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How to make an epic charcuterie and cheese board
We’ve all seen photos of gorgeous marble slabs covered in decadent cheeses, homemade bread, and loads of cured meats. They look delicious and overwhelming, and you wonder, “how can I do that?”. It’s really not as hard as you think!
My ultimate guide to assembling cheese and charcuterie boards will take you through the process of creating your own stunning board, like this summer party cheese board or snack plate for two, that is perfect for a get-together or as a snack for yourself.
I've been assembling cheese and charcuterie boards professionally for years and I know that you can also do it! Keep in mind that this is only a guide from my point of view - you can make up your own rules as we go along!
What is a charcuterie and cheese board?
Charcuterie (pronounced shar-koo-tuh-ree) is a French word that describes a variety of cured meats. These meats could be thinly sliced, soft spreads, or sausages. You’ll often see charcuterie boards on the menu at restaurants to enjoy as a light appetizer.
Cheese boards are different because they make the cheese the main focus, rather than the charcuterie meat. They usually have an elegant presentation with a variety of cheeses, meats, and accompaniments like nuts, fruit, or spreads.
The 3 rules of assembling a snack board
I don’t believe in strict rules for meat and cheese boards, snack boards, grazing boards, etc. Do what works for you and use the ingredients you have on hand! However, there are just 3 things to keep in mind when it comes to the assembly:
1. Do what you want
There are no real rules to assembling a cheese board or charcuterie. Fill it with your favorite appetizers, cheeses, meats, or use vegan or gluten-free ingredients if you wish. No matter what, your guests will love what you put together.
2. Shop for the season
Cheese boards give me the perfect excuse to head to the farmer’s market, as they are a fantastic way to highlight seasonal produce. Fresh berries and creamy brie are excellent in the summer or include hardy nuts and chocolates in the winter.
3. Buy for the number of guests you expect
The quantities you purchase depends on how many people you plan to serve and what other food is going to be at the get-together. I recommend sticking to about 2 to 3 ounces of cheese per person and 1 to 2 ounces of meat per person. If the board is all that will be served, buy more.
The More You Know!
- Technically, a charcuterie board focuses on cured meats, a cheese board focuses on cheese, and a snack board or grazing board is whatever you want it to be.
- Ultimately, I don't care what you call your gorgeous platter of tasty bites and your party guests shouldn't care either as long as you all are enjoying the snacks and the party!
Basic elements of a cheese board
Every charcuterie and cheese board has basic ingredients and elements. Read through below to discover the necessary items to include on your board.
The platter, bowls, and knives
Obviously we need something to hold our stuff! Pick a platter, plate, or board based on the amount of food you plan to serve. You’ll also need small bowls to hold smaller items, as well as utensils.
Platters, bowls, and utensils to use
- Platter: Boos block cutting board, cutting boards, parchment-lines baking sheets, marble slabs or slate, or a big plate will work.
- Cutlery: 1 or 2 cheese knives, spoons, and toothpicks. Use what you have or pick up a matching set.
- Small bowls: Ramekins, glass bowls, or mason jars.
I always like to include cheese that is aged, bloomy, blue, and fresh on my cheese boards. It provides a nice variety of flavors and can change depending on the season. Plus, a variety of cheese can be served with crackers, enjoyed on its own, or used as a spread.
Types of cheese to use
- Bloomy: Camembert, Brie, and Coulommiers.
- Aged: Gouda, Gruyere, Cheddar, and Manchego.
- Blue: Point Reyes Original Blue, Stilton, and Gorgonzola.
- Fresh: Goat, Mozzarella, and Ricotta.
Pick up 2 or 3 different cured meats, pâtés, or even smoked fish, depending on your guest count. It can be fun to try something new and different! Include cured meats that are sliced thin or can be cut into chunks, and taste great with your other additions.
Types of proteins to use
- Cured Sausage: Pepperoni, salami, mortadella, and chorizo.
- Soft: Pâté, terrine, tinned fish or smoked salmon.
- Cured Sliced Meats: Proscuitto, bresaola, and capicola.
The crackers and bread
We need a little something to eat with our cheese and meats, and to break up the salty or creamy flavors. That’s where bread and crackers come in! Plus, they can be dipped in your spreads, enjoyed with fruit, or used to make mini sandwiches.
Types of crackers and bread to use
- Fresh bread: Something hardy and crusty, like a sliced baguette or sourdough.
- Charred bread: Crunchy Crostini or slices of grilled baguette.
- Crackers: Use a variety of plain, salted, or unsalted crackers and breadsticks.
There are so many extras we can include to fill up space and complement the season and flavors. Include dips and spreads, pickled vegetables, fruit (dried and fresh), and some crunchy snacks like nuts. This is where you can get creative and have fun with the presentation.
Types of extras to use
- Condiments and spreads: Mustards, honey, jams, tapenade, olive oil and balsamic, yogurt dip, and hummus.
- Briney: Olives, pickles, and other pickled veggies.
- Crunchy: Nuts.
- Dried Fruit: Apricots, raisins, goji berries, dates, mangos, peaches, etc.
- Fresh Fruit: Grapes, apples, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, cherries, figs, etc.
- Veggies: Roasted cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, or cucumber.
- Sweets: Chocolate.
How to assemble a cheese and charcuterie board
Before you start assembling, think of how your guests will eat the food! We want to make everything easy to grab, slice, spread, etc.
There isn't a rule on what order things should be added to the board, but this is how I like to do based on my many years of cheese board assembly experience!
- Place softer cheeses toward the edges of the platter so they’re easy to cut.
- Any cheese a guest will need to cut should have the point facing out toward the edge of the board.
- Precut the harder cheeses into chunks or slices/cubes. Use a variety of shapes and cuts for a pretty presentation.
- Place the cheeses in all or most of the corners of the board.
Next add the jars
- I like adding jars of condiments, olives, etc., after the cheese. They create a nice anchor for
- Place your small jars on the board and fill them with spreads, olives, nuts, etc. Fill 1 or 2 jars with toothpicks, spoons, or forks if needed.
Whole fruit time!
- If you're adding any whole or bigger pieces of fruit now is the time to add them in
- Whole fruit and veggies add a fun touch to your grazing board and I think it super fun to pick up a baby apple and take a big bite.
- Just like the jars of items, these bigger pieces of fruit will help you map out the rest of your board.
Get those crackers in there!
- It's time to start filling out the platter with your crunchy crackers, grilled bread, crostini, etc.
- Follow your heart and place them wherever you feel good about it!
- I tend to place these crunch bits next to the cheese or jars of things for easy grabbing.
- Let's get that meat in there!
- Soft and thinly sliced charcuterie can be folded up, rolled, etc.
- Cutting meats in half widthwise (like prosciutto) with kitchen scissors makes the pieces easier to eat.
And the rest
- Now it's time to fill all those little empty gaps so our board looks abundant and honestly a little over the top, in a good way!
- Fill any gaps with sliced fruit and veggies, nuts, dried fruit, etc.
More helpful tips
Just a few more helpful hints when making the charcuterie board of your dreams!
Keep it under budget
Just because this is an elegant meal doesn’t mean you have to break the bank over it! Follow these tips to keep your board under budget:
- Check your cabinets: Use condiments you already have at home. Use that box of crackers you haven’t opened, the jar of jelly your mother in law gifted, etc. You don’t need to buy anything new.
- Look for sales: Look for items on sale, especially the more expensive things like olives, cheese, etc. Just make sure the expiration date falls after the date you plan to serve the cheese board.
- Choose fresh over dried fruit: In season fresh fruit will most likely be a better bang for your buck than dried fruit.
- Forget the meat: Stick to just cheese, no meat! Cured meats tend to be on the more expensive side, so feel free to leave them out.
- Shop smart: I love a cheese shop as much as the next person (check out Murray’s online cheese shop), but don’t buy all of your ingredients at the most expensive place. Head to Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, or your local grocery store to buy what you need, to mix up your ingredients, and to get the best prices.
- They’re gonna love it: People just love cheese boards, no matter how fancy or down to earth they are. So use whatever you like and is within budget, because the main thing is about sharing fun times with your friends!
Making it ahead of time
If you want to save time, prepare the platter and wrap it in plastic wrap. Store it in the fridge overnight. Just make sure to only add the crackers or crostini right before serving so they don’t lose their crunch.
Let the board sit out 30 minutes before serving so the cheese can come to room temperature. This will make it much easier to eat.
When to serve
Anytime you like! Meat and cheese boards are perfect for the holiday season, to celebrate fall, to enjoy as a snack for you and a friend, or for any other type of celebration. There’s never a wrong time to serve one.
🎉 It's time to cook! 🎉
Alright, friend! It's your turn to make this delish recipe for your next get-together.
When you do, please leave a comment and star rating below so we can hear what you think!
The Ultimate Guide to Assembling Cheese and Charcuterie Boards
- 30 ounces variety of cheeses
- 20 ounces variety of charcuterie or proteins
- 1 - 2 boxes variety of crackers
- dried fruit
- fresh fruit and veggies
- condiements like honey, mustard, jams
- pickled and briney items like carrots, peppers, olives
- If needed cut the cheese into chunks or slices. Place on your serving board.
- Place codiments and anything in jars or small bowls on the serving board.
- If using, place any whole fruit on the board.
- Add the crackers around the other items.
- Then place any charcuterie or other proteins you're inncluding.
- Finish up by filling all the empty gaps with dried fruit, sliced vveggiesor fruit, and nuts.
- Serve at room pemperature.
- This is an example of how much cheese, charcuterie, and crackers that you may need for a 10-person party.
- Use this as a guide when putting together your shopping list for your get-together!