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Cooking with Cannabis: How Best to Consume It

When people think about consuming weed, they think about smoking (or inhaling) it through joints or blunts, pipes and bongs, and even vaporizers.  It’s one of the quickest ways to get high after all, and smoking marijuana makes it an ideal social activity rather than a solitary one.

However, while both medical and recreational marijuana is slowly getting wider acceptance, the actual activity of smoking it still carries a certain social stigma. The act of smoking in itself exposes you to smoke and debris that can immediately trigger allergies or cause respiratory illnesses in the long run. And you probably don’t want to bring a joint to work and smoke as you deal with deadlines, right? Not to mention the stench of smoke that can seep through your clothes and fill your house or room for hours on end.

Beginners might experience coughing and sore throat; even more experienced tokers might get bogged down by the occasional coughing fit when smoking a more potent strain. And how about those who suffer from asthma or smoke allergies? What alternatives are there for people who want to enjoy the benefits of using cannabis without compromising their health through smoking?

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Benefits of Eating Cannabis

Unlike toking or smoking an e-cigarette, eating cannabis allows a person to unleash all the herb’s properties without the downside of coming in contact with smoke, tobacco, or other unhealthy substances. Cannabis in the form of edibles is more accessible to people who have allergies or respiratory issues, those who want to live a healthier lifestyle, and those who are averse to smoking. Plus, the aftereffect of consuming edibles provides a slightly different experience compared to that of smoking a joint.

The high resulting from eating cannabis lasts longer, albeit it comes slower. The high from smoking marijuana comes on within minutes and lasts for maybe 3 to 4 hours. Depending on whether your stomach is full or not, the high from eating marijuana can get triggered within 30 to 90 minutes and last up to 8 hours. You’ll also feel less tired and burned out when you come down from eating marijuana.

Eating cannabis also has a more body-centered effect since it will be distributed through the bloodstream rather than the lungs. This means the therapeutic effects of the cannabinoids will also be more evenly distributed. Eating cannabis also results into a potent but more laid-back kind of high. This is because smoking weed means it is heated at temperatures reaching up to 1,472 degrees Fahrenheit, converting THC to Delta9-THC, which makes our brain receptors fire continuously. Meanwhile, Delta9-THC, when metabolized by the liver, becomes 11-OH-THC, a more powerful chemical that gives a fuller, longer-lasting high.

Getting high through eating cannabis is also friendlier to your body – especially your entire mouth, throat, and lungs – as there would be no toxic chemicals like carbon monoxide and other irritants that come from all that smoke. Just a note, however, to those taking other medications, since the THC and other cannabinoid content of marijuana may react differently or compete with other drugs.

Cooking Cannabis Dishes Versus Buying Edibles

There’s no doubt that buying cannabis edibles is highly convenient. Preparing ingredients for cooking takes time, after all, and not everyone has this luxury. However, preparing your own cannabis dishes have more benefits than you realize beyond having more variety and control over the ingredients.

Since the recreational use of marijuana is still illegal in some places, there are no existing food safety standards or regulations to ensure that these edibles are safe for consumption. It is usually state-based organizations – like Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division under the Department of Revenue – that regulate the entire industry. This is not an ideal scenario since the preparation alone of marijuana for smoking and cooking are highly different.

Dosage is also a concern when it comes to edibles. By choosing to prepare your own cannabis dishes, you exert more control on the amount of cannabis you put in your food. There are also forms of edibles – like candies, cookies, and fizzy drinks – that may incorporate the same levels of cannabinoids but, because of different formulations and deliveries, might have different effects to the consumer.

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Cooking with Cannabis Oil

Cooking using cannabis oil or cannabis butter (canna butter) is more beneficial than eating pre-made edibles. For one, cooking marijuana creates both Delta9-THC and 11-hydroxy-THC, which is a stronger compound and has more psychotropic cannabinoids, resulting into a longer, steadier kind of high. THC is also lipophilic, as opposed to being water soluble, so it needs something fatty like oil or butter to dissolve and activate it. Cooking instead of smoking weed also uses lower temperatures compared to smoking, which burns less of the actual plant and minimizes carcinogens.

Another benefit of cooking with cannabis is that you get to adjust the amount of cannabis and other ingredients you put in your recipes. This is opposed to edibles which come already pre-prepared with set amounts and strains of cannabis. When you cook your own cannabis dishes, you simply need to use a different kind of oil, for example, to control not only the taste but the kind of high you will get. You’ll also get to pick your own ingredients, which is beneficial if you have dietary restrictions.

Things to Remember

  1. As there are different marijuana strains, there are also different cannabis oils. Depending on your preference, you can choose oil that is either high on CBD or THC so you can achieve your desired effect.
  2. Carefully monitor the temperature when cooking with cannabis oil – heat it up to a maximum of 185 degrees Fahrenheit only (71.1 degrees Celsius) to preserve potency. At the very least, the strength should only be slightly diminished. If the recipe calls for higher temperatures, do not go above 392 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius) so as not to completely breakdown the THC.
  3. If the recipe calls for sauteeing or other high-temperature recipes, add the canna butter or oil last in order to preserve the potency.
  4. If you haven’t mastered the technique of making canna butter or cannabis oil, it is better buy from trusted sources. Homemade canna butter or oil, if made improperly, can have unwanted textures or herbal flavors.
  5. The pot brownie is the most popular recipe for cannabis edibles since cannabis oil works best with sweet recipes. However, most foods can be infused with cannabis. In fact, if you rather dislike the slightly herbal, “grassy” flavor of canna butter or cannabis oil, it’s easier to disguise this in a spicy or savory dish.
  6. Don’t “eyeball” your ingredients. Seasoned chefs may be tempted to forgo the measuring cups and spoons, but this isn’t ideal when cooking with cannabis. You might end up under- or overdosing your dishes.
  7. Know your strains when choosing cannabis oils and ingredients, as their own unique flavors may also have an effect on the taste of the dish you are preparing.
  8. Alcohol and cannabis don’t mix well, especially because alcohol has its own kind of buzz. If you are looking for after-dinner drinks, you might want to offer coffee instead.

Again, it’s important to note that cannabinoids are fat soluble. If your recipe doesn’t list a fat ingredient, like butter or oil, you can choose to dilute cannabis concentrate in a small amount of vodka or rum to dissolve and activate THC.

Healthy Oils

Cannabis enthusiasts who are also avid DIY-ers will most likely find themselves concocting their own cannabis oils. The most popular method of deriving oils directly from cannabis leaves and flowers is through steam distillation. However, if you don’t have the right equipment or haven’t mastered the process yet, the most ideal would be infusing cannabis concentrate to your regular cooking oils. There are no specific kinds of oils to use, though the most popular choices are olive oil and coconut oil due to their added health benefits.

Olive oil is one of the healthiest oils available. It is rich in monosaturated fatty acids and antioxidants, which are said to reduce the risk of heart disease. You can use cannabis-infused olive oil for salad dressings and pasta sauces, as well as bread dips, soups, and even cakes and pastries. Try it also for fish tacos or confit chicken for optimum flavor.

Meanwhile, coconut oil has a high concentration of saturated fats, making it a stronger binding agent for cannabinoids.  It retains far more cannabinoids during extraction, resulting into more potent products. At the same time, coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides, which are directly converted to energy. This makes it the perfect vehicle for Sativa-strain infusions for boosted energy, focus, and overall vitality. Another beneficial component of coconut oil is lauric acid, which when digested acts as an anti-microbial agent.

Popular recipes that use coconut oil include breads, cakes, and cookies, as well as flavorful soups and sauce-based dishes.

But actual cooking isn’t the only way to eat your marijuana. If you so choose, you can even consume cannabis in the form of teas or juices.  Marijuana tea, specifically, is perfect for an after-work drink to relax. If you steep the leaves and flowers as you would normal tea leaves, you are left with a mild drink that has lower psychoactive effects. For a quicker option, try dissolving some canna butter into your tea (or even coffee). It gives a fuller flavor and a slightly stronger high. Juicing, on the other hand, will give you the flavor of your chosen cannabis leaves without getting high – remember, THC is only released when marijuana is heated.

Apart from convenience and variety, eating cannabis has another added benefit when it comes to its medical purposes. Since the high lasts longer, its medicinal effects like pain relief also lasts longer. If you want to introduce someone to the cannabis culture, cooking is also an easier, perhaps more socially acceptable, way of showing its benefits.  You should also be more watchful of the amount you’re eating, especially with snackable dishes like brownies. Since the high takes longer to take effect, you might think you haven’t eaten enough only to realize hours later that you’re way past your “sweet spot” already.

There’s another advantage to cooking with marijuana, which is especially beneficial to growers: minimizing wastage. Defective buds, offcuts, and other parts of the cannabis plant that might otherwise go to waste can be gathered and mixed into different dishes and drinks. Growers can even sell the offcuts and otherwise unwanted parts at a lower rate.

As with any skill, cooking with cannabis oil, canna butter, and other ingredients takes time to get used to especially when it comes to getting the dose of cannabis just right for your desired effects.  However, once you get the hang of it, you can continue with experimenting with different recipes, cannabis oils and ingredients, to expand your repertoire; you can even craft your own specialties with unique kinds and levels of high, and develop techniques for more efficient cooking methods.

It may take a while for a more widespread, complete acceptance of cannabis, especially for those who use it recreationally. Using it in other ways, like cooking, however, may be able to help pave the way to break down stereotypes. You can even use it as a way to educate people on the many benefits of cannabis, both to its farmers and users.

Have you ever tried cooking with cannabis oil? What are your favorite recipes? What is your favorite method of cooking? Do you have a preferred ingredient? Let us know and share your experiences in cooking your own cannabis dishes.