Mar 8, 2016

How to Put Together A Great Cheese & Charcuterie Board

Cheese and charcuterie boards are an art form that involves much more than throwing some cheeses and crackers on a plate and serving it to guests - it’s more than just a meat and cheese board.

Let me start by answering a commonly asked question: what is a charcuterie board? It’s the art of assembling meats and cheeses accompanies by fruit, nuts and crackers for easy and quick hors d’oeuvres.

Cheese and charcuterie boards are an art form that involves much more than throwing some cheeses and crackers on a plate and serving it to guests – it’s more than just a meat and cheese board. While any sane person will still love whatever cheese and crackers you serve, I’m going to help you impress your guests with cheese board ideas and more.

Trying to narrow down my favorite cheeses is like trying to tell you my all-time favorite television show; there are just so many good choices.  With television, sometimes I’m in the mood for a comedy, other times a crime show or drama. The same goes for cheeses; sometimes I need some firm Parmesan and sometimes I need some super creamy Brie.

Use my tips to impress your guests with an epic cheese and charcuterie plate at your next gathering. For additional tips pre-order my cookbook, Share + Savor, filled with plenty of appetizer and entertaining boards!

cheese and charcuterie spread from cooking with cocktail rings

Cheeses

There is such a wide variety of cheeses out there it can be hard to narrow down my choice to just one. My number one rule when putting together a cheese plate is to offer a variety of styles of cheeses. Try finding a combination of aged, firm, soft, crumbly and creamy cheeses.

If you are serving any hard cheeses, cut them into slices ahead of time to make it easier for guests to eat. Offer a variety of types of milk as well; cow, goat, sheep, they all have different tastes and textures. That being said – don’t go too crazy, make sure to serve at least one cheese that people are familiar with. (I don’t always include blue cheese because I feel it can be very polarizing – some people hate it and others love it) For a visually appealing spread, I plate an odd number of cheeses, using either 3 or 5.

entertaining cheese and charcuterie spread from cooking with cocktail rings

Easy cheese combination options:

  • Aged: Aged Cheddar or aged Gouda
  • Firm: Parmigiano-Reggiano (I like the crystals in it) or Gruyère
  • Creamy: Brillat-Savarin (my favorite- it’s a triple cream cheese, very buttery) or La Tur
  • Crumbly: Chèvre (Goat cheese)
  • Blue: Gorgonzola or Stilton

Charcuterie

“Charcuterie” isn’t just one of my favorite words to say, an assortment of meats goes a long way to complement a selection of cheeses on a charcuterie plate. Larousse Gastronomique, the culinary encyclopedia, defines charcuterie as, “products based on pork meat or offal…The numerous preparations of charcuterie include cured meats, fresh and smoked sausages, pâté, andoullies, andouillettes, black puddings (blood sausage), boudins blancs, sausagemeat, hams, galantines, pâté en croute, ready cooked dishes and foremeats”.

I like pork rillettes because it is easy to spread on bread and tastes great topped with some cracked black pepper and whole grain mustard. It seems fancy but the rustic pâté is pretty much pulled pork stored in its own fat.

This is another time to try to mix up the textures. I like to pick something hard like salami, saucisson, or Spanish cured chorizo, thinly sliced on the bias; something soft and rich like a pate or rillettes; and dry cured meats like prosciutto (always prosciutto, it is a fan favorite), soppressata, coppa, or speck.  

How to put together a cheese and charcuterie board saint agur blue cheese

Easy charcuterie plate combinations:

  • Something hard: salami
  • Something soft: pork rillettes
  • Dry-cured meat: Prosciutto

How to put together a cheese and charcuterie board-14.jpgcheese and charcuterie spread from cooking with cocktail rings

Breads & Crackers

Breads, crackers, chips, crisps – call it what you want, they are all vehicles to get the cheese to your mouth. I like to put out one to two options for people to decide.

While good sturdy crackers are a classic, my personal favorite conveyance for cheese is grilled French bread. It has that smoky flavor from being tossed on the grill (or a grill pan) for a few minutes. Sliced baguettes dipped in olive oil and broiled are perfect for spreading creamy cheeses.

Accompaniments

I love the taste of Pecorino Romano with truffle honey; it reminds me of being in Italy.  If you don’t want to shell out for truffle, regular honey does just as well.

Sweet fig jam pairs nicely with creamy Brie and is sold at most grocery stores. If you are serving meats then add some whole grain mustard and cornichons, (tart little French pickles). Grapes or sliced apples add dimension and color to a plate.

Nuts like Marcona almonds are easy to snack on and taste great roasted with olive oil and a bit of salt.

cheese and charcuterie spread from cooking with cocktail rings truffle tremor

Wine

I am not a sommelier but I have had my fair share of wine. Cheese and wine go together like peanut butter and jelly (really well), so my advice is definitely serve with wine. Sorry I can’t offer more on this front.

cheese and charcuterie spread from cooking with cocktail rings cyprus grove midnight moon

Tips & Tricks To Assemble Your Charcuterie Board

  • For aesthetic purposes I love to plate things on rustic wood cheese boards with pretty silver cheese spreaders. Another good choice is slate because you can write the names of the cheeses in chalk.
  • You can typically allot 2 ounces of cheese and charcuterie per person when deciding how much to buy.
  • Cheese is best served at room temperature. Remove cheeses from the fridge about a half hour before serving.
  • Whole Foods has a great cheese selection and deli counter. Trader Joe’s sells great cheeses on a budget and already packaged meat selections.
  • Serve a knife for each cheese so flavors don’t mingle
How to put together a cheese and charcuterie board-26.jpg

FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions about Charcuterie Boards:

How much cheese and charcuterie should I allot per person?

Plan on 2 ounces of each cheese and charcuterie per person when served as an appetizer.

What types of serving boards are best?

I like wood boards or marble boards best. I’ve even bought big lacquered shelves from a hardware store to use as a background for a catering event where I needed to leave the board behind. It was sealed so it was food safe and cheap!

How far in advance can I assemble a cheese board?

If I am bringing a charcuterie board to an event or friends house then I often assemble it in advance on my serving board and wrap it tightly with plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator. I will assemble and refrigerate them up to a day in advance.

Where should I buy my cheese?

While I love shopping small cheese shops like Murray’s Cheese in New York, the cheese sections at grocery stores have significantly in recent years! Whole Foods always has a great selection as well as Trader Joes’s (my favorite for inexpensive choices), Wegman’s, Bristol Farms, Ralph’s and ALDI.

How many cheeses should I add to a board?

For a visually appealing spread, I plate an odd number of cheeses, using either 3 or 5. Same goes for charcuterie.

What is the basic formula for a cheese board?

Cheese + Charcuterie + vehicle (crackers or sliced baguette) + fruit (fresh or dried) + nuts = a great easy charcuterie board!

how to put together a cheese and charcuterie board boursin cheese cwcr

A few other ideas

Photo Examples

cheese board example
entertaining cheese board example 2
cheese board example 4
valentines day cheese board example 3

Rate + Review

WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THIS RECIPE?

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  1. Love this! I like the vessels that you used…the white really gives it a great contrast. Also, where did you get the long breadsticks? It’s been surprisingly hard to find it in San Diego.

    • thank you!! I think I got these ones from Eataly!! But I have gotten long breadsticks from Trader Joes and Bristol farms as well!

  2. I’ve long wanted to try charcuterie, since they’re in a lot of restaurants now, but I’ve not found any dining friends who are interested, so I’m making one for Thanksgiving.

    As someone else suggested, Aldi is a great place to find a variety of interesting cheeses, and I found a package of mixed smoked meats. They also have marinated artichoke hearts and marinated grilled vegetables, as well as a lot of interesting crackers. For the add-ons and fill-ins, I’m cleaning out my fridge and cupboard! I’ve got fig jam, cornichons, olives and some pepperoncini, as well as some dried fruits – dates and apricots.

    I just hope I can organize this as artfully as you have done. I think I probably need to add some sort of dip as well. Hmmm.

    Thanks for all the ideas!

    • Sounds like you need to find some new dining partners! Just kidding – but I am sure everyone is going to love your charcuterie board! It’s a perfect "clean out the fridge" idea too! I hope you enjoy and thanks for the kind words!

  3. Can you give me an estimate of how much cheese and meat per person is needed if this is the main event at the wedding reception, not the appetizer. There will be small desserts (tarts, cookies, bite-sized) served as well as the cheese, meat, crackers (and wedding cake). But this is basically a wedding reception being held between lunch and dinner. Thank you and what a lovely display you show

    • What great wedding reception food!! I’d recommend doubling the amount per person and then buy a few extra wedges of cheese just to be safe. You don’t necessarily have to buy a bunch of different types of cheese – I’d recommend choosing several (maybe 5-7 types) and then refilling with backups so you don’t overwhelm people! Hope this helps!

  4. Im hosting a meet and greet for a local politician. Inviting about 40 people. Would like to lay a large charcuterie board in my kitchen island. Im not sure what to give for actual eating… fork and plate or skewers and napkins. What is the recommended way to “take” from the board?

    • I usually serve with cheese knives for each cheese and then people can just use their fingers (serve with a stack of napkins) to pick up the cheese etc. If you want to precut the cheese into cubes/ slices it also makes it easier for people to pick up the cheese and graze. Then you can serve with toothpicks – just remember to add a little bowl for people to discard them. Hope this helps!

  5. Hello
    I’m having trouble figuring out what to put under the food. I’m in charge of the charcuterie board for 89 people at my daughters wedding. We have a table made of wood and do I lay the food directing on the wood or place a sheet of plastic, for sanitary purposes?

    • I don’t know if i would put it directly on the table even it is varnished. You can buy large tiles at any hardware store inexpensively and arrange groupings of food on top of them. You could all consider buying some inexpensive cutting boards at the dollar store or Ikea.

    • Hi Kim!

      What kind of wood table is it? If it is unfinished wood then I would recommend putting something down under it or use multiple smaller finished boards on the long table. If it is lacquered then as long as it is cleaned you can definitely assemble it right on the table. Hope this helps!

  6. Love it!!! Need to entertain a lot and tired of chips and salsa. You inspired me and I am a visual person so I will duplicate your pictures and wow my guests!!! Going shopping tomorrow so excited for your inspiration.

  7. How long would you say it takes to assemble the platter? I’ll be serving 70 people with a few different appetizers as well but the platter will be the main item I focus on.

    • As long as you plan out where everything will go (sometimes I think it helps to draw a little rough sketch) then I would say 30 minutes for that many people.

  8. Wondering how long you would leave the cheese platter and the meats out since they are not on ice? Thanks! Nicole

    • Hi Nicole!

      I would recommend letting the cheese sit for 30 min to 1 hour before serving (cheese is best at room temperature for serving) and then depending on the heat it can be out for about 2 hours (as long as it isn’t in the sun). The meats are cured so again as long as they aren’t in the sun they can also be left out for about 2 – 2 1/2 hours at a time.

      Hope this helps!

  9. I have been smoking meats…quite successfully…for the last 15 years. I only recently became aware of what "charcuterie" actually is. So I was thrilled to find your page.

    So…being new to this… how about a lesson on a basic charcuterie platter? Especially if it involves smoked meats.

    I also plan on making my own tray (platter?).

    Thank you in advance…

    • That’s awesome that you smoke your own meats! What kinds do you make?
      I like to serve both charcuterie and cheese but if you want to go with all meats I would still stick with odd numbers of options as with cheeses. I usually like to include prosciutto because it’s a crowd pleaser then rotate in the rest with whatever I am feeling! I like to do one spicy and one sweet as well to give people some different options. I like to serve some grilled bread, cornichones, whole grain mustard and a jam (raspberry is a good bet) alongside the meats. I hope this helps!

  10. Hi! I was asked to do appetizers for a wedding prior to the dinner. Do you still go by 2 oz of cheese per person, but how many ounces of meat and fruit?
    Thank you!
    Christine

    • Will there be other appetizers as well? If there will be then I would say you can go with a little less per person but if not then keep it at 2oz. As for the meat I would say 1 to 2 ounces per person. I don’t necessarily have a measurement for fruit but I like to arrange it so that it’s pretty and I always buy additional so that I can refill if needed. Hope this helps!

  11. Hello! This is a perfectly simple charcuterie assortment! We are planning on doing charcuterie down the middle of the tables for our wedding! If we are only having charcuterie for food, what is your recommendation for ounces of meat and cheese per person?

    • Sounds like a fun wedding! How many guests are you having? The 2 ounces of each cheese and charcuterie per person I recommend is for an appetizer – since it is for a full meal I would maybe double that? It is always good to have more rather than less! Will you also be serving fruit, nuts, crackers etc. with it?

  12. Beautiful pictures! Wonderful display of what an elegant cheese & charcuterie board should look like.

    • Great tips Sean! Thanks for sharing. It’s all in the presentation! For example a cheese that everyone always loves is Boursin cheese – it’s an inexpensive cheese/ spread but it’s always the first to be eaten!

  13. I wish I was rich. I wouldn’t even know where to find most of this. The pictures look wonderful. Maybe in my next life I can experience this.

    • You can so do this Janet! No need to wait for another life. All it takes is a quick trip to your local Aldis. They have a fantastic selection of cheeses, meats breads/ crackers at a very affordable price! Have fun. Let us know how it goes!

    • Janet, most of the things on these boards are picked out from a bunch of different stores and can easily be found on a budget. I love going to places like Trader Joe’s where they have affordable cheeses and things like prosciutto and other charcuterie.

    • I typically set up the cheese board and put it out an hour in advance so that everything is served at room temperature. But if it is a hot day then I only set it out 20 – 30 minutes in advance!

  14. I am planning a charcuterie board for an upcoming party. There will be warm slider sandwiches, and a few other items. I’m trying to figure out how much meat and cheese to buy for the board. This will be for 60 people. Any advise would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

    • Hi Joan! Since the charcuterie board is accompanied by other dishes I would recommend planning on about 3 to 4 ounces of cheese per person and then with an assortment of about 3 different types of charcuterie I would plan on about 2 ounces per person.

      With that many people I often like to buy several cheeses and then have a backup of each variety so that I can restock them throughout the party

      Hope this helps & enjoy the party! .

  15. I have a granite Lazy Susan that I thought might work with a couple of Boards. Where do you get the waxed paper that I sometimes used to hold the oily meats?

  16. Thank you! Great tips and these all look beautiful! I’m curious to know if prosciutto or soppressata will stain a slate board?

    • If any oils do rub off on slate then just hand wash it in soapy water and they come out! They shouldn’t permanently stain it!

    • Hi Christine, thanks for the kind words! There are so many options for fruit! Dried fruit like apricots are always good or for some fresh fruits I like grapes, sliced apples, sliced pears or pomegranates (I quarter them). I usually only choose one or two fruits – but they definitely help to fill out the board!

    • Thank you! The olives are a suggestion, while they are not on the boards pictured I have added it to many others. They make for a great little snack alongside the cheese.

  17. This is great information. Thank you. If there was one word you could use to describe food and this space what would you call it?