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Sure, you can find any number of tasty, THC-laden treats at your local dispensary — but there is something special about making marijuana munches in the comfort of your own kitchen. DIY edibles put your cooking and baking skills to the test, and they allow you to dig deep into the science of weed, so you can become a more informed (and more effective!) stoner.
Making edibles isn’t as easy as tossing handfuls of flower into your everyday culinary creations. To ensure your edibles provide the effects you crave and taste as delightful as you hope, you need to understand the magic of decarboxylation and infusion.
You are probably familiar with the dominant cannabis compounds responsible for generating the famous effects of weed: THC, CBD and a handful of others. However, what you may not know is that these compounds don’t exist in the raw cannabis plant. In cannabis buds — and, to a lesser extent, in the leaves, stems and roots — cannabinoids exist in an acidic form. Instead of THC, there is THCa; instead of CBD, there is CBDa, etc. The extra attached acid makes it impossible for the compounds to interact with the human body, which is why raw cannabis doesn’t generate psychoactive effects when consumed.
To remove the unwanted acid, raw cannabis must undergo a process called decarboxylation, which transforms cannabinoids into the compounds that easily and effectively bind with human receptors. Though the word might be intimidating, the reality of decarboxylating cannabis is remarkably simple — all it takes is heat.
Smoking and vaping cannabis inherently involve decarboxylation because they apply heat directly or indirectly to cannabis herb. However, when you are making homemade edibles, you need to take the extra step to decarboxylate to ensure your bud will have effects in your final culinary creation. There are two optimal ways to decarboxylate cannabis:
In an oven. Grind your bud to about the size of rice grains, and spread them evenly across a parchment paper–lined baking tray. Set your oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit, and place the tray in the middle rack. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the weed looks lightly golden brown.
With a sous vide. If you have an immersion circulator, follow the instructions for filling your container with water, and set the circulator to 203 degrees Fahrenheit. Grind your bud finely to maximize surface area, and place it in a vacuum-sealed or zip-top bag. Heat the bud in the water for 90 minutes. If you don’t have an immersion circulator, you can still sous vide using a slow cooker.
Once your weed is decarboxylated, its cannabinoids are primed and ready to generate effects. The sooner you use your decarbed bud, the better — so let’s move onto the next essential skill for homemade edibles.
You can mix decarboxylated weed into any food or drink to make an edible — but that edible probably won’t taste particularly good. The plant material creates an unpleasant woody, bitter taste, and it can be difficult to chew and swallow. That’s why you won’t find any chunks of leaf or flower in premade California weed edibles; stoners have perfected their edible recipes using the art of infusion.
Infusion involves transferring cannabis compounds from the plant material into another substance. It is possible to infuse all sorts of other substances, but the most common infusions for the kitchen include cooking oils, alcohols and sweeteners, like honey. Generally, cannabinoids infuse more easily and effectively into substances with a fatty base, like butter, olive oil and coconut oil, but other infusions are possible with the right amount of heat and time.
You can use a saucepan on the stove or a slow cooker to infuse your weed, but there are also specially made infusion tools that make the process much faster and cleaner. Still, if you aren’t sure you want to invest in a fancy infusion gadget, here are some tips for infusing using what you have:
In a saucepan. Place your base in the saucepan over low heat. Add medium-ground weed and cook for three hours, stirring frequently.
In a slow cooker. Place your base and weed in the cooker on the lowest setting, and heat for 4-6 hours, stirring occasionally.
In both cases, you want to avoid using too much heat or leaving the infusion for too long, both of which can degrade your cannabinoids and introduce too much foul-tasting chlorophyl. Once the infusion is complete, you will need to strain out the plant material using cheese cloth, and the finished infusion should be stored in an airtight container.
Once you have your infusion, you can transform essentially any recipe into a “magic” or “special” meal. Have fun, and be careful with your edible dosage!