Next to my olive oil and kosher salt sits a small, hotel-size jam jar of decarbed kief. As a food writer, recipe developer, and maker of my own cannabis-infused confections, this simple form of concentrated cannabis allows me to have weed at the ready to sprinkle into any recipe without extra work or complicated calculations. Kief is to cannabis cooking what granulated sugar is to sugar cane, or all-purpose flour is to wheat: the accessible, easy-to-use version of a plant that’s been processed for home-cooking convenience.
Like all-purpose flour versus wheat kernels, using kief instead of flower cuts the cooking time for making edibles in half. It also leaves the more expensive cannabis buds for the format in which they taste best: twisted up in a joint, not steeped in butter for hours on end. Meanwhile, kief—aka the concentrated resins of cannabis plants—is easily available in states where weed is legal and is ideal because it simply melts into any fat. That’s right: You can use kief to make edibles without worrying about preparing cannabis-infused butter or oil ahead of time. Beyond the ease of cooking with it, kief tastes less grassy than flower and packs a lot more potency. In a nutshell, cooking with kief (and other concentrated forms of cannabis, such as hash) yields tastier edibles while delivering a powerful high.
How to make kief & hash
In the bottom compartment of a three-piece grinder, the crystals (aka trichomes) of sticky buds collect with each turn of the lid. These trichomes break off from the buds, sift through a mesh screen, and pile into a tacky powder called kief. Most grinders with a kief catcher come with a miniature spackle tool for scraping the crystals from the grinder. Once collected, the kief is best stored in a glass or plastic container in a cool, dark space.
Another—albeit slightly more involved—method for making kief calls for dry ice. On the cooking show I co-hosted, Bong Appetit, we made a kief shaker out of a cylindrical coffee tin and a fine screen. The weed went into the tin with dry ice, then we fitted the screen to the top of the tin with rubber bands. With a gentle shake, the dry ice made the frigid crystals (or trichomes) break off like powdered sugar, and the fine dust fell through the screen onto a sheet of parchment paper.
Whenever home growers ask me how to cook with trim (leftover bits from cannabis plants that are collected after harvest), which makes very green edibles, I tell them to make kief. While it’s true that the process requires a lot of weed or trim to get a substantial amount of kief, a little goes a long way when it comes to edibles.
Wherever you find cannabis, you’ll also find hash or hashish, a concentrate made from kief. From Moroccan majoon to Alice B. Toklas’ iconic hashish fudge, hash has long played a role in the history of making edibles. The oldest method of making hash, known as ‘finger hash,’ is made by scraping off the residue that builds up on trimmers’ hands over time. For a cleaner product, similar to the dry-ice method of making kief, cold-water hash (also known as bubble hash) uses ice water to make the crystals brittle. Then, with a little agitation (as if inside a washing machine), the crystals break off from the plant. The hash gets washed further with a spray hose through several layers of screens, with each progressive layer producing a finer, purer final product. Because it’s processed in this way, cold-water hash tends to be higher potency than kief or finger hash. Other methods for making hash use butane or carbon dioxide to extract the trichomes, whereas bubble or cold-water hash is solventless. Hash can be packaged as-is or pressed, heated, and rolled into balls (known as temple balls). The compressed hash preserves the trichomes by removing oxygen which can degrade THC to CBN, the sleepy time cannabinoid. (For more info on the art of hash making, check out the Dank Duchess.)
From Our Shop
Buying Kief & Hash
If you live in a state with legal cannabis, the potency of kief or hash will be clearly labeled on the store-bought package. Depending on the strain, high-quality kief has a light green, golden, or even a purple hue, while its lower-quality counterparts look like broccoli. Hash quality, in contrast, requires more than just a trained eye: Because hash ranges in color from sand to a dark brown sugar, looks alone won’t tell you much about its quality. The real test for hash quality comes down to how it melts. High-quality hash will fully melt without residue, whereas low-quality hash with more plant debris will only partially melt.
When I buy hash for cooking, I pay attention to its potency and smell. When lab-tested hash is available, I look for upwards of 50 percent potency. Otherwise, I follow my nose and smell for flavors depending on the recipe. When I made a hot fudge sauce, I used a fruity Banana Taffy strain to play on a banana split. For something more savory, like these Cheesy Turmeric Crackers, I’d find a strain with more peppery notes (a product of a compound known as beta-caryophyllene).
Keep in mind that regardless of what strain you pick, it won’t affect the type of high created by your edibles. This is because edibles, unlike smoked cannabis, are metabolized by the liver. Simply put: When choosing a strain of hash or kief, use potency and your edibles’ flavor profile as your guide.
Activating Kief & Hash for Cooking
Just like flower, hash and kief need to undergo decarboxylation, the process by which heat is used to activate the psychoactive properties of cannabis. Per my lab testing with Encore Lab, both hash and kief decarb at much the same rate. I tested some 23 percent THCA cold-water hash by baking it in a toaster oven at 245°F, in both parchment and in an oven-safe silicon pouch. After five minutes, 10 percent of the THCA was decarboxylated into THC. After 10 minutes, that decarb rate jumped to 80 percent. By 30 minutes, the hash reached 88 percent decarboxylation. Based on these lab results, we know that most of the decarboxylation happens within the first 10 minutes—an additional 20 minutes only gains another eight percent. The hash I used for this experiment was low potency to begin with and over two years old, so some of the THCA had naturally decarbed over time at room temperature—24 milligrams to be exact. The hash started with 206 milligrams of THCA per gram of hash and after thirty minutes had 202 milligrams of THC and 2.79 milligrams of THCA left. I like to save time, so I usually only decarb hash for 10 minutes rather than convert every last milligram of THCA, but feel free to take it all the way. Once the hash has been decarbed, you can get baking with it.
Getting the right dosage
Because hash and kief are more potent than flower, you’ll want to start cooking with it in small, controlled dosages. Buy a metric scale that measures milligrams—the more precise the measurement, the more consistent the dose. Most bakers use scales to weigh ingredients for replicable results, and the same applies to edibles. The only difference is that a heavy hand with edibles can lead to couch lock.
One gram of hash (about half a teaspoon) packs anywhere from 500 milligrams to 800 milligrams of THCA, the non-psychoactive cannabinoid that becomes THC when activated. For comparison, bud or flower ranges from 120 milligrams to 350 milligrams THCA per gram. Meanwhile, in most recreational states, the maximum dose for an edible tops at just 10 milligrams per serving.
When I plan to infuse a recipe, I always look at the batch size and consider how many servings people eat. Take these Twice-Baked Soufflés, for example: The recipe makes six soufflés. To dose them at approximately 10 milligrams of THC each, using a hash with 50 percent THC potency, I would use 0.15 grams of decarbed hash. Here’s why:
- Each gram of raw hash (at 50 percent potency) contains 500 milligrams of THCA.
- As a general rule, I calculate a 20 percent loss of potency during decarboxylation and the overall cooking process, which brings down the final potency per gram of hash to 400 milligrams of THC.
- Reverse engineer the math by dividing one gram by 400 then multiplying by 60 (for six soufflés at 10 milligrams THC each) and voilà, you only need 0.15 grams of hash for the whole recipe—barely a pinch.
For recipes without clear batch sizes, like this Scottish Toffee, be honest about serving sizes. I eat toffee by the handful, not by the crumb. To play it safe, I like to test out the batch size by making the recipe sans weed. Then, once I know exactly how much a recipe yields, I figure out the dose size. Plus, then I have more toffee to munch on once the edibles kick in—a win-win.
Once I have the dose down, I look for a fat in the recipe to mix in the hash or kief. The best part about cooking with kief, hash, or any other concentrate boils down to the ease of infusion. Let’s go back to the soufflé recipe as an example. Instead of making cannabutter, which requires infusing and straining the weed in the butter, you can simply sprinkle the decarbed kief or hash into the 4 tablespoons of melted butter in the base of the soufflé. I like to call this infusion à la minute.
Since hash and kief have had most of their plant matter removed, they simply blend into recipes without needing to steep in a fat—but homogeneity matters. To ensure the hash or kief gets fully incorporated throughout a recipe, I whisk it into melted butter, let it melt into lightly heated olive oil as I fry my onions for tomato sauce, or whisk it into heated cream for salted caramels. Even distribution can mark the difference between a pleasant trip filled with giggles and munchies and a full-on meltdown. If a large chunk of kief or hash lands in one cookie, caramel, or piece of Scottish Toffee, the game of edible roulette risks becoming an unpleasant, anxiety-riddled experience. Moral of the story—make sure the hash or kief gets fully blended and evenly dispersed into each portion.
There you have it: Edibles that are easier to make and taste better than those made with long-steeped cannabutter and infused oil. When I started making edibles over a decade ago, growers would give me their leftover trim in garbage bags. It smelt dank, and it made a very green-tasting final product. Cooking with hash or kief removes all of that plant debris and the chlorophyllic aftertaste that comes with it, resulting in a truly delicious edible without all the fuss.