Cooking & Cannabis — Everything You Need To Know About This Culinary Trend

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As laws and research around cannabis — and in turn its availability — is rapidly evolving, it seems that on a nearly daily basis there's something new to learn about this once taboo plant. And in areas where it is legal, accessible, and a legitimately viable part of the economy, one recent and perhaps less expected ways it's been popping up is as a trend in entertaining. From "weed pairing" parties to edibles, cooking and cannabis have become quite the dynamic duo in the culinary scene of late. So, given your state's laws, should this be the theme of your next dinner party? There are a few factors you may want to consider before trying out the trend.

Firstly, it might be worth mentioning how eating cannabis differs from taking it in other forms, like smoking or vaporizing. "When ingesting cannabis orally, during digestion it passes through the gastrointestinal tract where the cannabinoid compounds (including THC) are absorbed from the stomach and intestines and then passed to the liver," explains Dr. Bonni Goldstein, Weedmaps Medical Advisor and Owner and Medical Director of Canna-Centers Wellness & Education. "THC is then converted by liver enzymes to 11-hydroxy-THC, which is then released into your bloodstream."

It is this conversion that makes the impact on you unique. According to Dr. Goldstein, the main differences are that you'll feel results later (up to two or three hours even) and they can last longer. And, as is the case with most cannabis products — even in states where they're legal — research (including knowing about exact dosages) has a long way to go, which is why medical professionals recommends going low and slow if you're just starting to experiment with edibles. "Too high doses can lead to anxiety, paranoia, and fatigue, so start with a low dose until you know how your body reacts," says Dr. Lindsay Elmore.

Another thing to consider, according to Elmore, is the effect you're looking for. "There are a lot of different cannabis products out there," she says. "If you are looking for the euphoric high effect, select a product with high levels of THC. But if you are looking for a product that does not make you high, consider a product with more, or exclusively, CBD instead of THC."

Now that those basics are out of the way, how can you incorporate edible cannabis into your own home culinary adventures? Amanda Berrill, chef, caterer, and food stylist who regularly works with the plant, has a few suggestions that can get you started. Firstly, before you go tossing the stuff into your regular recipes at random, there's one important step to start with. "Cannabis flower must be decarboxolyzed before use," she explains. "Preheat the oven to 250 degrees, then chop the flower up into about pea-sized pieces and spread evenly on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes and then allow to cool completely."

As for what to do next, Berrill believes infused oil or butter is a good jumping off point. "I'd say the most basic, approachable infusion would be making your own canna butter, or coconut oil for vegans," she says. "This can easily be used in any recipe that calls for butter or coconut oil such as cookies, hummus, or the ever-classic brownies. For an even simpler route, spread some canna butter on a freshly toasted piece of bread and sprinkle with salt."

But even with something as seemingly innocuous as this, there are some things to be aware of. "The most important thing is to keep dosages low," says Berrill. "People react differently to consuming cannabis and it's best to err on the side of caution with low doses. I also recommend to keep alcohol consumption a little lighter than a normal dinner party." Stock up on non-alcoholic options, like flavored seltzers, but if you must serve some booze, opt for beer, wine, and low-alcohol cocktails (like ones make with sake or Aperol instead of the hard stuff).

Altered Plates

If eating cannabis is already part of your repertoire, you might be interested to try an emerging dining trend, pairing your pot with your (non-dosed) dinner courses, like Rachel Burkons, co-founder of catering company Altered Plates does. "The concept of pairing cannabis and food is all about celebrating the terpene aromas found within the cannabis plant," she says. What's a terpene? As Jared Leighty, Talent Development Manager for Weedmaps, explains, it's a molecule within the plant that's responsible for its distinctive aroma. "Terpenes are produced by many species of plants, outside of cannabis, and serve as the main ingredient in essential oils," he says. Essentially, terpenes are the reason that when you smell cannabis, you may detect the same notes found in citrus fruits, herbs, and flowers.

For this reason, Altered Plates opts to pair each course with the flower itself, often by way of pre-rolled cannabis joints. "When presenting a flower pairing, we’re using our sense of smell and taste, and applying them to cannabis," Burkons says. "Like wine pairing — there are certain varieties that have specific aromas and tastes on the palate, which will enhance specific flavors within a dish."

Combining food and cannabis in this way may also benefit those who find eating it to be less predictable in terms of effects. "Unlike unknowingly overdoing it with edibles (I’m sure we’ve all heard of a ‘bad pot brownie’ experience), pairing allows for consumers to be very deliberate over the amount of cannabis they’re ingesting," Burkons offers.

As for the logistics of trying your own pairing party, Burkons suggests letting the scents guide you. "You’ll notice familiar aromas — citrus, flowers, pine-fresh, etc," she says. "It may be self-explanatory, but like a wine pairing, go for aromas that smell good to you!" And also like a wine pairing, you can try a similar or contrasting scent/flavor approach when pairing with food. "For a complimentary pairing, try a citrusy strain of cannabis, like a Tangie, along with a bright, citrusy salad with blood oranges and pistachios," she shares. "Alternatively, [you can] go for more of a contrasting experience, bouncing those citrus notes off an earthy, umami-forward dish, like a mushroom pasta. I also find the classic cannabis strain, Blue Dream — known for its sweet berry notes — a no-brainer with desserts, or alongside cheese and charcuterie." Now all you need is a chic table setting, a mood-setting playlist, and a willing group of guests to have an on-trend and seriously memorable dinner party.

Readers should note that laws governing cannabis, hemp and CBD are evolving, as is information about the efficacy and safety of those substances. As such, the information contained in this post should not be construed as legal or medical advice. Always consult your physician prior to trying any substance or supplement.