Ask a Chef: Is decarboxylation always necessary?
Is decarboxylation always necessary? Yes, absolutely! If you are baking your edibles using either flower or concentrate you have infused into oil or butter, for example, you will certainly feel some effects from the THC that IS activated during the baking process. If you decarboxylate your product, either flower or concentrates, before the infusion process, your edibles end up being far more potent. Since you did pay for the product, whether directly through a dispensary or growing it and making it yourself and paying for the electricity and water in which to do so, it is a good practice to get as much bang for your buck as you can. The process of decarboxylation is a chemical reaction that removes a carbon group in a molecule and releases carbon dioxide. This turns THC-a into THC and CBD-a into CBD while releasing a host of other cannabinoids that work together to increase a product’s psychoactive effects. While THC-a does have some anti-inflammatory properties there are no Psychoactive effects.
Basically it won’t get you high. This is why you cannot get high from merely eating raw cannabis. You have to add a source of heat to make a chemical reaction happen. If you are not smoking it and directly adding fire or heat, then different measures should be taken, especially if you are making no-bake cookies, goo balls, or fat bombs… things that do not require baking at all.
While there are many different ways you can accomplish this process, most have various pros and cons. For example, using a crockpot with a water bath has the idea that the water will boil and stay at a consistent 212 degrees Fahrenheit, but because it doesn’t get hotter than that, you are missing out on some of the chemical reactions that still could occur. Some people set their ovens at 200 or 250 degrees Fahrenheit and put the buds on a sheet pan in a foil tent or a glass mason jar for an hour. The problem here is uneven chemical reactions since most ovens can vary in temperature by up to 10 degrees from one side to the other. Some of your flower can be burning while other buds are only partially potent. Decarboxylation is a delicate science because once you bring the THC to its maximum potency, the product will start to lose potency if the heating continues. While these options will certainly work, finding the most precise way you are able to do this is highly recommended.
There are many products on the market that would suit a variety of needs that help combat some of the common issues with trying to decarboxylate correctly. They are called decarb units and are designed specifically to heat the product to the exact proper temperature for maximum potency and keep it there for the correct amount of time. Since it keeps it at the lowest temperature possible the terpene profile is not compromised or changed. This is a nice bonus for people who love to cook with a specific strain that may complement certain recipes and flavor profiles, especially if you are a person who is cooking with cannabis or concentrates regularly. Some brands can get a little pricy, but are well worth your investment since it maximizes potency, you can use less product to accomplish the same effect therefore it is saving you money. And who doesn’t like saving money and getting high at the same time?
Sara Elizabeth Barber, a.k.a. The Pantry Mistress of Kansas City, Missouri, has been involved in cooking with allergy-friendly ingredients since 2010 when she discovered her own allergies to dairy, gluten, and eggs. Her ultimate goal is to recreate both gourmet meals and favorite comfort foods for those with specific food allergies or autoimmune disorders who have to extremely limit their diet. Working as a fine dining server at restaurants such as The Capital Grille and Eddie V’s Seafood and Steaks for over 15 years, she has developed very high expectations in the flavor profile arena. Living in Denver in 2013-2018, she started researching ingredients for the cannabis edibles department, since allergy-friendly edibles at dispensaries were not yet popular or easy to find. She has been involved in Meal prep services and short cooking segments on Facebook for clients with food allergies and aversions since 2018 and recently started offering in-home small private multicourse infusion dinners for clients. She hopes to reach more people she can help in this new exciting food forum.