How to Prepare Marijuana Flowers for Cooking and Baking

If you’re just getting into marijuana and you’re wondering if you can consume your flowers by eating instead of smoking them, the quick answer is that you can. 

Now, why would you want to do this when you can just easily smoke them? 

Cooking is a good way to use weed that is otherwise not so pleasant to smoke. Also, edibles have a different effect so it’s also worth knowing how to prepare them. But while you can totally use a fresh bud for cooking, the ones that have been dried and cured will always be far superior

Using heat and oil

There are two things you need to keep in mind when using flowers for edibles:

  • You need to heat up your marijuana flowers to bring out its psychoactive effect – This is because heat turns the predominant non-psychoactive compounds in cannabis, THCA and CBDA, into THC and CBD in a process called “decarboxylation”. Controlling the amount of heat during decarboxylation is important because the process also turns the psychoactive cannabinoid THC into CBN which has more of a sedative effect. Baking your weed in the oven is usually the best way to do this.
  • Using oil as a base increases the effect of your marijuana – Most people like to use cannabis oil or cannabutter in their recipes because cannabinoids are not water-soluble. While you can totally use marijuana as an herb seasoning, it won’t be as strong compared to cannabis-infused butter or oils.

Decarboxylation

So the first thing you want to do is to decarboxylate your weed before adding it directly to your recipe or infusing your oil with it. This will depend largely on what your recipe needs. Some ground up flower might work better as an herb seasoning in say, a meat sauce which will already have a bit of fat and oil. Cannabutter or cannabis-infused coconut oil, on the other hand, usually work well for baking. In any case, it’s easy enough to prepare both as long as you already have some flowers at hand.    

Put it in the oven

When using an oven to decarboxylate your flowers, keep in mind that you need to balance temperature vs time. A temperature too high or cooking time too long will degrade most of the cannabinoids.

Typically you’d want to cook your weed in a preheated oven at around 245F for 30 to 40 minutes. This will require a bit of experimentation on your part so you can see what brings you the best results. The pieces should be uniform so break up any large buds before sticking them in but not too small as they can easily burn. Put them on a piece of baking paper so that they won’t burn on the metal tray. 

Make sure to check around the 25-minute mark. Once the buds have turned a nice light brown, you can go take them out of the oven. Let them rest for a bit before grinding. 

If you’re afraid that you’ll burn your weed and waste them, why not just get a cannabis decarboxylator to take the guesswork out of the process? 

How to make cannabutter and canna-oils

The main idea here is that you will be using a bit of heat so that the compounds in the weed dissolves into your butter or oil. You’d want to strain out the plant matter afterward because you don’t want your finished product to have an overpowering weed taste. 

How fine should you grind your buds? It’s basically similar to preparing coffee: the finer the grind, the more compounds will dissolve into the base. However, the taste will also be stronger, so it all boils down to personal preference. Most people prefer a coarse grind a little bit smaller than what you would roll in a joint.   

How long should you steep? Again, this will require some experimentation on your part until you get the kind of potency and taste that you want but the general rule is the longer the infusion time, the stronger the taste. 

Using butter

Eli Christman from Richmond, VA, USA, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There are actually two ways to go about making cannabutter. One would be to make some concentrated cannabis oil first, then mix that with some softened butter. The other would be to melt your butter and infuse it with the dried ground weed, but anytime you melt butter, it will take on a different taste and texture. 

Butter is more delicate than oils so what you want to keep in mind is “low and slow” so you can either use a slow cooker or double boiler. You may see some recipes where you’ll need to add water to the butter while it is cooking. This is perfectly fine since butter won’t mix with water and the compounds in the weed will only dissolve in the butter. The water is only there to ensure that the butter does not get too hot, similar to the principle used by a double boiler and that you can strain the melted butter easier. 

If using a slow cooker, set the heat at around 160 F and steep the cannabis for around 3 hours, stirring occasionally. 

Strain using a cheesecloth and wait for it to cool before putting in the refrigerator.  

Using oils 

Infusing oils is a bit easier and there are two ways to do it. The first one involves adding the ground cannabis directly into the oil then straining it afterward. The second one involves putting the cannabis in a sort of small cheesecloth bag kind of like those spice bags used in making stocks or broth. Some of the more popular choices are olive oil, coconut oil, and canola oil.

Use the same principle when infusing your oil: “low and slow”. You can use either a double boiler or a slow cooker but you can leave it to steep longer. Most people agree on a minimum of 3 hours but some infuse their oils longer than that. 

After straining, let the oil cool down before transferring to an airtight jar. You don’t want to expose your cannabis-infused oil to light and oxygen, so keep it in a cool, dark place. It will keep for around 2 months, longer if you keep it in the refrigerator. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I add ground marijuana flower to food and eat it?

You can but marijuana gives a strong, weed taste to whatever food it is added to. This is why most people prefer to use cannabutter or cannabis-infused oil in their recipes.

Should I cook the cannabis flower before adding it to butter or oil?

Yes you should “decarb” your marijuana buds first before adding it to butter, oil, or any base to activate its THC and CBD content. Typically you would not want to cook the marijuana in the base since high heat ruins butter and the flavor of most oils.

Why do I need to heat my cannabis flower before cooking with it?

Heating up your weed brings out its psychoactive and sedative effects since THCA turns into THC at around 220 F for roughly 30-45 minutes. Prolonged heating will also degrade and oxidize THC into CBN which has more of a sedative effect.

What is “decarboxylation”?

Decarboxylation a chemical reaction where a carboxyl group is removed and carbon dioxide is removed. This process turns the cannabinoids in marijuana, particularly THCA into THC, which has psychoactive properties, CBDA into CBD.

Conclusion

As you can see, it takes quite a bit of experimentation to make good cannabutter or cannabis-infused oil that fits your preferences. Basically, the amount of THC, CBD or CBN will depend on the strain that you used and the time and temperature in the decarboxylation and infusion process and every time you introduce heat, the cannabis compounds get transformed even further. While it can be difficult to fine-tune the cannabinoid content of your butter or oil in a home kitchen settings, you can use the temperatures below as a guide for tweaking your recipe. 

The most volatile terpenes will begin to evaporate around 70 F and most others rapidly at around 100 F. Meanwhile, most flavonoids will begin to boil at around 273 to 352 F which means the flavors of the strain you use will come out at these temperatures. Cannabinoids, particularly THCA and CBDA turn into THC and CBD and become activated at around 220 F for an hour and a half.  

This means that if you’ve already decarboxylated the flowers fully using the oven, the cannabinoids may start to degrade if you cook it even further at higher temperatures during the infusion process and even further if you use the oil for frying or baking. So it is important to keep in mind how you will be using your oil or butter. If you’re gonna use them as a spread on toast or as dressing on a salad, you can decarboxylate the flowers fully in the oven beforehand. If you’re gonna cook it in a sauce or bake it in an edible, you may want to take it out from the oven during decarboxylation a bit earlier or use a strain with higher THC.

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