It’s not enough to simply simmer your chopped-up marijuana buds in butter anymore. Today’s more highly advanced experts on cooking with cannabis strongly suggest that, in order to reap the reefer’s full benefits, you should prep the pot first, using a somewhat modernist-sounding technique.
It’s called decarboxylating. And, it’s “an essential step,” says Matt Gray, CEO of The Stoner’s Cookbook, the country’s largest online resource for cannabis-based recipes. “But, it’s something that most people have no idea about.”
Gray is hoping that his forthcoming hardcover cookbook, Herb: Mastering the Art of Cooking with Cannabis, will better educate America’s aspiring marijuana chefs about this method and more. The book, which seeks to become “the definitive guide” on the subject, includes “input from doctors, cannabis experts and some of the best edible chefs in the country,” he says. The project is being crowdfunded, but not because of skittishness or a lack of interest from traditional publishing houses, according to Gray. Rather, it’s to make sure the tome comes out in a timely fashion. He’s aiming for early 2015.
“There’s just a lot of misinformation out there, or lack of information, when it comes to cannabis in general, its effects, what benefits it has and how it affects your body, as well as just how to properly make your own edibles that are safe,” says Gray. He points to some recent incidents in the famously decriminalized state of Colorado where consumers, notably including a certain New York Times columnist, overindulged on marijuana-infused goodies, to disasterous effect.
Gray chalks it all up to misinformation. “This book is really going to clear all of that up,” he says. “We’re going to have a very in-depth, 200-page-plus, hardcover, gorgeous cookbook. But, it’s more than that. It’s going to go through all the science behind cannabis, the different strains and subspecies, the difference between indica versus sativa, and which one you should be using for whatever you’re hoping to get out of it…. The more we can just give people the information and arm them with the facts, it gets rid of the whole stigma surrounding cannabis and allows people to see it as just an herb. And that’s our goal.”
Just an herb? Sure. But, it ain’t exactly basil. You can’t just tear it up and toss it into the pan. Not if you want to do it right. Moreover: Basil is cheap. Weed is not. And, Gray wants you to get the most for your money. “We’re trying to teach people the best and most efficient way to extract the maximum benefit from the cannabis,” he tells Food Republic. “If you just stick it in butter, you probably will get some benefit from the cannabis. But, you’re wasting so much of it.”
There are some critics who dispute the very notion that marijuana needs to be heated at all in order to have any therapeutic or psychoactive effect. For instance, in his “Brief History of Cooking With Marijuana,” respected food chronicler Robert Sietsema calls it a “popular misconception that you have to cook it in oil; some even say you must use butter.” Sietsema points to the ancient Indian beverage called bhang, which blended raw cannabis with milk and clarified butter (ghee), as well as the famous Alice B. Toklas recipe for “Haschich Fudge,” which called for pulverized pot to be “dusted” over a mixture of fruit, nuts, sugar and butter.
Gray counters that the science behind cannabis-infused cooking has improved greatly since Toklas’ primitive attempt back in the 1950s. “I don’t know what kind of feeling you’re getting after you eat, like, raw cannabis,” he says. “But, at the end of the day, that’s not an effective way of doing it at all. And, I would never, ever, recommend that to someone.”
Gray explains the science thusly: “Raw cannabis contains a lot of THCA, which is nonreactive. When you smoke cannabis, it heats up to a certain temperature and loses a CO2 molecule and becomes THC, which has the psychoactive benefits that many users are looking for.” Simply simmering cannabis in butter, or oil, isn’t always enough to fully convert all of the THCA into THC, he continues. And so, the result is less than optimal: “You’re going to make a very dull cannabutter,” he says.
The best method, Gray says, involves some added prep work. “So, instead of just, say, sticking your cannabis in butter or sticking it in oil, you should first grind it onto a baking sheet, stick it in your oven at 310-degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 to 18 minutes. That allows it to become psychoactive and it’s ready to cook with.”
Now, you can make your cannabutter, cannaoil, or cannawhatever.
An alternative decarboxylation method described on Grey’s site involves steeping the cannabis in a boilable pouch submerged in 212-degree water for 90 minutes — a sort of stoner’s sous-vide. (Yes, we’re rapidly approaching “MacGuyver“-level ingenuity here.)
It’s all about getting the most out of a very expensive cooking ingredient, Gray says: “If you’re buying an ounce of cannabis, let’s say for $300, and you screw that up? It’s a costly mistake. Whereas, if you’re able to do it properly, follow all the steps that we outline, and you really understand the science behind what you’re doing, it really just gives the user a lot more power to make some amazing edibles and get the maximum benefit possible from that cannabis.”
Read more marijuana-related riffs on Food Republic: