I love to cook, but fundamentally, I’m an engineer, not an artist. Give me clear and complete directions and I’ll deliver respectable – sometimes even remarkable – results. (And if I don’t, well, I can blame the recipe.)

I also like cannabis. I use it to relax, to make sometimes boring social events more interesting, to dull pain, to fade into sleep, etc.

When I read a recent post about making my own cannabis oil (part of a Weedguide video series with Chef Brandon Allen) I realized how well it connected these two passions for me. I felt as if I’ve discovered a new, hybrid hobby and couldn’t wait to dig into it.

Coincidentally, my weed habits have shifted over the last year or so, from grinding my own to choosing vape pens and prepared edibles, leaving me with a handful of premium buds looking for a way to contribute. I was ready!

Decarboxylation and infusion

You might be surprised (I was) that a marijuana plant, or the bud you buy at your dispensary, contains no cannabinoids; instead, it contains cannabinoid acids, which only break down into the THC you know and love through heat. (That’s why you smoke weed instead of eat it.) This process is called decarboxylation, and as Brandon explains, it’s actually quite simple: grind or chop the bud, then heat it at about 240 degrees for about 45 minutes. As I’m always looking for an excuse to buy something new for my kitchen, I found a small Le Creuset covered ramekin for this purpose.

I found in my stash a big bud of Blue Moon Kush, weighing in at about 2 grams. I chopped the bud, put it in my ramekin, and decarbed it in the oven following Brandon’s instructions. Next is the infusion step; I covered the chopped and now toasted weed with oil and popped it back into the oven for an hour. I didn’t use olive oil, as Brandon suggested. Instead, I used canola oil; I’m making brownies, not salad dressing!

Did my kitchen smell like weed? A little. If someone walked into my apartment, they’d know. But it was a pleasant, warm smell, with mild cannabis overtones. Only a nosy (literally) neighbor would give it a second thought.

As the infusion magic was happening in my oven, it was time for some math to estimate potency. Brandon references a good potency calculator; here’s my work.

2 grams Blue Moon Kush @ 16% THC = 0.32 grams total THC (2g x 0.16 = .32 grams THC)

I infused my weed in about 6 tbsp vegetable oil; as Brandon points out, the amount of oil doesn’t matter much. The important point is that the entirety of the oil I am making will contain 320mg of THC.

After an hour (and some cooling time), I strained the oil through some cheesecloth, squeezing the final drops out. The result? A beautiful green hue, visually mistakable for olive oil.

The brownies

I used a general-purpose vegan brownie recipe; these are more likely to call for oil instead of butter. But even brownie mixes often use vegetable oil; if you go that route instead of following a cannabis-specific recipe, just check your potency math!

How strong did I want the batch to be? I started with this consideration; one serving should be about 5mg. More than a microdose, manageable for novices, enough so that experienced stoners don’t need to pig out in front of friends.

I have a baking pan approximately 8×8. At 2” square, my yield should be 16 servings; I’d need 16x5mg (80 mg total) of THC for the batch. The oil I infused should have 320mg, so I’ll use about 1/4 of that, adding plain oil to arrive at the amount the recipe indicated.

Later that night, we tried the results – one brownie for each of us. They were really good – gooey – without any noticeable cannabis flavor. But after 30 minutes – only a slight buzz. An unintended excuse for seconds? We happily doubled down. Soon enough, we welcomed the effects of the Indica Strain, but these were not nearly as impactful as I had expected. Should I blame the recipe?

Problem-solving hindsight

I should have noticed that the bud I used – step 1 of the process – was pretty dry. Sitting in my drawer for about a year, the original ziplock package had been opened long ago. And when I chopped it, I remember it being remarkably brittle. So my key source ingredient was compromised, having lost some of its potency. To solve the problem, we simply doubled the amount of brownies we ate. Problem solved!

My brownie point-ers

Match your buying habits with your consumption goals. With increased convenience (it used to take me over 2 hours for a weed run, now there’s a dispensary a few minutes away), there’s reduced benefit to buying in bulk. If you’re planning to smoke (or cook), keep it fresh, preferably in an airtight glass jar.

The second lesson has two faces. For the best infused oil, start with fresh weed. (That’s the obvious – but unspoken – point I missed in Brandon’s video.) But there’s another interpretation. Since nobody likes to smoke harsh, dry weed, use your old bud (if you have any) for infusing.

Next on my to-do list: cannabutter using Miyoko’s cultured vegan butter!

Jack Huxley is a real person with a fake name, a casual cannabis critic, a wanderer who doesn’t mind getting lost.