Cooking with Cannabis: Decarboxylation
I’m Chef Sharber and I’ve been cooking with cannabis for over a decade. Through much trial and error I’ve managed to stumbled across some very efficient ways to make infused oils for edibles and I’d like to share them with you!
I am a trained chef who specializes in confections and French pastry. In this series I will be sharing with you many of my methods for working with cannabis butter, oils and a few of my favorite recipes. Although mine are not the only methods for working with cannabis, I have found them to be very effective.
The internet is a big place and there’s so much information surrounding cannabis butter and other oils (just do a quick google search). Some of this information should be viewed as nothing more than horrible advice, while other pages may hit the mark. Ultimately this is cooking and cannabis and should be fun. I urge you to make adjustments and experiment, and always remember to write your results down!
Let’s start with the basics, Decarboxylation: Decarboxylation (or decarbing) is a chemical reaction by which you heat cannabis to convert the THCa (Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) and CBDa (Cannabidiolic Acid) into their active forms, THC and CBD. During this reaction, depending on heat and duration, terpenes can be lost. Decarboxylation also converts THC into CBN, resulting in the development of a higher sedative effect if you are not careful.
Decarbing occurs as you burn (smoke) cannabis or when you evenly heat it up to 222°F or higher. This is great for making butter because fats need higher temperatures before they begin to absorb the cannabinoids. Because the process of making cannabis butter requires heating the fats up to 222°F or higher, you do not need to decarboxylate your cannabis first when making Cannabis butter. If you do so, you actually run the risk of losing cannabinoids and terpenes as they are extremely volatile and can vaporize.
Depending on the process and your needs you will have to decide if decarboxylation is right for you. If you are going to be using flower as a garnish or additive after cooking, then it would be best to decarboxylate first, but this is by no means necessary. If you are making cannabis butter (recipe to follow) or cannabis coconut oil you will not need to decarboxylate first. The same does not hold true for oils that are liquid at room temperature, like Olive or Canola oil, in which case it would be best to decarboxylate first.
There are several methods to achieving full decarboxylation. I have added my favorite below.
Method for Full Decarboxylation
- Preheat your oven to 240º
- Put finely ground material on large cookie sheet (insuring maximum surface area)
- Put cookie sheet with cannabis in oven
- Stir every 10 minutes or so, for about 30-40 minutes
If you own a convection oven you’re in luck. The circulating fan means your will get a more even heat, and you won’t need to stir but once or twice, there will also be less of a chance to burn.
Cannabinoids can be infused into any animal or vegetable oil you can think of, however there are some considerations to think of. Are you just going to be making baked goods, or are you wanting to cook with it too? Each and every oil has a different melting, smoke and flash point, as well as either being solid or liquid at room temp. Here is a general guide for the smoking and melting points of many popular cooking oils, please be aware some brands may not be the exact same temperatures, which is why it is best to use only higher quality oils, and if you live near a local health food store, you are in business! If, however, you are wanting to keep the highest terpene profile possible, then I would start with a concentrate like rosin, and just add to clarified butter until dissolved, no water needed.
Most of the time the procedure for cannabis butter has gone something like these two methods:
Method #1 for Infusing Butter (Oil)
- Add butter and Decarboxylated cannabis to crock pot
- Allow to simmer for 2-3 hours between 222º F – 240º F
- Strain and cool the mixture
Method #2 for Infusing Butter (Oil)
- Melt butter on low heat in a heavy bottomed stock pot
- Add your previously made Decarboxylated cannabis and stir for a couple hours between 222º F – 240º F
- Strain and cool the mixture
There are a couple updates to this preparation that are more efficient, and will result in less THC and CBD loss, as well as completely removing the possibility of burning your oil, which means it will be unusable, not only for a deplorable taste, here’s a link that discusses over cooked oils, and human toxicity.
The first update to the cannabis butter recipe was using clarified butter instead of regular butter. This removes the water and milk fat content, raising the smoke point of the butter and gives it a higher heat handling capability. You can also use Ghee (a browned butter that is common in India, South Asian, Iranian and Arabic cuisines) which gives the butter a nutty flavor. Why should I clarify my butter if we are going to use water anyway? couldn’t I just skip this step? Well you could, but you will lose about ¼ of your butter during the clarifying process from water evaporation and removal of the milk solids (the foam). Milk Solids contain fat, and therefore will pull out some of the THC and CBD, and won’t be able to be recovered after the boiling process.
The second overhaul is using boiling water to help stir your mix. If you are using just butter and cannabis, you have to sit and stir constantly, otherwise you run the risk of burning. Using the boiling water method nearly eliminates the chances of burn, as long as you watch the water levels, and make sure it doesn’t run out. Using water is also a way to avoid getting too much chlorophyll into your butter, as chlorophyll is water soluble under the right conditions.
Thanks for reading, next week I will be sharing some recipes for Halloween and discussing the use of terpenes in your recipes!
Clarified Cannabis Butter
- 5 sticks Butter 454g
- 1-2 oz Cannabis Flower or Trim
- 8 cups water
Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat
As the butter heats, the butter fat and milk solids will separate and rise to the top. Use a spoon to skim off this foam.
Once all the foam is skimmed you should be left with clear, yellow butter. Some solids no remain behind, thats okay. Set aside while you get your other ingredients ready
Pour the 8 cups of water into a large Stock pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling add clarified butter and cannabis. Stir to mix evenly. Cover and let boil for 2-3 hours, stirring and checking water occasionally
Once finished strain out cannabis from water-butter mixture with a few layers of cheesecloth, or butter muslin. Let sit until cool enough to handle and squeeze out remaining liquid.
Place into refrigerator for at least 12 hours, or overnight to allow the butter to rise to the top and solidify. Remove from water and pat dry
You can now store this in the freezer for up to a year, or the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks. You may also melt on low heat and put into different containers.