Let’s face it: making your own cannabis edibles can be a little confusing, even if you honestly haven’t been doing any tasting. It’s a complex process, and this is even truer if you’re new to it.
Even now, with years of experience, I catch myself making errors.
There is more than one good way to create high-quality cannabis edibles, and many talented cannabis chefs have their own, unique processes. However, there are some common pitfalls to avoid—rookie mistakes that most of us make right out of the gate.
So while trial and error and staying creative are part of the art of making great edibles, it pays to ponder these rookie mistakes and the cooking tips that can help you avoid them. We can all improve our craft in the kitchen.
Whether you’re an old hand at making edibles who just wants them to be perfect or you’re new to the process and want the details, here are the typical mistakes we all make when we’re cooking and baking with cannabis.
Rookie Mistake #1: Spending Too Much on the Cannabis
You may think you need to dump a whole half ounce into your cup of oil or butter to make some truly awesome edibles, but that’s not how it works. Instead, focus on the science.
Lipids in the fat, whether it’s butter or some kind of oil, can only bind with a set number of cannabinoids. This means that there’s a ratio of how much cannabis to use for the fat, because any more is providing more cannabinoids than can bind with the lipids:
- 1 cup of fat (butter or oil) to 1 cup of coarsely ground cannabis (typically 7 to 10 grams)
Using more flower than this 1:1 ratio is essentially wasteful, so don’t buy more. Many novices start experimenting in the kitchen and forget that a little goes a long way, wasting lots of bud in the process. A large quantity of cannabis is almost never needed to create the effect you want. Check out our cannabutter recipe for more details.
You can also save money by infusing your fats with cannabis stems, shake, trim, leaves, or cannabis flower that has been vaporized—AVB, “already vaped bud,” sometimes also called “ABV” for “already been vaped.” You can also use mixed bud for creating edibles as many commercial cannabis kitchens do.
Save your best flower for smoking.
This isn’t to say that you aren’t after the whole plant cannabis effects, and just like when you smoke cannabis, cannabis edibles made with different strains can produce unique effects. This is based mostly on the specific terpene and cannabinoid profiles of the plant, less than indica vs sativa plant genetics.
Terpenes produce plant and flower aromas and tastes, and they also play a major role in the effects of cannabis. The entourage effect, a synergistic phenomenon that occurs between many compounds in the cannabis plant when they are consumed together, includes terpenes, cannabinoids such as CBD and THC, and other plant compounds.
However, you can achieve these effects without breaking the bank.
Rookie Mistake #2: Failing to Decarb
One of the most common mistakes among the new? Cooking and baking with raw cannabis.
Do not just put raw, unactivated bud into your food, batter, or ingredients. You’ll ruin the dish, because it will taste bad, to start with. But also, you won’t feel anything and will have wasted cannabis, because the cannabinoids will not be able to fully activate and bind with the lipids in the food.
To activate cannabinoids such as THC and CBD in cannabis it takes the slow and steady application of heat in a process called decarboxylation. Before using cannabis in food, you must decarboxylate it.
Now, it’s possible to infuse very slowly in fats and skip this step, but it hurts the flavor of your final product and reduces its potency. Just decarboxylate your cannabis first in the oven, where you can maintain a low and steady temperature and avoid destroying essential cannabinoids.
Although it may sound complex, decarboxylation is really very simple. Check out our detailed guide in the cannabutter recipe, but basically:
- Preheat the oven to 240°F
- Spread cannabis—no need to grind yet—on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper
- Heat in the oven for about 1 hour, stirring gently every 10 to 15 minutes
- Grind by hand after decarboxylation
Remember: Decarboxylate your cannabis before adding it to fat for best results.
Rookie Mistake #3: Wrong Temperatures
Remember, to get the right results, you need to maintain the right temperatures, both during decarboxylation and during infusion, for the right amount of time.
In general, for decarboxylation:
- Heat the oven to 240°F (about 120°C)
- Heat for 50 to 60 minutes
- Gently stir the cannabis every 10 to 15 minutes
Some people heat for about 20 minutes at 300°F (150°C) stirring more often—about every five minutes—to save time, but this is far less reliable.
Infusion temperatures are a bit different. Steeping ground cannabis in fats demands a steady temperature between 160 and 200°F. If you’re using a slow cooker this is typically the low or medium setting, and of course the sous vide method is precise. It’s tougher on the stovetop, which is why a double boiler is safer.
Either way, when you’re in the right temperature zone, make sure you stay there with a thermometer. Infuse in that golden temperature zone for about three hours.
Rookie Mistake #4: Grinding the Cannabis Too Fine
If your edibles tend to taste very, well—plant-y and grassy, you’re probably grinding your cannabis into too fine a powder. Some canna chefs recommend grinding cannabis with a coffee grinder or a food processor, we don’t recommend it. Either way your cannabis is too fine, which leads to:
- a strong, grassy, plant-like taste thanks to excessive chlorophyll in the oil
- a green product, which looks cool but signals the nasty flavor to come
- the straining step becoming impossible
Once you decarboxylate your cannabis in the oven or a device, grind it with a hand grinder so it is coarse—ideally aim for something similar to coarse sea salt. Cannabinoids bind readily with the fats in the oil or butter, and they can still do that without absorbing any excess plant matter thanks to a coarse grind.
Rookie Mistake #5: Squeezing the Infusion Too Much
After infusion it’s time to strain all of the excess plant matter from your product—usually with a wire mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth. But don’t squeeze your infusion through the cheesecloth, or you’ll get a small additional amount of oil along with lots of bitter plant material. Instead, let gravity do the work slowly.
Rookie Mistake #6: Failing to Test Potency Before Cooking
Even edibles from a dispensary can feel risky in terms of effects. Homemade edibles might feel even more unpredictable—and if you don’t test potency before you cook or bake, they are. Instead, run a test first so you know what to expect.
Add ¼ teaspoon of your infused oil or cannabutter to a food or drink as a personal dose. Wait one hour and then two to see what effects you experience. This can help you assess how much one dose should be.
Once you know how much of your infusion produces the effects you want, multiply that dose by the number of servings if you are making something shareable like a pizza or cake, just add the right dose to each plate as a drizzle or topping.
Rookie Mistake #7: Inability to Properly Incorporate Concentrates
Cooking with cannabis concentrates also takes some practice and, at times, special equipment. Check out our post on making edibles with concentrates, but get ready to work with sticky products! Invest in silicone tools.
Keep in mind that you will need less comparatively to make edibles with the same potency since cannabis concentrates are stronger than regular flower. This is particularly important to consider with concentrates you see on the market today such as shatter, wax, oils, and related extractions.
Rookie Mistake #8: Uneven Potency Caused by Lack of Stirring
Have you ever had the experience of whipping up a delightful batch of something for the group, only for one of you to be in the stratosphere and another to be wondering why they didn’t work? When edibles give you uneven results in terms of potency, that’s almost always because there wasn’t quite enough stirring.
Stir far more than you normally might when making edibles, because you have to ensure that you distribute your infused oil or cannabutter evenly across the whole batter, batch, or whatever you have. That’s the only way to be certain each piece or serving will have the right dose, and the full effect.
Final Thoughts on Beginner’s Mistakes and Edibles
Sure, there are lots of ways to go wrong making your own cannabis edibles—but there are more ways to go right! Just keep these rookie mistakes on the radar, and you’re sure to produce better results. And don’t forget to refer to our basic cannabis infusion recipes.