A charcuterie board can give you a hands-on appetizer for guests ahead of a dinner party. It can also provide a simply elegant means for grazing while drinking wine. That’s why it’s essential to know how to create a charcuterie board.
With a luxurious combination of meats, cheeses, and accouterments, you can make it as visually appealing as it is delicious. These tips for building a charcuterie board will help you prepare a proper presentation that will delight everyone!
Selection is the Key
While a charcuterie board will have cheese and cured meat, it should be bountiful. That doesn’t just mean a portion that is ample enough to satisfy all your guests. It also means having a wide array of choices and options for pairing. This allows them to mix and match the variety of flavors you present.
One of the top tips for building a charcuterie board is to put out several options of meats and cheeses, along with other fun options like olives, gherkins, nuts, and spreads, for example.
Balance the Savory and Sweet
The best foods have a contrast of flavors. When a charcuterie board only features savory items, it’s missing out on this crucial component to delight the taste buds. Raw honey is a prime example of a sweet item that belongs on a charcuterie board. It’s good for your health with plenty of antioxidants and has digestive benefits, plus it impeccably balances those savory flavors.
You can try pairing honey, dried fruits, or quality chocolate to provide a contrast of sweet and savory for your guests.
Rolling the Meat Makes For a Prettier Presentation
Another pro tip for how to build a charcuterie board is to roll up your meats. This not only looks prettier, but it also allows your guests to more easily grab their selections. It’s not easy to separate slices of salami from one another when they’re in a pile. That’s even truer after guests have had a little wine thrown into the mix.
Plus, some meats, like Parma ham, take up more real estate on your charcuterie board when you lay them flat. Make it easier on everyone by rolling the meats, and you’ll have the added bonus of a more beautiful board.
Cut Your Cheeses
When you have larger cheeses, it helps to cut them to give guests easier access to the selection. Large wedges or rounds of cheese can be cut in half or into quarters and then placed on opposite ends of the board. It gives the illusion of more, creates a balanced look, and allows guests who want the same cheese to help themselves simultaneously without slowing everyone down.
Fill Up All the Space
Another one of the top tips for building a charcuterie board is to leave no space vacant. You should cover a perfect charcuterie board from end to end. Think of it like a canvas that you will fill with meats, cheese, and sundry snacks. The goal is not to see any of the board underneath until your guests have eaten all the deliciousness on top.
If you find that your board is full except for a few little spaces, fill those in with arugula. It gives it a pretty little pop of green color. Plus, it can offer a peppery bite along with some of your cheeses.
Create a Montage of Colors
While you’re busy filling up every square inch of your charcuterie board, be sure you’re giving colors fair consideration. That’s why adding red berries, green arugula, golden honey, and a dazzling array of other tasty and colorful items is an important part of creating a charcuterie board.
Think About Textures
Just as colors will please the eyes, including different textures will have the same appetizing effect. Choose a hard salami like soppressata along with thinly sliced options like prosciutto. Adding a pâté would add another textural element to the board. The same goes for cheeses: you should aim to put soft, medium, and hard options to accompany the meats.
Be Agreeable to the Seasons
When it comes to adding fresh fruits, going with the seasons is always in style for charcuterie. Berries are beautiful and pair exceptionally well with most items, though for cooler weather, consider figs, apples, pears, pomegranate seeds, and grapes.
Make Use of Small Dishes
Soft condiments and foods like olives, nuts, and gherkins can easily spill over into the space of your other ingredients. They’ll be easier to serve and enjoy, not to mention look more beautiful, when you put them in small ramekins and place them strategically around your charcuterie board.
Consider the Portions
When you are creating a charcuterie board, you want to ensure that all your guests have plenty to eat. You also don’t want to go overboard and be left with an overabundance of charcuterie leftovers. Aim to include roughly two ounces of meat per guest, which should provide plenty for everyone.
Certainly, meats and cheeses are the main event of any superb charcuterie board. However, incorporating carbs through slices of baguettes, top-tier crackers, and crostini will give guests a vessel for piling on layers on flavors. Some may choose to skip the bread and crackers when they make their selections, though many of your guests will be glad for the addition of this food group.
Get Creative with Pantry Staples
All those rich flavors from the meats and cheeses most certainly need another element to round things out. Acidic items like gherkins or olives are a prime choice. You can flank the board with crunchy walnuts, almonds, and cashews. Open up those gourmet jars of grain mustard or fruit preserves and let them join the party too. They create wild flavor combinations that your guests will adore while putting these extraordinary ingredients to good use.
Try Adding Warmth
In cooler months, one of the best tips for building a charcuterie board is to add something warm to the presentation. Crispy slices of sausage will do the trick, providing another element of excitement. By contrast, charcuterie boards in warmer months will benefit from the addition of something cool.
Finish It Off in Style
Once your board is fully covered from end to end with a sea of meats, cheeses, breads, jams, olives, and the like, you may think it’s ready to serve. Before you trot it out though, adding some final touches will enhance the presentation and the flavors of everything.
Try using good quality extra virgin olive oil to drizzle on your meats. If you have a pâté or a mousse, garnish it with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkles of parsley can also work in a pinch to give it that epicurean look.
Let the Wine Flow
If you are hosting a party and serving a charcuterie board, wine is the perfect pairing. Everyone will likely have preferences about which wines they would like to enjoy with the selections on your board.
There are also many different flavors to work with, which is why having a few bottles of red, white, and rose are preferred. If you must pick one to avoid too many open bottles, choose a sparkling wine. It will pair well with everything. However, having other options on deck is crucial for being a winning host, as one of your guests may prefer something else.
Best Ingredients for Creating a Charcuterie Board
Now that you know the tips for building a charcuterie board, you will want to think of your ingredients before laying them all out. The easiest way to work is by filling in the center of your board first, then working your way outward to fill the spaces.
Choosing what to put on your charcuterie masterpiece depends on what you find. Here is a list of suggested items that you can use as your shopping list and guide for how to create a charcuterie board:
- Hard cheeses (such as parmesan, aged gouda, or asiago)
- Firm cheeses (like Manchego or cheddar)
- Soft cheeses (think burrata or brie)
- Blue cheese or crumbly cheese (like feta)
- Cured meats (try salami, Parma ham, prosciutto, or Spanish chorizo)
- Jelly or preserves (bacon jam, raspberry, blueberry, or any flavor you like)
- Mustard (from Dijon to stone ground)
- Pickled onions
- Olives (try the stuffed versions with cheeses, garlic, and jalapenos for something different)
- Roasted red peppers
- Artichoke hearts
- Pickled vegetables
- Seasonal fruits (blueberries, grapes, strawberries, cherries, figs, pears, apples, and pomegranate seeds)
- Nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts, flavored nuts, and Macadamia nuts)
- Dried fruits
- High-quality chocolates
Final Tip for Building Your Best Charcuterie Board
There is just one more thing to keep in mind when building a charcuterie board. In addition to picking enough ingredients to accommodate the number of guests you’ll be hosting, have fun with it. Gather your ingredients and then start placing them from the center to the edges until the board is full. Don’t forget to take a photo of your creation before every last morsel is eaten!