at home?
A variety of edibles are available at dispensaries, so is cooking with cannabis better or something? We think so. Here’s why.
- It’s cheaper. Dispensary edibles are expensive. Less processed products such as bud/flower, kief, and concentrates are more affordable. Making edibles at home will get you more bang for your buck.
- Customizable experience. At the dispensary, you get an exact dosage, which is fantastic and maybe what you need, but at home, you can create any potency you desire while saving money.
- You can make anything you want. Brownies, cookies, and gummies are good, but once you have mastered making infusions, you’re free to infuse virtually anything with cannabis at home!
How does eating cannabis get you high?
To understand the difference between smoking and eating cannabis, let’s first talk about cannabis in general. The cannabis flower contains compounds called cannabinoids, the most familiar of which are THC and CBD. Before activating (decarboxylating) with proper heat and time, THC is THCA, and our bodies don’t get the same effect.
When smoking cannabis, we set it on fire. That act decarbs the compounds, and our lungs metabolize the cannabinoids into the bloodstream nearly instantly.
Eating cannabis is different. We aren’t setting the cannabis on fire, so we have to activate it differently. We can use an oven, crockpot, sous vide, or decarboxylation machine to apply heat for a certain amount of time to accomplish this. Most edibles are processed into the bloodstream by the liver, which means their effects can take a couple of hours to set in, and those effects last longer. Edibles such as mints, suckers, hard candy, or tablets will be absorbed sublingually and therefore can kick in faster.
The process of cooking with cannabis
- Decarb. To activate cannabis for consumption, we must first decarboxylate, or decarb, it. To accomplish this, we use our home oven (or another device) to apply heat for a specific period. That’s it. Easy peasy. Check out our decarboxylation guide to get started. At this point, you could sprinkle the decarbed weed on food, put it in capsules, or otherwise ingest it, and you’ll achieve the desired effect. For actual cooking, we’ll want to infuse the activated cannabinoids into something else. That’s the next step.
- Infuse. The good stuff in cannabis likes to bind with fats, and they dissolve into alcohol. That means we can infuse our cannabinoids into a lot of stuff like butter, oil, full-fat cream, and food-grade alcohol. These infusions can then be consumed as-is or used in recipes just like their non-infused counterparts, making them the highly versatile building blocks of cooking with cannabis. For infusion options, check out our cannabis infusion recipes.
- Cook. Once you have created an infusion, you can use that infusion in nearly any recipe that calls for that ingredient! For example, if your brownie recipe calls for 1/2 cup butter, use your infused butter (or a portion of infused butter and a portion of non-infused butter as long as they add up to 1/2 cup). For recipe inspiration, check out our cannabis-infused recipes.
Will I taste weed? What about the smell?
You’ll taste the weed flavor a bit, yes. When correctly done and using high-quality quality material, it shouldn’t be a dominant flavor in your dish. Weed can have flavor profiles such as citrus, pine, and floral notes. These notes come from cannabinoids called terpenes. Terpene content varies by strain, and there are many strains to choose from. With proper handling, we can preserve these terpenes and use the flavor notes to complement our dishes.
Cooking with weed, particularly decarbing and infusing, WILL make your house smell like weed. If that’s a concern, methods like sous vide or a decarb/infusion machine might be for you.
On potency and overdoing it
How potent do you want your edibles? Recipes on this site specify a range for cannabis amounts because potency is a personal preference. If you’re new, start at the lower end of the range. If you’re a pro and know what you like, go for the higher end. I like to make strong infusions, and if a recipe calls for more of an infusion ingredient (like butter) than I’m comfortable with, I’ll use part infused butter and part non-infused butter. The choice is yours! There are handy calculators online and in the app store that can help approximate actual potency.
If you’re just starting with edibles, it’s very important to start small. Aim for 5mg of THC, give it a couple of hours and see how you feel. The last thing we want is for you to have a bad experience, so please start small and adjust to find your personal preference.
Please keep in mind that it can take an hour or two for edibles to kick in, so you should wait at least that long after consuming an edible before making a judgment call on having more. If you eat too much and have a bad edibles experience, remember it won’t last forever, and nobody ever died from consuming weed. Remain calm, stay hydrated, have some non-infused food, and take a nap if you can. Taking an equal dose of CBD can help bring you back down.
Here are some of the tools of the trade:
- Oven thermometer. When decarbing in a home oven, we want to ensure your oven’s temperature is what it says it is. If things get too hot, we may burn off cannabinoids we don’t want to burn off. If we’re too low, we may not get everything activated. As an example, my home oven runs about 50°F too hot. If you don’t have one, here’s the oven thermometer I use.
- Candy thermometer. When infusing your herb into something using a pot on the stove or when making candies, it’s important to keep things at the proper temperature. A candy thermometer will help you do just that. Here’s the candy thermometer I use.
- Kitchen scale. We want to be able to weigh our plant materials so we can accurately and repeatably make incredible edibles. Many baking recipes also express units in weight rather than volume, so a kitchen scale is a must. I have a different one, but here’s an adequate kitchen scale.
- General kitchen tools. Aluminum foil, baking sheet, measuring cups, and measuring spoons.
- Decarboxylation / Infusion Machine. Not a necessity, and I don’t own one yet, but many people like machines like the LEVO 2, Magical Butter, and Ardent FX.
I’m in. What’s next?
So you’re ready to join us on high? Awesome. Here’s where to go next:
- Check out our decarboxylation guide to learn how to activate your plant material.
- Learn how to infuse coconut oil, infused olive oil, or infuse cannabis butter.
- Browse our recipes for “high” class treat ideas.
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