Cooking with Cannabis: An Introduction

Cannabis culture and food culture are closely intertwined. You don’t need to look far for TV and film depictions of the munchies; most are cliched and a touch reductive. 

Yet, despite the silliness of it all, what cannabis/film enthusiast doesn’t get some second-hand satisfaction from watching Harold and Kumar plow their way through endless White Castle? Who doesn’t get a craving for salty treats when Brian from Half Baked makes an impassioned plea for Funyuns before Kenny makes his fateful trip to the convenience store?

Perhaps, the reason food and cannabis have this harmonious relationship is that THC interacts with brain receptors that regulate our sense of taste and smell [1].

The topic we’re discussing today at Stash Dispensaries in Illinois goes beyond the munchies. We’re cutting out the middleman. Instead of inhaling flower or concentrates, then eating, you can tap right into the source and infuse your cooking with cannabis.

You’re likely not a stranger to the idea of cannabis-infused cuisine. Edibles (like the munchies) are a common TV trope. Who of us can forget the episode of That 70’s Show when the parents accidentally got into the kids’ “special” brownies?

While enjoyable, those ham-fisted TV gags don’t quite tell the whole story of cooking with cannabis. 

One doesn’t merely dump a bunch of uncooked buds into a broth, sauce, or stew, then get up to hijinx. There’s a defined (and refined) process, along with desired effects, that can offer an immersive, therapeutic experience.

Below, we’ll get into the basics of cooking with cannabis.

Cooking, Cannabis, and Chicago

Cooking is a big deal in Illinois (specifically, Chicago). The Windy City is a top ten food city in the US, according to Food & Wine Magazine [2]. Look no further than the recent hit streaming show, The Bear, as an homage to Chi-town’s top-tier cuisine.

Then, consider that Chicago legalized recreational cannabis use for adults in January 2020 [3]. Since then, cannabis culture has flourished throughout the city [4].

Unsurprisingly, there’s been a marriage between Chicago’s otherworldly cuisine and its budding cannabis culture. Places like The Heart Of Chicago Bakery, Mateo’s Pot, and Herbal Notes have successfully infused their offerings with THC. 

There’s a reason these successful establishments are putting cannabis in their culinary offerings–and it’s not because it’s a fun gimmick.

Instead, cannabis-based cuisine is an enjoyable, fulfilling, and discreet cannabis consumption method. We’ll explore some more benefits of cooking with cannabis below.

The Benefits Of Cooking With Cannabis

Those seeking more enduring effects from cannabis will get what they wish from food infused with THC. The intoxicating effects can last up to twelve hours [5]. This potency level vastly outperforms inhaling cannabis from a vape or a joint, which lasts–at most–six hours [6].

 “Longer lasting” often pairs with less intense effects. 

Logic often dictates that a milder “high” would spread over an extended period. Yet, this isn’t the case when you eat dishes infused with THC or cannabis. 

Edible cannabis reaches your stomach, liver, bloodstream, and then brain. The THC is more potent as it’s processed by your liver, making the effects more intense [7].

We’ll note (and further explore in a later section) how this heightened intensity and more sustained effects present risks. However, when harnessed correctly, eating cannabis can be highly therapeutic, enjoyable, and often eye-opening.

What’s more? You don’t need to rely on talented chefs from The Windy City to expertly infuse their appetizers, entrees, and desserts with THC. You can do it yourself!

The culinary world is your oyster when you infuse food with cannabis. The possibilities are endless–as long as you’ve got a knack for balancing flavors and are open to experimentation.

How To Cook With Cannabis

First and foremost, you’ll need to decarboxylate your THC. This process involves activating the cannabinoid to be consumed in edibles. 

“Decarbing” unleashes the THC and CBD from its THCA form CBDA. THCA and CBDA can’t provide the desired effects you seek from the plant. Thus, you won’t feel anything (besides a sore stomach) after eating raw cannabis flower. It must be decarboxylated.

More to the point, decarboxylation involves heating up your cannabis flower in an oven. You can use a stovetop or microwave, but the oven is the most reliable way to activate the THC. Set it to 230-250°F for 25-30 minutes [8].

Putting the temperature higher than what’s suggested above or leaving the flower in too long will likely burn the cannabis and reduce the THC levels. 

You must infuse your oil or butter once you’ve successfully decarbed your flower. 

Choose a European-style butter with a high-fat content to absorb the THC for the best results. Ghee or coconut oil are also viable options since their fats are similar to butter. Their flavors will differ, though–Ghee is nutty, while coconut oil tastes like coconuts (unsurprisingly) [9]. 

Consider purchasing a butter churn to make the process easier. Also, click here for more detailed directions to make THC-infused butter.

Another critical component in this process is dosage considerations. As discussed already, edible cannabis is highly potent. Too much THC content in cannabis-infused food could have adverse consequences ranging from overwhelming to catastrophic.

Note that those new to edible THC should only dose between 1 and 5 milligrams. Those with a higher tolerance can kick things up to 20 milligrams. 

Of course, not everybody is the same. You might have a massive edible tolerance and can eclipse 20 milligrams. Nonetheless, erring on the side of caution is always wise [10].

Be aware that the experience matters, too. 

Specifically, someone might not be vulnerable to any risks of a hearty (but not dangerous) dose. 

Still, that person might not be looking for a mind-bending experience that jacks up their heart rate and makes them consider every life decision they’ve ever made. 

While some individuals enjoy an emotionally demanding cannabis-infused experience, few actually do. Be aware of who you’re cooking for. Foster the experiences they’re seeking with your techniques and dosages.

Safe And Effective Cooking With Cannabis

It’s possible to overdose from smoking cannabis–but the risk is negligible. Edibles, on the other hand, present a far more significant risk for a medical emergency. Some typical adverse consequences of consuming too many edibles include [11]:

  • Panic attacks.
  • Anxiety attacks.
  • Confusion.
  • Delusions.
  • Disorientation.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Depersonalization.

So, we’ll reiterate the importance of responsible cannabis cooking. Stick with the dosages suggested in the previous section. Furthermore, we recommend using cannabis flowers with a slightly lower THC percentage. Between 10% and 15% should do. This will help keep things mellow.

We also suggest using cannabis flower with a high CBD-to-THC ratio. 

Lots of CBD will generally offset symptoms like anxiety and paranoia. However, the remaining THC will be potent enough to give you more positive psychoactive effects [12]. You get the best of both worlds.

Consider your strain’s flavor/terpene profile, which can be fruity, woody, cheese-like, jasmine-based, etc. While this won’t impact safety, it will ensure your cooking is effective and that you’ll enjoy eating your cannabis-infused culinary concoction.

Be mindful of safe portioning too. If you use 100mg of THC in a cake–for instance–and cut it into 10 equally sized slices, each slice will have 10mg of THC. 

Storing Your Cannabis-Infused Foods Safely 

Cannabis-infused food can be stored for extended periods, depending on the food in question and how you store it.

Here are some best-practice storage methods for your food infused with cannabis:

  • Silicone containers are ideal for short-term storage. Such a container should provide a very close/tight fit for the food to avoid moisture build-up. 
  • Airtight containers help THC-infused food stay fresh for several weeks. Before placing the food in an airtight container, put it in a Ziploc bag or parchment paper. 
  • Mason jars also help hold onto freshness.
  • A freezer can keep your cannabis-infused food fresh for months. Slowly defrost your THC-based treats to prevent any adverse impact on the taste.
  • Any cannabis-infused food with sugar, oil, and flour does well when stored in the fridge.

Disclaimer: Keep your THC-infused eats away from pets and children. 

Keeping your cannabis treats away from pets is more straightforward because a firmly closed lid typically does the trick. That said, keeping them hidden away in a cupboard or fridge will better ensure your pets won’t get into it.

Children can be a bit more complex. 

Your young ones are bound to stumble upon THC brownies–for instance–you’re keeping in the fridge or freezer. You might be better off making once-off meals with cannabis or keeping food in childproof containers or at a childless friend’s house.

Tips On How To Cook With Cannabis

Avoid disastrous dosage consequences by starting low and slow. Even if you’re a seasoned consumer of edibles (made by someone else), you’ve never cooked with them before. Treat yourself as an edible cannabis rookie as you fine-tune your skill set.

As you hone your craft as a cannabis-infused cook, remain focused on balancing flavors. 

For example, sweet balances spicy and vice versa. The same goes for sweet and salty–who doesn’t enjoy a sea salt and caramel chocolate bar? 

Of course, it’s more complex than dumping in salt, sugar, and spices and thinking it’ll taste good. There’s nuance involved, and you’ll perfect your balancing through trial and error.

Most chefs using cannabis prioritize the terpenes found in a given strain [13]. 

Terpenes are the fragrant oils in fruits, flowers, herbs, and…yes…cannabis. Think about them as you do about matching your meals with wine or beer. For instance, a Chianti from Tuscany complements a lamb ragu’s meat sauce better than a Bud Light.

A controversial topic we’ll discuss is how THC brownies don’t typically taste great. In fact, you might be better off not making them if taste matters to you.

To the above point, most cannabis strains have herbaceous flavor profiles that better suit savory dishes. Savory flavor profiles don’t get overpowered by terpenes. Moreover, you’ll find the same terpenes in ginger, cloves, oregano, rosemary, etc., as you do in cannabis.  

You also must use the appropriate incorporation technique. 

For example, if you want to turn your decarbed cannabis into butter, it’ll take four hours to infuse it on a stovetop [14]. From there, you can incorporate it into baking as you would regular butter. You can even butter a pan with cannabis butter and fry an egg. It’s up to you!

Other Important Considerations About Cooking With Cannabis

Legal considerations of cooking with cannabis are paramount. You don’t want to jump into the world of culinary THC without a firm understanding of the laws.

While recreational adult-use cannabis is legal in Chicago and the rest of Illinois, that’s not the case everywhere else in the US. 

Federally, cannabis is still illegal. Legality is different from state to state. You also can’t transport cannabis over state lines.

Additionally, cannabis doesn’t always react well when on specific medications (e.g., antidepressants, anti-anxiety pills, and antibiotics). Perform due diligence if you’re on a prescription or any other medication before mixing it with cannabis-infused food (or cannabis in general). 

You also need to consider your personal preferences–and the palates of others you might be cooking for. A smash-hit recipe for some could be mediocre to others, and vice versa.

Conclusion: Ready To Start Cooking With Cannabis? Let Stash Dispensaries Be Your Guide

Learning how to cook with cannabis empowers you to make creative, vibrant dishes that provide a more impactful experience than vapes or traditional smoking. It’s also a more low-key way to consume cannabis than other methods.

Cooking–in general–is highly therapeutic and enables you to flex your creative muscles. Adding cannabis into the equation adds to this excitement.

We’ll note that this article is meant to be an entry point to cooking with cannabis. Explore this unique world further to expand your mind and your palate. 

Instagram pages with adventurous cannabis-infused creations are plentiful. Visit these frequently.

Or visit one of the local eateries discussed earlier to taste firsthand what the best in the business are doing.

During your journey to becoming a fine-tuned cannabis-infusing cook, visit Stash Dispensaries for high-quality ingredients (i.e., our top-tier cannabis products). We’re also brimming with other cooking resources to help hone your skill set.



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