While ingredient choices are undoubtedly important, there are a few easy techniques that make a charcuterie and cheese board an easy and appealing appetizer for guests to share when entertaining at home.
Since the holidays are on the horizon, I thought I’d pass these tips on to you. I’ll start by saying that I’ve been observing charcuterie and cheese presentation in hotels and restaurants around the world for many years now. It seems that no two platters are alike and that is partially what makes them such a treat to enjoy.
First, I typically round up deliberately-chosen cheeses. Our favorites include a soft cheese like a brie or camembert, a blue cheese like stilton (having spent two years living in London) and I typically have one other. I thought the cranberry goat cheese log seemed festive for the season so that’s what I chose for the charcuterie and cheese platter in this post. Hard cheese like manchego would be a good third choice though.
The rest of the items are things we had already in the pantry or fridge as well as a few others that caught my eye in the store.
Laying everything out like this allows me to forward think how it’s all going to fit on the board. Or, in my case a wood pizza peel… it’s one of my favorite “cheese boards” because it’s easy to carry.
Give Guests a Lot of Choices
Think well beyond just cheese, meat, and grapes. I’ve found that my guests seem to enjoy charcuterie and cheese boards that have multiple, easy-to-grab items that they can pick at over multiple glasses of wine. And, this way, you never really have to worry about what a guest may like or not if there are just so many fun options to pick at. Include fruit, nuts, spreads, pickled foods and much more.
Choose Savory and Sweet
Many charcuterie and cheese boards omit sweet, which is a travesty, so don’t make the same mistake. Honey (especially if it’s truffle honey) and blue cheese are absolutely dreamy together. Dried fruit of any sort works as does a bar of good chocolate especially if your guests are drinking wine. People love wine and chocolate, right?
Because I put nuts, dried fruit and chocolate on this board, I thought that goodnessknows snack squares would be a clever way to also tie these three ingredients together. They are gluten-free, two-bite squares made with whole nuts, real fruits, toasted oats and dark chocolate that each contain approximately 40 calories. Flavors include cranberry, almond, dark chocolate; apple, almond & peanut, dark chocolate; and peach & cherry, almond, dark chocolate.
Cut the Cheese and Roll the Meat
If you have larger wedges or rounds of cheese, cut them in half or quarters and spread them around your cheese board. This way, if two guests want brie, one doesn’t have to wait while the other cuts a slice… there will already be two or more on the platter. Plus, I think it’s more visually appealing to have uniform sizes around the cheese board. The exception is probably a really amazing round of Stilton. Definitely, keep that intact.
Charcuterie is much easier to grab when rolled up than when staggered as it comes in the package or when sliced at the deli. This way, guests don’t have to awkwardly peel pieces of salami off of each other. Parma ham can roll up rather large so consider cutting it in half or sort of laying it on the board a bit haphazardly so a guest can push it apart with utensils if they’d like a smaller piece.
Fill Bare Spots
It occurred to me recently, after scrolling through my charcuterie and cheese Pinterest board, that I prefer the visual look of tightly-packed boards. This means filling bare spots with goodness people can eat.
It’s also where a bag of arugula or similar small loose leaf lettuce comes in handy. Use it to fill in spaces by tucking it under items that won’t be affected by its presence. Plus, it adds a nice pop of green color to the board. Be mindful that you probably won’t want to cover the entire board with arugula, unless you’re positive that your guests love its peppery flavor. Catching a leaf on a slice of cheese though is a heavenly pairing.
Make sure that colors are distributed as evenly as possible around the board.
Use Small Dishes, Too
It helps to contain some items like soft condiments and olives that might bleed into another ingredient’s space. Using small dishes like ramekins also gives the platter another eye-catching dimension.
I also like the idea of having toothpicks available for guests who would prefer not to use their fingers so I stuck them in with the olives.
There honestly is no limit to what you can put on a charcuterie and cheese board. Whatever you choose, I find it easier to start placing ingredients in the center first. Then, place large pieces around the sides and fill in the blank spaces.
As far as what to put on a cheese plate, the sky is the limit but my suggestions include:
- your favorite cheese(s)
- sliced charcuterie (parma ham, chorizo, salami, and more)
- quince paste
- jelly (red pepper, raspberry, blueberry… whatever you like)
- honey (highly recommend truffle honey)
- roasted red peppers
- artichoke hearts
- pickled onions
- nuts (almonds, marcona almonds, cashews, flavored nuts)
- dried fruit of any sort
- snack squares like goodnessknows
Other Tips for Making a Cheese Board
Make sure to have enough cheese knives available so guests do not have to wait to serve themselves.
If there are specialty cheeses with strong or unique flavors, consider labeling them so guests aren’t surprised by what they’re eating.
Separate pungent cheeses so their flavors don’t bleed into other cheeses.
And, most importantly, have a great time!
How do you prepare charcuterie and cheese boards?