Know Your Ingredients: Cannabis

A Layman’s Guide To Cooking With Cannabis

Dan Pennington
5 min read
Close-Up Photo of Kush On Glass Container
Expand your horizons, taste and mind alike. (Yash Lucid)
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As we begin our approach to legalization here in New Mexico, a lot of things are going to change. For many, the opportunity to begin legally trying and buying cannabis products to incorporate them into our lives is an exciting prospect, one that’s going to take some finesse and practice. In preparation for these changes, I embarked on a quest to make my own edibles. Thankfully, through my mistakes of trial and error while living in Colorado, we can learn a few lessons to avoid once things are finalized, so you can avoid throwing away hundreds of dollars in product like I did!

First let’s talk product. In most cooking instances, the goal is to find the most top of the line, perfect products for optimal results. This is a mixed bag when it comes to making a good edible. You want something that is moderately potent when smoked and has a good scent/flavor to it, but you definitely don’t want an overly expensive strain to be essentially used as a seasoning. Find something mid-range and you can cover your bases easily, without breaking the bank. A little will go a long way, with roughly a cup of oil/butter needing around 7 to 10 grams of marijuana to be a useful potency.

The main plan was to make brownies, so with a box of batter and a small package of dry marijuana, I followed all the normal steps of brownie making, crushed up some bud, tossed it all together and into the oven. Not only did I have some of the worst tasting brownies in the world but add in the fact that there were chunks of leaves and stems which made eating them a pretty bad experience, I felt nothing after hours of waiting quietly on my couch. Turns out that there’s an activation process required, called “decarboxylation,” which requires the marijuana in question to be heated and prepared beforehand.

The easiest way to achieve this is to grind up your herbs, like you normally would, and roast them for around 45 minutes at about 230 degrees. The goal is to not grind them too finely, otherwise you’ll end up with a very grassy and earthy taste. Maybe that’s what you’re into, in which case, go for it. But looking for a ground up texture size around table salt will be your best bet. The trick to this is to aim for a long, slow, even heat to get the activation going, so patience is key.

The other route is to aim for a butter or oil infusion, which not only makes the baking process easier, but gives it a more natural feel for consumption. A rule of thumb should be a 1:1 ratio, though if you’re just getting into edibles for the first time, maybe cut the cannabis ratio by 1/4 to avoid overdoing it. Just don’t make the mistake of a 2:1 ratio of cannabis to butter, at which point one of your brownies will leave you useless for the next 6 to 8 hours while you consider the universe and our place in it. Before doing any baking or cooking with your new creation, give it a little taste test and wait an hour to see how you feel. This will help you get an effective idea of what you’re working with to achieve your desired high.

The process is mostly the same: a fine grind, low temperature and giving it enough time to activate. Using a slow cooker gives you more control than you would think, allowing you to keep a consistent heat and stir with ease, though you can use a saucepan on a low heat as well, but you’ll need to keep a closer eye on it. A recommendation from a friend was to do a 1 to 1 ratio of water to butter to help avoid any burning and scorching that may occur, as well as helping keep the butter simmering around 160 to 180 degrees. After 3 to 4 hours, you’ll have everything you need to make another attempt at the brownies. Just take a cheesecloth and strain out your leftover herbs, being careful not to squeeze too hard, unless you want a bright green butter from chlorophyll.

All that’s left to do now is substitute your THC butter for regular butter in your brownie recipe and be sure to mix it in evenly. The more consistently you spread it out within the batter, the more consistent quality you’ll have after baking. Don’t be afraid to mix it a few more times, just to make sure. Bake it, cool it, eat it and enjoy your afternoon off.

Clearly, I’m no expert though. We are lucky to live in a state with plenty of people who know far more than I do, and can help make your journey to cooking with cannabis much easier than any article I could write. Thankfully, those people will be gathering in one place on
March 23 for The New Mexico Cannabis Expo at The Santa Fe Convention Center from 11am to 5pm. Admission is $10 for the general public, or $5 for medical cannabis cardholders. With professionals from all over the state, you’ll be able to learn about all the uses for medical cannabis and hemp products, and what future legalization will mean for you. For more information about attendees and other questions you might have, feel free to swing by
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