Cannabis cuisine has advanced dramatically in recent years. More people are cooking with cannabis, and techniques and results are becoming increasingly spectacular. Read on for a basic overview of important “do’s & don’t’s” to consider when hosting your cannabis dinner party!
Now, cannabis is becoming “normalised” for millions of people, and the idea of inviting a few friends or relatives over for a cannabis-themed dinner party is no longer quite the alien concept that it previously was. There’s even an emerging market in cannabis-themed weddings and other high-class events – so there’s an increasing pressure to offer the highest-quality cannabis edibles and drinks at such events, along with the cannabis itself!
Feeding Cannabis to Others – Things to Remember
When cooking with cannabis for other people, the first and most important thing to be aware of is dosage. Even if you regularly consume edibles yourself, other guests may have differing tolerance, and may respond differently to the effects of cannabis. As with so many things in life, moderation is key.
Generally, people with low tolerance should limit their total intake of THC to 10-15mg, in order to avoid overwhelming or potentially unpleasant effects. Even the most seasoned user of cannabis edibles will generally stay in the range of 25-80mg, although some US dispensaries sell products containing as much as 1000mg of THC!
In order to ensure that every requirement is catered for, it’s best to provide a range of dishes containing differing concentrations of cannabinoids. This can be approached in various ways – bite-sized items can be made to contain a small dose of just 1-2mg of THC, for example, and guests can gradually increase their intake as they feel comfortable.
Portion control is of fundamental importance – so when offering medicated drinks, sauces, and sides, ensure that you have a reasonable idea of THC content in milligrams per cup, ladle, spoonful, and so on.
Remember to Decarboxylate!
When making edibles, it’s important to fully decarboxylate your cannabis if you wish to experience its full potential in cooking. The cannabis plant produces non-psychoactive cannabinoid acids, which convert to psychoactive cannabinoids on exposure to heat.
This process happens very gradually as the plant matures, and continues as it dries and cures (but tests have shown that even well-cured cannabis does not decarboxylate much). Typically, when cannabis is smoked or vaped, it’s the high temperatures that complete the decarboxylation process.
So in many cases, it may be necessary to gently heat your cannabis to complete the decarboxylation process. This is useful when making extracts, which are often made without heat (butane, ethanol, isopropyl, dry ice, ice-water, for example).
Some cooking methods may involve temperatures high enough and sustained enough that decarboxylation will occur, but in order to be sure, it’s a good idea to thoroughly decarboxylate first. A good rule of thumb is to aim for a temperature of around 105-110 C (220-230 F) for 20-40 minutes. The process can occur in an oven, a hot oil bath or a water bath (using a sealed, heatproof container is a good idea for the first method, and crucial for the latter two!).
…And Don’t Overheat Your Cannabis!
On the other hand, it’s important not to let temperatures get too high, as cannabinoids including THC and CBD begin to evaporate at around 160-200 C (320-390 F). As well as this, certain terpenes and terpenoids (substances that are largely responsible for flavour and aroma in cannabis and other plants) begin to evaporate at similar temperatures.
So if you wish to preserve the maximum in flavour and effect, it’s best to keep to temperatures below this range. This doesn’t limit options as much as one might expect, as there’s countless dishes that can be prepared at lower temperatures, including salads, soups, sauces, and desserts.
Furthermore, even if oven temperature is higher than 200 C (390 F), internal temperatures don’t necessarily need to be that high for food to be cooked. For example, most meat, egg and seafood dishes are considered safe at internal temperatures of 63-77 C (145-170 F).
Thus, there’s a whole range of dishes that can still be safely cooked at higher temperatures – but to minimise the potential for cannabinoid and terpene loss, it’s best to try and contain them within the dish – so consider making stuffings and fillings with cannabis, or using a meat injector. Don’t baste with cannabis oil or butter, as external temperatures may be high enough to boil off cannabinoids and terpenoids.
Offer Cannabinoid-Free Options
It is always a good approach to keep certain dishes unmedicated – for example, the main dishes could be left free from cannabinoids, with the active ingredients contained only in sauces, drinks, desserts, or sides.
It’s also important for guests to exercise restraint, as the effects of THC take far longer to become apparent when eaten, compared to smoked. It could take anything from 30-120 minutes before the effects reach their peak – so having extra dishes without THC to assuage hunger is crucial, to avoid tempting your guests to exceed their safe limit.
Even THC-free dishes can still be made according to the cannabis theme – this is where dishes containing hemp could be useful, or there’s also the option to offer dishes containing non-psychoactive cannabinoid extracts such as CBD and CBC.
Other options include adding cannabis terpenes to food and drinks to add flavour and aroma reminiscent of cannabis, or offering other foods that contain terpenes known to be complementary to cannabis!
Think About Terpene Combinations for Flavour, Aroma & Effect
Exploring these last two options in greater depth opens up a world of new options in terms of taste and effect. For example, if some guests wish to intensify the effects of THC, foods that contain high concentrations of myrcene could be offered, such as mango, lemongrass and verbena.
Other terpenes that could provide “entourage effects” include beta-caryophyllene (found in black pepper, cloves, cinnamon and many more), which is a dietary cannabinoid in its own right, as it binds to the CB2 receptor. Adding extra beta-caryophyllene could help guests with pain, inflammation, bacterial or fungal diseases.
Alpha-pinene (sage, rosemary, lime), beta-pinene (cumin, hops), linalool (coriander, bay laurel, sweet basil), and d-limonene (most citrus fruits) may all confer their own medicinal benefits. For more information, take a look at our in-depth explanation of terpenes, terpenoids and their medicinal properties.
Terpene combinations are responsible for almost infinite variation in flavour and aroma in the plant kingdom. Since as far back as our early hunting and gathering days, we’ve been indirectly studying these different combinations as we taste and discover new foods, and discover what tastes good and does good for our bodies.
Understanding Terpene Combinations in Wine, Beer & Cannabis
When it comes to cuisine, knowing which wine to pair with a specific dish is a skill that can take years of training to refine. The variation in wine is immense – batches of the same grape grown in different terroirs will differ greatly, for example. Furthermore, there are over 10,000 different grape varieties used in wine-making throughout the world, with their own unique set of characteristics and terpene profiles.
Within the world of craft beer brewing, there is also huge potential variation in aroma and flavour conferred by differences between varieties of hop, malt, and so on. Compare all this to cannabis and we see that there are similar levels of complexity involved – tens of thousands of different strains, and an almost infinite variety of possible flavours, aromas, and effects.
An expert understanding of all this variation could take years to master, but a basic understanding comes naturally to us as humans, and a little research can open up a lot of doors. There are plenty of aroma kits available for the study of wine flavours – along with visual aids such as the Wine Aroma Wheel, which was developed in the 1980s by researchers at the University of California, and which has already been adapted in various ways for use with beer and cannabis!
Putting Knowledge Into Practice
With all this wonderful natural variation, options are endless when it comes to planning a cannabis dinner party. Furthermore, the art of pairing cannabis with food, beer and wine is in its infancy, so there is a lot left to learn about what works well together. Therefore, it’s best to arm yourself with a basic idea of what works, and add to that a healthy portion of trial-and-error to discover new combinations and recipes!
Of course, none of this is necessary when it comes to cannabis cookery – in fact, it can be as simple as infusing some BHO into some oil or butter and adding it to whatever preparation you like. A lot of BHO has been stripped off its terpenes, so it’s essentially flavourless, and it’s so concentrated that not much is needed. So one approach to cannabis cookery is just to medicate any dish and get high – and that works for some people, some of whom may consider the taste of cannabis unpleasant.
But that’s missing out on a whole world of flavours and aromas, especially now that the range of cannabis strains and flavours is so great, and cultivation and extraction techniques have advanced to the point that flavour and quality is reaching incredible heights. For one thing – in the past, edibles and extracts were almost always made with leaf trim and other low-quality scraps. Now that many people are using clean, high-quality flowers instead of leaf, the bitter taste of chlorophyll is becoming a thing of the past!
So here we have picked a selection of helpful resources that we feel best represent the ethos of incorporating the flavours and aromas of cannabis into cuisine, as well as the psychoactive effects. If there’s anything that you feel we’ve left unexplained or unanswered, please don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments!
- A three-course, two-cocktail menu using cannabis “not just as a psychoactive ingredient but a distinctive herb” from GQ Magazine. Featuring bluefish seasoned with Sour Diesel Kif and cocktails with Northern Lights cream!
- An in-depth discussion on pairing beer and hash, from Food Republic. With cannabis blogger Ed Hass, who hosts a seminar on the subject in Denver.
- Some more information on terpenes in foods and how to pair them with cannabis for enhanced flavour and effect, from Thrillist.
- A comprehensive starting guide to cannabis and wine pairings from Leafly.
- An interactive cannabis flavour wheel from Cannabiscope.
- A closer look at terpenoids and other flavour compounds in common herbs and spices, from Compound Interest.
- Some ideas for cooking with hemp and hemp flour, from Spicie Foodie.