Cooking with cannabis is one of the best ways to reap its medicinal benefits while infusing the herb’s unique flavor profiles into nearly any dish. Pop-up “pot-luck” dinners prepared by well-known chefs have become a bit of a fad recently inspired by Vice’s Bong Appetit. A lot of people wonder if they can do they can do the same thing at home. With a little preparation, infusing marijuana into a meal is easy.
The essential oil of cannabis contains the cannabinoids, including THC and CBD, but when you hear about cannabis oil in food, it has always been combined with another fat. At $50 per gram–less than a teaspoon–solely using pure extracted marijuana oil would cost way too much for the kitchen. This essential oil generally contains far more THC than necessary for a medicated dinner party anyway. A gram of cannabis oil can carry between 500 and 900mg of THC. A dose for most is somewhere between 10mg and 100mg. Cannabinoids are active in the body longer when eaten instead of smoked, and for many people, the effects are more potent.
Edible Cannabis Oil
Cannabinoids and terpenes benefit from their infusion with other dietary oils. Being fat-soluble means that the human body needs a compound to be dissolved in dietary fat to absorb it. Remember, oil is all fat, devoid of protein or carbohydrates. Most edible cannabis products found in stores are infusions with coconut or olive oil.
THC in its raw, unheated form is not psychoactive. While it does offer health benefits, it can’t get you high. It must be heated at a temperature above 210 degrees Fahrenheit to change the chemical structure of the THC to the psychoactive form by a process known as decarboxylation. While there are many methods of decarboxylating, infusion in cooking oil using a slow-low heat method has advantages. The cannabis [oil] will not oxidize, the technical term for burning. These infusions not only preserve the taste, but specific oil can actually enhance the absorption of the cannabinoids (i.e., THC) into your body.
Which Oils are Best
While there is a scientific answer to the question of what oil to combine with cannabis, an infusion can be had with just about any fat, so above all, choose what will provide the best flavor for your dishes. Now for the scientific answer, the higher the smoke point of cooking oil the more stable it will remain under heat. The more saturated fat, the better the absorption of THC in the body.
When oil reaches its smoke point, it begins to oxidize, meaning its structure starts to breakdown, creating harmful free radicals. This is why most vegetable oils are never really a good cooking option for health purposes. Olive oil is a staple in the preparation of many meals because of its distinct flavor, but it has an exceptionally low smoke point. Don’t confuse taste with health.
Butter, ghee, coconut, grapeseed, nut, and avocado oil have high smoke points suitable for cooking. Butter and coconut oil create the highest quality cannabis infusion because of their saturated fat content. People often confuse saturated fat with cholesterol. They are not the same thing. Saturated fat is very stable under high heat and one of the human body’s favorite forms of energy. Excellent at binding to cannabis’s essential oils, saturated fats can improve the body’s absorption of cannabinoids.
Coconuts and MCTs
Coconut oil is perhaps the most interesting dietary oil when infused with cannabis. It contains a particular type of saturated fat known as a medium-chain triglyceride (MCT). MCTs are a popular supplement in their own right because they increase fat burning while contributing to brain health. Essentially predigested, they skip much of the journey through the intestines, which every other type of fat must take, in lieu of entry into the bloodstream via the portal vein, making it the fastest way to feel the effects of THC compared to any other oil. Users often feel the effects of coconut oil edibles within 15-30 minutes versus the 60-90 minute window of other fats.
Most professional cannabis edible makers also have another trick up their sleeves, lecithin. Researchers have found this choline-rich phospholipid to significantly enhance the absorption of THC, especially across the blood-brain barrier. What this means in regular-speak is you get more bang for your buck. 10mg of THC, when coupled with lecithin in cooking oil, will have stronger psychoactive effects than 10mg without it. Sunflower and soy lecithin can be purchased at health food stores and on Amazon. The stuff doesn’t taste great, so you probably want to leave it out of most dishes, but a small amount can go a long way in baked cookies, brownies, or a large batch of edible oil solely for medicating purposes.
How Can You Cook With Cannabis
So cooking with cannabis oil is pretty easy. Flowers can be added to any saute, sauce, or skillet and in doing so, some of the THC will be decarboxylated. Cannabis oil and flowers can add a real bouquet of flavors to a dish because each marijuana strain has its own unique terpene profile. Terpenes are the aromatic compounds in the oil that makes some cannabis smell like oranges and others smell like blueberries. While the flavor will be consistent, it will be tough to gauge how much THC you will really be getting using the plain flower. For this reason, you can use decarboxylated oil in your dishes.
How to Make Cannabis Oil to Cook With
If you would like to make a decarboxylated oil that can be stored for months and used in multiple recipes, you will need a slow cooker, a mason jar, and a strainer. Combine cannabis flowers or extract with your desired oil. If you want the absolute healthiest stuff, I would recommend using grass-fed butter, ghee or coconut oil since they have high smoke-points and saturated fat, but remember you can infuse cannabis into any oil. From there, screw on the lid of the mason jar tightly. Place it in the slow cooker. Fill the slow cooker halfway with water and turn it on low. Let it cook for 6-24 hours. From there pour the oil through your strainer into another storage container. The marijuana-infused oil will keep for several months in a cool dark spot ready to be used in any dish.
To recap, cooking cannabis oil can be a great way to consume marijuana recreationally or medicinally. A little goes a long way so dose slowly. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different oils and different cannabis strains math your taste and experience preferences. Give having your own pot-luck dinner with friends a try.
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