BY MARIE LODI
Cooking with cannabis requires skills, of course. But whipping up infused dishes that actually taste great shouldn’t be daunting: it isn’t completely out of reach, even for novice chefs. If you already know how to cook regular foods, all you really need are the proper tools, correct dosage, and a little knowledge of terpenes. It also wouldn’t hurt to have the advice of a couple of cannabis cooking experts. Here, Jessica Catalano, cannabis chef and author of The Ganja Kitchen Revolution, and Monica Lo, photographer and creator of Sous Weed, shared a few savvy tips on how to cook with cannabis...to delicious effect.
Before you delve into your culinary adventure, Catalano says you have to make sure you’re familiar with your diners. “The first, is to know your audience. You don't want to over- or under-medicate yourself or other people,” she says. Lo also stresses just how important dosing is. “Make sure to calculate your infusions and label which items are medicated before serving to others,” Lo advises. “There are plenty of online calculators if you don't know where to begin. Always remember to start low and go slow!”
Think of cannabis as a spice
“Treat each cannabis strain like an herb for flavoring,” Catalano says. “Different strains not only bring different effects but also flavor profiles due to terpenes. Play around and have fun with it!”
Best dishes for infusing with cannabis
We’ve seen everything from pasta to milkshakes be transformed thanks to cannabis, but it begs the question: Can all foods be improved with weed? Absolutely, according to Catalano. “Anything and everything can be made with cannabis, which makes cooking with it so great. If you keep the strain flavor profiles in mind, pairing these flavors to the right dishes will create mouthwatering food.” Lo, on the other hand, prefers savory Asian dishes in particular, for cannabis cooking.
Since cooking with cannabis is a bit more involved than whipping up an average meal, there are certain tools you’ll need to keep in the kitchen. Both Lo and Catalano underscore that a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth is necessary for straining the infusions. Catalano also suggests having the following on hand: canning jars (4 oz. to 8 oz. in size), a crockpot, cookie sheet, double boiler, a stock pot, wooden spoons, containers for butters and oils, parchment paper, a cannabis grinder, and, of course, some quality cannabis to cook with. “These items are basic tools that will allow you to make infusions in a variety of different ways,” Catalano says.
Do strains matter?
When it comes to cooking with cannabis, Catalano says that there isn’t a particular strain that’s superior. Instead, focus on personal preference for effect and flavor. “The best way to pair for flavor is to approach it as a herb, like basil or oregano,” Catalano says. “Pick out a strain first by smelling it. Then, squeeze the bud between your fingers to release the terpenes. Smell your hands to see which essential oils have been released.” If desired, smoke or vape the flower before tinkering with it in the kitchen, in order to experience its effects and taste its flavor profile. She then says to pair the smell of the strain to a dish that you will be preparing. “For example, Lemon Kush could be paired with Vietnamese Spring Rolls, as the lemon citrus flavors of the strain really brighten the earthy flavors of the spring roll,” Catalano explains. Lo also recommends matching terpene profiles. “Something with a bright, citrus-y, limonene terpene profile might be great in a salad dressing or in dessert,” Lo says. “Something funky and herbaceous might work better in a savory, main course. It's all about the pairing!”
A common cannabis cooking blunder
One common mistake that Catalano sees has to do with color. When cooking with flower, people tend to think that the greener the cannabis butter is, the better,” Catalano says. “This is not the case at all. It actually only indicates that all of the chlorophyll has been leached out of the flowers during the cooking process.” In other words, don’t give too much thought to the color of your canna-dish.