Cooking with Cannabis
Last week I had the opportunity to speak at the Nevada County Women Grow meeting with Moonman’s Mistress and DirtNinja Farm. The three of us talked about cooking with cannabis. It was a fun conversation — thanks for all the great questions!
So how do you cook with cannabis? One of the first things I learned as a pastry chef is that someone actually has to eat what I make. That means it should taste good, look good, and smell good. There are plenty of recipes out there, so I’m going to focus on the theory of cooking with cannabis instead. Once you understand a few key points, you’ll be ready to try making your own recipes.
Why Are You Making Edibles?
Who are you cooking for? Do they have allergies or other dietary restrictions? Are you treating a medical issue? Do they need to use this during the work day or will they be eating it before bed?
I know that’s a lot of questions, but if you answer them before you start cooking, you’ll be able to customize your edibles even more. Think about who you’re cooking for and create something that both tastes delicious and gives them the experience they’re looking for.
Great Edibles Start with Great Ingredients
Many people take a somewhat skewed approach to cooking with cannabis. They either treat the cannabis as if it’s the star of the show and the other ingredients are just along for the ride, or they make a great food and just throw in whatever form of cannabis they have on hand, almost as an afterthought.
However, just like any other food, edibles require quality ingredients. Try thinking of cannabis as one of your ingredients instead of just a necessary additive. That means you’ll want to consider what form of cannabis you’re going to use. It’s easy to infuse butter, coconut oil, and olive oil at home, but they are not interchangeable. Some recipes simply work better with a solid fat than a liquid fat. Coconut oil and butter have different melting temperatures and smoke points, which means that it can be tricky to substitute one for the other.
I’m not going to get too long-winded about the technicalities of baking, but you will get better results if you use the form of fat that your recipe calls for.
How Do You Make Cannabis Taste Good?
Terpenes! Terpenes make a huge difference in the flavor of edibles. The very first step in cooking with cannabis is to smell your cannabis. Smell it when you buy it or harvest it, smell it after you decarb it, and smell it as you’re infusing your chosen fat. The way it smells is a great indication of the way it will taste.
You’re going to want to use flavors that complement the flavor of your cannabis. For example, our Gold Country Afgoo is high in limonene so we made a Lemon Blueberry truffle. The lemon highlights the limonene, and the blueberry pairs nicely with that citrus flavor.
We used the same strain but highlighted different terpenes with our Caramelized Strawberry truffle. The piney flavors from pinene and terpineol pair nicely with caramelized white chocolate and the fresh flavor of the strawberries balance the flavor profile. However, if we don’t caramelize the chocolate, the flavors of the cannabis, chocolate, and strawberries seem to fight to be recognized individually instead of working together as a single tasty edible.
So, smell your cannabis and think about what might taste good with what you smell. You can use this flavor wheel from Leafly to help get you started, but you might also want to check out a book like The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg if you want to take it further.
Terpenes as a Functional Ingredient
Terpenes do more than add flavor. They also have many potential health benefits, which can contribute to the final effect of your edible. For example, myrcene is found in many cannabis strains and it can actually help intensify and prolong the effects of cannabis. You can also add some myrcene by using mangos, thyme, and other ingredients high in myrcene.
A little research will help you find the terpenes that will give you both your desired effect and your flavor profile.
Dosage is an important part of good edibles. Getting lab tests can be cost-prohibitive for a home cook but do the best you can with what you have. If you know the percentage of THC in your cannabis, you can use this calculator to help you determine your dosage.
You’ll also want to think about portion size. If you’re making 100 mg cookies, but only want a 20 mg dose, that means you can only eat 1/5 of a cookie. Trust me, people want more than 1/5 of a cookie and odds are someone will eat a whole one and wind up uncomfortably high. Not to mention that it can be difficult to portion a cookie into fifths. Instead, take a more mindful approach. Portion your edibles so people can eat a whole serving or at least easily cut them down to the appropriate dosage.
To recap, here are four keys to cooking with cannabis:
- Think about who you’re cooking for and what they want in an edible.
- Smell your cannabis.
- Use terpenes for both their flavor and function.
- Be mindful of the dosage.
I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of how to cook with cannabis. I would love to keep talking about this, so send me your questions and I’ll answer them in a follow-up post.