I Went To A Weed Cooking Class & Here's What Happened

Photographed by Eric T. White.
As a food editor, I get a lot of kooky emails about the latest kitchen gadgets and new food products. In fact, I get so many that often the subject line makes or breaks whether or not I end up seeing what’s inside. About a month ago, I spotted a subject line that really caught my attention: “Hey Zoe! // INVITE 4.6: Cooking with Cannabis @ The Brooklyn Kitchen.” I did a double take. Wait, what? “As the bountiful bud continues to crop up in increasingly creative forms, The Brooklyn Kitchen is here to save the world from bad pot brownies,” the email read.

I quickly skimmed through the class description and responded to secure my spot. Aside from general curiosity, how could I possibly pass up on what I am figuring might be one of the first official cannabis cooking classes in New York?

Going in, I had no idea what to expect. I know what you’re thinking, because I was thinking it, too: Sure, weed is decriminalized in New York, but it’s still illegal. How can a cooking school invite people to a class and then get everyone high? Will there even be real weed? The email said that techniques for ingesting THC would be “demonstrated using legal herbs,” but part of me still wondered if I was going to end up accidentally agreeing to get high with a bunch of unsuspecting journalists.

Upon arrival, I learned that you can’t really host a “weed” cooking class in NYC. You can talk about pot for two hours straight, but our instructor, Michael Cirino, had to use oregano to show us how to extract THC and make his recipes. In fact, the first thing I noticed when I got there, in addition to the imagery of marijuana and the giant chalkboard sign that said “Cooking With Cannabis,” was a legal disclaimer in large font. At the end of the day, no matter how many people are using or even cooking with it at home, marijuana is still considered an illegal drug.

A photo posted by Zoe Bain (@zeeeebs) on


Once our instructor introduced himself, I realized that the class wasn’t going to be anything like I thought. He was basically wearing a three-piece suit without the jacket — definitely not the stereotypical stoner. Nope — it turns out Michael Cirino is an expert in molecular gastronomy and high-end cuisine. And he wants to turn weed into a dining experience like a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.

That all sounds well and good, but the process is actually sort of complicated. Because weed is still illegal, it’s much harder to know exactly what you're getting with each strain or batch. So there needs to be a lot of experimenting with exactly how much you're putting into your butter or fat before you start cooking. Plus, you only need a very small amount to do the trick. Cirino might put an eyedropper’s worth of a weed extraction into a rye cocktail, or top a steak with a dropper’s worth of canna butter — not the entire stick of butter, or a cup of oil infused with a giant handful of weed.

Another thing Cirino taught us is that you're not supposed to cook with raw weed at all. Instead, you need to heat it, in a process called decarboxylation. The dried plant is placed in the oven (apparently lower temperatures and longer cooking times are best), allowing you to later extract the THC into a fat that can be used to flavor and add a psychedelic aspect to the meal. Instead of directly cooking with that oil, which could result in uneven THC dispersal (a slightly terrifying thought) or wasting a lot of expensive product, Cirino suggests using the outcome as topping or addition. (Thus the suggestion of putting it over steak or in a cocktail.)

Two hours later, we all chowed down on our oregano-infused cocktails and steaks topped with oregano butter, and I had officially attended my first-ever weed cooking class. My eyes were definitely opened to the potential future of marijuana consumption. But, for now, I think I'll be waiting until the law catches up — and letting experts like Cirino do the tincturing. Who knows? In a few years, we might all be enjoying pairing menus with cannabis instead of wine.

If you're feeling brave (and you live in a state where weed is legal) you can try the below recipe. Or if you're a New York City resident and want to experience the class for yourself, you can sign up for Cooking With Cannabis here.
Better Than Butter: Cannabis-Infused Butter
From Michael Cirino & The Brooklyn Kitchen
Serving size: 15 grams
Servings: about 12


Note: each serving below is roughly supposed to provide the same effect as a single cocktail.


Ingredients

150g butter
50g beef tallow
0.5g cannabis
garlic & shallots
tarragon, rosemary, thyme, & parsley
salt & black pepper

Instructions

1. Grind cannabis into a fine powder with spice grinder or blade-style coffee grinder.

2. Prepare a double boiler on a stovetop and bring to a boil.

3. Add cannabis and fat to double boiler and cook for 2-3 hours, or until the cannabis has turned a darker shade. Between hour 2 and hour 3, you can decide on a stopping point based on flavor.

4. During the last 10 minutes, add garlic and shallots.

5. Soften butter to room temperature.

6. Allow beef tallow to cool to room temperature.

7. Whip together butter, beef tallow, cannabis, shallots, and garlic.

8. Add fresh herbs, salt, and pepper to taste.

Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity and would like to remind its readers that marijuana usage continues to be an offense under Federal Law, regardless of state marijuana laws. To learn more, click here.

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