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Wednesday October 27, 2021

By Trevor Ross

Someone heating up the nail/banger before taking a dab 420 Culture

How long to heat your nail or banger can perplex many novice users, but experienced smokers may also wonder about the nuances of the heating and cooling process when using a dab rig. For better or worse, the answer depends on several factors including the size and material of your nail. But be warned, temperatures can climb high enough to present risks to your health, not to mention your dab rig.

Here, we review the factors affecting heating times, and the pros and cons of high- and low-temperature dabs. PotGuide strongly recommends “low-temperature” dabs between 350° - 400° F, and the heating and cooling times below are prescribed for that range. It is also presumed that a butane torch is being used, as opposed to propane, which heats up faster and has a higher top temperature. Heating your nails too quickly will eventually break them.

Note: the words “nail” and “banger” may be used interchangeably through this article. While at one point they were distinctly different pieces, the terms are now used more colloquially to define whatever piece you place your concentrate in or on for vaporization.

Nail and Banger Materials

The first factor affecting your heating time is the material of your nail. The most common options are quartz, glass, ceramic, and titanium.


Quartz is the most common material and is recommended for most users. Like glass, it’s easy to clean and won’t affect flavors, but it’s more durable than glass (though it can still break if dropped). A quartz banger should be heated for at least 30 seconds, and probably no more than 60, until it is glowing. A glowing quartz banger is over 800° F, but after another 30 to 60 seconds, it will drop to around 350° - 400° F, which is the perfect temperature for a safe, flavorful hit.


Glass is an affordable, easy-to-clean option, and will not affect the flavor of your dab. However, glass pieces are fragile. Be careful handling them, and heat them up slowly to avoid stressing the material. Glass only takes about a minute to begin glowing, and approximately another 30 seconds to cool to a healthy temperature.


Ceramic nails are fickle as they heat slowly, and do not glow to indicate their temperature. The trade is that they retain heat longer, allowing users to take multiple dabs per session, also making it a great option for sharing. Take a full two minutes heating a ceramic nail, as rushing the process will only break it. After 30-45 seconds, when it emits the comfortable warmth of an oven, the temperature is ready.


Titanium is nearly unbreakable, even if you’re trying, so you could unleash a propane torch on them if you’d prefer. The most glaring drawback of titanium is that it will transfer a metallic flavor to your dab unless it’s properly “seasoned” before use. Similar to quartz, titanium nails can be heated until they glow red, then left for 30-45 seconds before adding concentrate.

POTGUIDE TIP: Some trial and error is not uncommon among users finding the perfect temperature range. Adjust your heating and cooling times in 5-second increments until you find the perfect range for your rig. Alternatively, an infrared laser thermometer can be had for about $25, and aimed at your banger to eliminate any guesswork.

Technically speaking, you could dab at any temperature that vaporizes the concentrate, the same way you could drive your car at any speed it’s capable of. Of course, the higher your speed, the more dangerous it becomes. Similarly, the higher temperature you inflict on your banger, the more dangerous the process becomes — for your rig, and your health.

Dabbing concentrate when your nail is too hot will burn the oil rather than vaporize it. While some smokers prefer the thick clouds of a hot dab, cooking concentrate at temperatures over 400° F surpasses the boiling point required for vaporization, and instead results in combustion, or in simple terms: burning.

Burning concentrate results in darker smoke, and an acrid flavor from toxic chemicals being released, including benzene, a known carcinogen. Burning concentrate is also simply a waste. 

All the cannabinoids and terpenes you paid for vaporize between 350° - 400° F, so this range offers the best combination of flavor and effectiveness. Any less and you’re not getting the most potent effect; but any more and you’re only damaging the product and your health.

When applying a torch to your banger, be sure to keep the flame squarely underneath the floor of the chamber. You may roll the flame around a little, but the goal here is to apply heat evenly across the surface the concentrate will lie on. Uneven heat results in uneven cooking, which may leave your dab too hot, or too cool.

A healthy, low-temperature dab will leave behind puddles of oil, now emptied of their cannabinoids, that should be mopped up with a cotton swab after each use. Some smokers may argue that high-temperature dabs make for easy cleanup by burning off excess residue. The rest of us can buy nearly a thousand Q-tips for less than $5, and swirl them around our banger in about as many seconds. Hardly a herculean effort, especially for the sake of your health.

Cold Start Dabs

One way to circumvent all of this timing completely is to try cold-start dabbing. To do a cold start dab, begin with a small amount of concentrate already in the bucket of your banger and begin to heat it slowly with a torch. Watch as the concentrate approaches the boiling point, and as soon as it does, or within a second or two after, add your carb cap and begin inhaling.

When doing this method, the visual cue for the boiling point should be right about as bubbles begin to form. Remember that heat takes time to transfer, so whatever effect your seeing from the heating process will increase for another second or two once the heat source is removed, before starting to rapidly cool. If you heat your dab throughout the boiling process and wait until it is fully vaporized, you’ll likely have waited too long. It will take a little trial and error to find the sweet spot, but overall, cold start dabbing tends to get you closer to the right temperature range with less effort.

If done properly, you’ll be able to take the dab smoothly without needing the entire process of heating up and cooling down. The cold start method works best for small dabs, so that you can vaporize them completely before capping and still get the full hit. Without the sustained heat of a primed banger, larger dabs will have a difficult time fully vaporizing using the cold-start method. 


How long to heat your nail or banger depends on several factors, primarily the material being heated. Quartz, glass, and titanium nails can be heated until they glow (usually about a minute with a butane torch), and should be allowed to cool for at least 30 seconds before dabbing. This allows the temperature to drop to a healthy range of 350° - 400° F. Ceramic nails need to be heated more slowly, but will retain heat longer.

A butane torch is recommended over propane to more safely (slowly) raise temperatures, and protect your hardware. A little trial and error is completely normal, but an infrared thermometer can be used to measure precise temperatures, from a distance even.

Dabs taken at the recommended temperature will leave behind little drops of spent concentrate. Burning this off will only combust the oil, releasing harmful smoke and fumes. Simply mop these droplets up with a cotton swab, and your nail is ready to go for next time.

What is the best temperature for a dab?

Between 350° and 400° F is the ideal range for flavor and effectiveness. Lower temperatures will not vaporize the THC and terpenes; and higher temperatures will burn the concentrate, releasing harmful chemicals, and potentially burning your mouth and throat.

How long should I heat my nail or banger?

Unfortunately, there is no precise answer because it depends on a few different factors. But quartz bangers, which are the most common, should be heated for 30-60 seconds or until glowing red, and allowed to cool for another 30-60 seconds before adding the concentrate. The temperature you’re aiming for is between 350° and 400° F.

Why shouldn’t I dab at higher temperatures?

Temperatures exceeding 400° F will initiate combustion (rather than vaporization), releasing harmful chemicals like benzene, and ruining the flavor of the concentrate.

What is the best material for a nail or banger?

Quartz is the most common material, titanium is the most durable, and glass is often the most affordable. Ceramic must be heated slowly, but retains heat well, and presents a well-rounded choice.

How long do you heat your banger for? Share your tips in the comments!


Trevor Ross Trevor Ross

Trevor Ross is a writer, medical marijuana patient and cannabis advocate. He holds an MFA in writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has previously worked as a copywriter, a teacher, a bartender, and followed Seattle sports for SidelineBuzz. Originally from Washington state, you can find him now working in his garden or restoring his house in Scranton, PA, and he can be reached through LinkedIn.

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