Some Things to Know About Building Flavor With Cannabis
I spent two years doing culinary research and development, making natural and organic food products for retail stores and restaurants. It was basically designing a dish for 100,000 units instead of one single plate. The process was often lengthy as the search for the perfect profile was elusive, but it trained me to develop a blueprint for creating a good dish. I smoked beef jerky for Hillshire Farms and salmon for Costco for months at a time, tinkering with every ingredient to find the perfect doneness, texture, aroma, flavor, mouthfeel, and finish.
The first step is to strategize the flavor build. Adding cannabis to food can be tricky because the flavors tend to overly dominant. You are working with a pungent, musty, grassy, sometimes citrusy or floral flavor that strikes the back of the palate. The goal is to balance this out with other elements and careful measurement.
(Audrey Kelly for Leafly)
When finding ways to neutralize an over-dominant cannabis flavor, keep the following in mind: Acidic ingredients are a natural choice, as is the addition of spices, sweetness, and/or smoke. This is why barbecue is such a great fit for cooking with cannabis—because good barbecue depends on a punchy blend of sweet, tart, spicy, and smoky flavors that balance the naturally pungent cannabis flavors and make it an effective supporting element rather than an aggressive, overbearing one.
The first sauce I developed was apple cider vinegar-forward with ketchup and Granny Smith apples, built for pork. The second was a sweet/spicy sauce for chicken with gochujang (Korean fermented chili paste) and hatch peppers. Why Korean chili paste? The fermented quality of the chilies pairs beautifully with chicken and cannabis.
As for the cannabis infusion, I chose two methods. One sauce utilizes an oil concentrate that is activated (doesn’t need to be heated in any way to make its cannabinoids bioavailable, or effective). The other incorporates a more classic cannabutter (recipe included). The first method streamlines the processes of infusion as well as dosing; the second makes dosing trickier, but is equally effective and enjoyable.
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Go Forth and Barbecue
It’s certain that I’ve omitted countless sub-regions, techniques, and flavor preferences in this guide, but that diversity is what makes barbecue so fascinating. Each person who has grown up loving smoked and grilled meats has a tale of his or her own approach, techniques, and tips. Whether it be for a family reunion, a fundraiser, or a weekend cookout, barbecue is made for bringing the masses together for a conversation and a plate. This gathering-togetherness is one of the most endearing and enduring aspects of American barbecue—and cannabis only provides more of an impetus for gathering together.
So have a cannabis-infused barbecue, offer up some tasty meats and sauces (for the 21+ set), relax, and enjoy the company—it’s what barbecue and cannabis are all about.