What Are Dabs?

What Are Dabs?

Cannabis vocabulary can be confusing at the best of times. Terpenes, entourage effect, rosin; these terms may sound familiar to cannabis connoisseurs and those of us who work in the industry, but to the average consumer, all this new terminology can be a little overwhelming.

Enter the dab.

No, not the dance move – we’re talking about the slang term for a cannabis concentrate.

Dabs are an umbrella term for any “dab-able” concentrate; that is, any cannabis extract that can be consumed using a dab rig or concentrate vape pen (aka dab pen). These concentrates can be made in many different ways, either using solvents like butane or a solventless method such as ice water extraction. The latter method is used to produce solvent-free extracts.

Dabs are extremely concentrated cannabis products with THC levels ranging from 60-99%. As such, it is important to start low and go slow when first trying dabs.


What is a Dab Rig?

At first glance, a dab rig can appear a bit intimidating. It looks a bit like a bong, but with an attachment known as a dab nail instead of a bowl. The nail can either stick straight up from the rig, or it can be curved – like in the image above. A curved dab nail is also known as a banger, and is usually made out of quartz.

While the body of a dab rig is typically made of glass, the dab nail must be made of a sturdier, heat-resistant material such as quartz or metal.


How to Dab

How to Use a Dab Rig

Wondering how to dab? For conventional dabbing, we suggest learning how to use a dab rig:

  1. With the dab nail attached to the rig, use a small handheld torch (like the kind used for making crème brûlée) to heat up the nail for 30-60 seconds. Wait a few moments (the ideal waiting time will depend on the nail itself and the intensity of the torch), then use a dab tool to deposit or “dab” a small amount of concentrate onto the hot nail.
  2. Place a carb cap over top of the dab nail
  3. Inhale, keeping the nail covered until no dab residue remains.
  4. Remove the carb cap and inhale the remaining vapour inside the rig.

How to Use a Dab Pen

If you’re not a fan of torches, or if you’re looking for a simpler method with less prep time, you might want to learn how to dab using a concentrate vape pen.

Here’s how to dab with a dab pen:

  1. Make sure your vape pen is designed to be manually filled with dabs/concentrates – NOT the kind where you attach a pre-filled vape cartridge to a base.
  2. Use a dab tool to insert a small amount of concentrate into the pen’s chamber.
  3. Turn on the dab pen, set it to your desired temperature, and inhale (note: some dab pens have a button that must be pushed while inhaling).


How to Dab Without a Rig

If you were hoping to learn how to dab without a rig, you’ve come to the right place.

In the 1960s, dabs were much less common, and they weren’t called dabs.

Back then, the only kind of dab available was hash oil – a thick, gooey black substance that was potent but unrefined.

Since dab rigs and dab pens didn’t exist yet, stoners of the day developed their own technique for dabbing without a rig: hot-knifing.

Hot-knifing involves taking two butter knives, heating them up with a stove element (or torch), then placing a dab on one of the knives and pressing the knives together. The smoke is then inhaled either directly from the source, or by using the top half of a water bottle as a dome to collect the smoke and inhale it.

It’s important to take proper precautions when using this solution for how to dab without a rig, such as wearing oven mitts while handling the hot knives.


Types of Dabs


Shatter, also known as BHO (butane hash oil), is an amber-colored cannabis concentrate. It’s made using a butane extraction process, and gets its name from its brittle texture that shatters like glass upon impact.


Budder is made using the same process as shatter, but with one important difference: after the purging stage, the concentrate is whipped, which makes it form a softer, gooier texture than shatter – somewhat similar to cake batter or butter, which gives this concentrate its name.


Crumble is yet another extract made with butane. Its crumbly honeycomb texture is achieved by purging the concentrate at a lower temperature for a longer period of time (compared to shatter and budder).

Live Resin

Live resin can be made with either a butane or CO2 extraction process. The key difference with live resin is the inputs used. Instead of using dried flower and trim, freshly harvested cannabis is frozen until the extraction process begins. Using fresh cannabis retains more of the plant’s natural terpenes, resulting in a richer flavour and aroma in the finished product.


Rosin is a solvent-free extract made using a rosin press. Cannabis buds are pressed together using a combination of heat and pressure, which produces a cannabinoid-rich substance called rosin. Although rosin does a good job of retaining the plant’s natural cannabinoids and terpenes, it also contains more botanical fats and waxes than other concentrates – which some consumers claim can negatively impact the flavour.


Distillate is the purest cannabis concentrate available, with a THC content of up to 99%! With such a high potency, it is not recommended for the novice dabber. While nothing beats its high THC level, that’s all you’re getting with distillate. Other cannabinoids and terpenes are removed during the distillation process, which means you won’t experience an entourage effect from distillate.