Everyone goes above and beyond with their culinary skills during the holidays but for the rest of the year, many of us settle for putting out a simple cheese and cracker plate and calling it a day. While we all appreciate a beautiful charcuterie board, few of us have any idea how to pull one together that looks nearly as good as what you see in those glossy food magazines. Don’t despair! We’ll share the easy steps to create the perfect charcuterie board that will make you the envy of the neighborhood!
Start with a nice board or platter
While you can get specialty boards for charcuterie, really any nice board or platter will do! Also referred to as a “cheese board” or “bread board”, many wooden versions have handles for easy passing around but honestly, most people don’t pass around a charcuterie board; it pretty much stays put right where it’s at, so a handle isn’t necessary. It also doesn’t have to be a wooden board; many people build gorgeous charcuterie boards on platters, so choose whatever you want. Just make sure it’s substantial enough to showcase a variety of meats, cheeses, and olives, etc.
Plan your board ahead of time
Some boards have a cornucopia of items while others can showcase 4 or five items beautifully. Pick what you feel you can comfortably pull off! In general, these foods typically go on a charcuterie board:
Olives and cured vegetables
Crackers or baguette bread
Jelly or jam
Meats, cheeses and spreads will typically take up the most room, with nuts, olives and dry fruits scattered among it to fill it out.
Add thin cured meats
Thin cured meats are usually meats that you can find already pre-sliced in a deli, grocery store or other specialty shop. Thin cured meats can include:
Since these are usually thinly sliced, pile these different meats in small piles on the board. One or two types of these meats is great; the bigger the board, the more room you have to add.
Find a variety of hard meats
These meats are usually ones you slice yourself such as pepperoni, salami, chorizo and other sausages. Keep the slices thin but substantial enough to pick up without breaking. Try for a variety of at least two types of hard meats.
Choose two hard cheeses
Hard cheeses can also be considered “sliceable” because you’ll be slicing these to add to your board. Look for two types at a minimum and vary the color (one white and one yellow or orange, as an example). Yes, you can go simple with a Jack cheese or a cheddar cheese, or you can try varieties of these such as aged or smoked. Don’t get too overwhelming with the flavors (avoid habanero cheddar, as an example) unless your goal is to have a regional flair that showcases spicy. Many people like at least one “stinky” cheese such as bleu cheese for a little zing.
Add soft and spreadable cheeses
Soft cheeses can really add a level of amazing to a charcuterie board! The most common, familiar types include feta, Brie, ricotta, Camembert, Chevre, Roquefort, gorgonzola, cotija, goat cheese and panela. Again, keep color in mind here and go for a nice variety of one or two.
Spread The Magic with Dalmatia Fig Spread!
Want your board to be amazing? Add something special like a fig spread or Sour Cherry Spread. Yes, cheese spreads are nice, but watch what happens when you add one or two of our spreads. It’s an unexpected sweetness that nicely complements the other items on the board and it adds beautiful texture and color.
Add a variety of olives and cured vegetables
Olives and other pickled or cured vegetables, like giardiniera, taste delicious with the cured meats and provide beautiful color to the board. Try a variety of colored olives and peppers for some contrast on your charcuterie board.
Nuts and dried fruit
These add a nice crunch and texture to your board. Pretty much any kind of nuts will do (OK, maybe no peanuts!); most people opt for a nice mixed nut bowl. Dried fruits that go well on a platter include dried apricots, dried cherries and dried plums. You may also opt for a bunch of fresh red grapes for added interest.
Breads and crackers
As with everything else, variety is key. Try to include buttery flaky crackers, grain crackers and thinly sliced and toasted baguettes. Make sure they’re small so they don’t take up too much room on the platter.
Putting it all together
Artfully arrange where you want your cheese selection and fig spread jars, bowls of olives, or jams to go, then place varieties of meat slices and rolled up meats around. Scatter crackers and bread sticks to fill up space, then add your fruit, nuts, and herbs to make keep the colors balanced and beautiful. Varying the colors and textures, a variety of meat and cheese options, and lots of fresh items is the secret to success. There is no wrong way to make a charcuterie board, but keep these few final tips in mind for a masterpiece:
Add small tags with descriptions of what each item is
Don’t pick any item too strong in taste or aroma
If the charcuterie is an appetizer or starter course, estimate around 2 ounces per person
Don’t forget napkins, nice spreaders and cheese knives. Each cheese should have their own knife
Provide picks, small forks or tongs to grab items such as thin meats, olives and cured vegetables
Arrange in groupings; start with cheeses, meats and crackers. Fill in the remaining spaces with spreads, fruit and nuts
Follow these simple tips and you’ll have the perfect charcuterie board at your next get-together!