Traditionally, cannabutter is the basis for marijuana cookery. Once you infuse butter with THC, it can then be added to any number of recipes to make them magically delicious.
Naturally, every cannabis chef and home cook believes their own method for making cannabutter works the best (or they would use another method). As the author of The Official High Times Cannabis Cookbook, I’ve been approached by people touting literally dozens of different recipes for “the ultimate cannabutter,” each promising to produce the most potent, tasteless, scentless, product possible.
I’ve tried out many of these recipes, and they all work. But how well, exactly?
To find out, I took butters into my own hands by testing four top methods side-by-side using the same basic ingredients in each batch.
Which method of infusing cannabis into butter works for you?
Aiming to dispel the myths and make with the science, I enlisted two dedicated cannabis testing laboratories to analyze the finished samples using high-pressure liquid chromatography to determine their cannabinoid profiles. That analysis will reveal which method is most efficient at using heat to convert THCa (a non-psychoactive form of the drug found in raw marijuana) into psychoactive THC, giving you the most bang for your buck and ensuring that none of your precious weed gets wasted.
Toasting ground cannabis on a baking sheet in the oven at 240ºF for an hour will activate the THC.
Decarboxylation, through heating or drying your cannabis, is a chemical reaction that converts THCa into THC. The boiling temperature for THC is 314ºF, and heating your cannabis too high for too long will result in lowered potency as THC converts to CBN, or is destroyed completely. Heating your herb at 240ºF for an hour will decarb your cannabis so that it is ready to use in an infusion. Most of the methods we tested included a decarb step, with the exception of the traditional water-simmered method.
First, begin by clarifying high-quality organic butter and carefully weighing your cannabis.
Using a 1/2 ounce of the same kind of cannabis and 8 ounces of clarified butter as our ingredients, we tested four different methods from well-known cannabis cooks and had the finished butters analyzed by SC Labs and Steep Hill in California. The lab results revealed how much THCa remained in the butter, showing us the potential THC that was not successfully activated, along with other useful information.
This old shake was from a harvest of Nepalese several years prior.
The Ultimate Cannabutter Experiment was repeated twice, with different types of cannabis used for each batch, for eight total butter samples. Two different laboratories analyzed each set of samples along with the cannabis used to create the infusions, allowing us to confirm trends by comparing the data sets.
Our first method was developed by scientist Tamar Wise, CSO at Nutrawerx, a cannabinoid nutraceutical company. Tamar’s method is unique because it uses Everclear alcohol to help break down the cellulose in the plant material, helping cannabinoids to migrate into the lipids.
First, toast the cannabis trim in the oven at 240ºF for an hour, before cooling and spraying with Everclear alcohol. As soon as the alcohol hits the decarbed flowers, an intense toasty cannabis smell is released, making your kitchen very fragrant.
Simmer the 1/2 ounce of decarbed trim in 8 oz. of clarified butter in a Crock-Pot for 6 hours, stirring frequently, before removing and straining. I measured the temperature of the Crock-Pot at various points through the process, seeing it climb from 185ºF to 240ºF on the low setting. The cannabis becomes incredibly crisp after this process, and it smells and tastes rather strong.
Learn the Recipe: Scientific Cannabutter
Unique for using Everclear alcohol to help break down the plant matter and allow cannabinoids to escape, this method was developed by cannabinoid scientist Tamar Wise. Using common household equipment and the ever-popular Crock-Pot makes it simple to create cannabutter overnight. Watch Tamar create her infusions for a gourmet dinner hosted at Hunter S. Thompson’s house!
Ingredients:1/2 oz. flowers1 oz. Everclear in a spray bottle8 oz. clarified butter
1. Preheat oven to 240ºF.
2. Grind your flowers down in a blender or food processor. Spread ground flower evenly on bottom of a sheet pan and place in middle of oven.
3. Bake for an hour, stirring once halfway through. Make sure the flower stays evenly spread out.
4. Take pan out of oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, place some Everclear in a spray bottle, and spray a fine mist of alcohol all over the toasted flower. This step helps break down the cellulose slightly, allowing for a less green infusion color. If you don't have a spray bottle you can use a teaspoon and sprinkle the Everclear on the cannabis flowers while stirring with a spoon.
5. Let flowers sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, begin melting your butter over low heat.
Since we have already decarboxylated, the butter only needs to be hot enough to extract cannabinoids. A slow simmer is good. Spoon the flower into the butter and stir. Extract using a Crock-Pot set on low for 6 hours and stir every hour or so to prevent burning.
6. Once your infusion is done, turn off heat and let the cannabutter cool down for at least 20 minutes.
7. Line a metal strainer with cheesecloth. Pour butter through the cheesecloth and use a spoon to squeeze all the infused cannabutter out.
8. Now your cannabutter is ready to use in recipes! Keep it in the fridge and use within two weeks.
Stay tuned! We'll be bringing you the rest of the methods this week on HIGHTIMES.com, and the results from the Ultimate Cannabutter Experiment will be revealed on Friday, Sept. 11.