Avoid These 7 Common Mistakes While Cooking Cannabis Edibles

(Pekic/iStock)

For years, I prepared my homemade cannabis edibles with the same process, blind to the small mistakes I was making along the way. Yes, I achieved a product that would do the job (sometimes too well), but I had no idea that I could improve the flavor and consistency all while conserving time, money, and product by tweaking just a few steps along the way. All it took was putting the cooking utensils down for a few hours and listening to a pro.

A few months back, I attended the Puff, Pass & Bake class led by Chef Torrin Panico, who led us through the process of cooking cannabis oil properly while addressing some common missteps along the way. As soon as I understood the basic science of decarboxylation and infusion, I saw all of the flaws in my own process.

There isn’t one right way to make quality cannabis edibles; experimentation, trial, and error are all a part of the craft. But consider these cooking tips and see if it changes your batch for the better.

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Mistake #1: Spending too much money on flower for cannabis edibles

Solution: A little goes a long way

I hear plenty of tragic tales of people throwing a half ounce of cannabis into a slow cooker thinking that’s how much cannabis it takes to make a cup of infused butter. Remember this ratio instead:

  • 1:1 – 1 cup of oil to 1 cup of ground cannabis (about 7-10 grams)

Lipids in the oil can only bind with so many cannabinoids, so exceeding this ratio is, by some standards, wasteful.

Buying less cannabis is one way to save money, but if you’d like to save even more, consider infusing your oil with cannabis stems, trim, or with cannabis flower that’s been vaporized (called “ABV,” or “already been vaped” cannabis).

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Mistake #2: Throwing ground cannabis straight in the slow-cooker

Solution: Decarboxylate cannabis in the oven first

Before cooking with cannabis, you must decarboxylate it. First, let’s be clear: don’t just throw unactivated, raw flower into your batter or dish. Not only will it taste bad, it won’t allow the cannabinoids to fully activate and bind to lipids. That means you won’t feel much of anything and will have only succeeded in wasting precious cannabis.

Many people know to decarboxylate cannabis in the oven first, but it’s worth noting here for anyone who doesn’t know or doesn’t see the point in doing so. You can skip this step and add your raw cannabis to the slow cooker to decarb in the oil, but you might find that this longer oil soak simply worsens the taste of your cannabis oil. It’s also more difficult to control the temperature in a slow cooker and you risk burning off essential cannabinoids, but in an oven, you can set the temperature low and keep it steady.

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Mistake #3: Heating and decarbing at the wrong temperatures

Solution: Know how hot and how long to heat your cannabis and cannabutter

Not only is it crucial to decarboxylate your cannabis before cooking with it, you have to decarboxylate it correctly. That means setting your oven to the right temperature, letting it heat for long enough, and mixing it to activate the most surface area. Generally speaking, you want to:

  • Heat the oven to 245°F (120°C)
  • Cook for 30 to 40 minutes
  • Mix the buds every 10 minutes

If you’re tight on time, you can set the oven to 300°F (150°C) and cook for 10 to 18 minutes, stirring every five minutes–but the low-and-slow method is always best when dealing with delicate cannabinoids.

When steeping the ground cannabis in oil, try to maintain a temperature between  160-200°F (low or medium on a slow cooker). Use a thermometer to check the temperature and let it cook for about three hours with the cover removed.

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Mistake #4: Grinding your cannabis into powder

Solution: Use a hand grinder for a more coarse grind

Ever wonder why your edibles have a strong grassy flavor? The grind of your cannabis might be too fine. Pulverizing your cannabis with a food processor or a coffee grinder until it’s a powder will:

  • Introduce chlorophyll to your oil, lending a strong plant-like taste
  • Cause your butter or oil to turn green (which may look appealing, but at the cost of flavor)
  • Make it impossible to strain unwanted, bad-tasting plant material

Once your cannabis has decarboxylated in the oven, grind it coarsely with a hand grinder. Cannabinoids readily bind to the oil’s fats, and a coarse grind will allow it to effectively absorb without pulling in unwanted plant material.

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Mistake #5: Improperly straining the oil

Solution: Strain with cheesecloth and let gravity do the work

Once you’ve infused your oil, it’s time to strain out the plant material. Cheesecloth is often recommended because it allows oil to pass through while separating it from the ground plant material, but only if you let gravity do the straining for you. Don’t squeeze the cheesecloth to get every drop of oil out. Milking it like this will push out a little more oil but a lot more plant material.

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Mistake #6: Baking too little oil into your dish–or, God forbid, way too much

Solution: Test the oil’s potency before incorporating it into a dish

Eating homemade edibles doesn’t have to be like Russian Roulette. You can run a “strand test” beforehand to gage how much infused oil you’ll need in your recipe based on its potency. Here’s how.

Take 1/4 or 1/2 teaspoon of your oil as a personal dose and add it to a food or drink. Wait an hour and see how you feel. This will help you determine what an appropriate single dose would be. Once you’ve determined how much oil yields your desired effects, multiply that dose per serving if making a shareable batch (if making a cake, pizza, a pitcher, etc.). Or simply scoop that perfect dose onto each individual dish (if infusing a plate of pasta, a cup of coffee, a piece of toast, etc.).

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Mistake #7: Uneven distribution of potency in an infused batch

Solution: Stir well. Really, really well.

We’ve all been there: you made a perfectly good batch of cannabutter for your brownies, but after eating an entire piece, you don’t feel a thing. So you eat another, and still don’t feel a thing. Your friend, however, ate half a one and is somewhere in the cosmos. What happened?

You probably didn’t stir the batter well enough. If making a batch of infused food, stir like your life depended on it. This will ensure that the oil is distributed evenly across the batch and that your perfect dose makes it into each individual slice.

If you aspire to perfect your infused dishes, be sure to stop by a Puff, Pass & Bake cooking class in Denver, CO, or Las Vegas, NV, to learn all the secrets (while having a jolly good time with other stoned people). When it comes to cannabis and cooking, there’s always more to learn.