EPIC GUIDE: Effortlessly Create Stunning Charcuterie Boards (with bonus recipe and tons of charcuterie board ideas)
Welcome! Are you here because you’re ready to level up your charcuterie board game? Or have you been hearing about them but haven’t had a chance to make one? No?!
Don’t worry we got you. We made this epic blog post on charcuterie boards with you in mind. We promise that by the end of this article you’ll feel more confident that you can wow your loved ones with your creativity and that you’ll be well on your way to the supermarket to get the right ingredients.
What Is Charcuterie?
These wonderful platters of delicious snacks like cheese, cured meats, nuts, sweets, vegetables, crackers, fruits and bread, as you know, are the biggest food trend right now when entertaining. That’s because it's affordable and easy to prepare. Essentially, it’s a beautiful and shameless way to serve food without having to cook.
But first, how to say charcuterie? The easiest way is to pronounce charcuterie is by saying it this way: SHARCOOTERY, and if you want to say it with a french accent try: sharkotree.
What goes on a charcuterie board? At their most basic level, is a board of meats and cheeses. However, this is taken further and further, and before you know it you’ve got a board overflowing with a bounty of wonderful things!
The traditional meaning of charcuterie pertains to the process of preparing cured or smoked meats, and a charcuterie is someone who does just that. This means that the main body of a great charcuterie board is often made up of some smoked meat!
With that said, a good board will also include plenty of other ingredients. The most beautiful charcuterie boards out there are meat and cheese boards piled high with delicate nibbles.
As charcuterie boards become an everyday staple, people are throwing the rules out of the window! Nowadays, you can make sure to get some in-season fruit on there, along with a fine selection of local jams and cheeses. They can also be taco boards, dessert boards, surf and turf boards or sushi boards!
Modern charcuterie truly is art and a fusion of popular cuisine.
How Do You Get Started Making A Charcuterie Board?
There is an unlimited amount of options out there for ways to get started, but we’d recommend picking an ingredient that you want to showcase, and then go from there.
For example, let’s say that your butcher has sold you some divinely beautiful prosciutto imported from Italy. You want to celebrate that, so let’s build a charcuterie board around it! We’re going to get into a lot of detail in this article, but the basic building blocks are: pick a few wonderful types of meat, follow that with some types of cheese, then bread or crackers, and, finally, garnish.
The meat, cheese, and bread are where the main body of the charcuterie board is, but you can really get creative with the design when you’re dressing your board with garnish. A great idea is to go for in-season fruit and herbs in order to populate the board with a wonderful amount of color, ideal for entertaining a number of people.
With that in mind, though, how do you get the look ideal for wowing people at your next gathering? Well, it’s quite simple, and we’re going to take you through it now.
How to Assemble your Charcuterie Board
Below are the 5 important design elements and ingredients that will teach you how to build a charcuterie board that pops. Be patient with yourself as it takes practice to master these.
1. Color and texture
This is a good place to start if you don’t have specific ingredients in mind as a few ideas here can carry you through the whole process and give you a lot of inspiration on not just design but flavors to pair.
When you’re making a show stopping charcuterie board, make sure to choose colors that will pop. Reds and greens are wonderful choices, you could opt for some raspberries and some mint - a winning combination that looks and tastes incredible. Bear in mind, however, you shouldn’t put too many color combinations on a charcuterie board. Doing that could lead to the board overall looking too intense. Spread things out, and the overall look will become so much cohesive.
One color to be wary of is dark or solid brown. There are far too many brown foods out there, and if you have too much on your board it may start to look unappetizing. For that reason, consider forgoing larger portions of dates or dried fruit, and just dot them about sparingly.
The final tip to bear in mind when considering the contents of your board is the texture of all your ingredients. If you put too many items on the board that have the same texture, then everyone will simply be bored of it by the third or fourth bite. Instead, opt for a mixture. Place wet, shiny things like jam or dates next to rough, hard things like crackers or pistachios. This combined look will make the entire board look better with little to no effort at all.
Using bowls on a charcuterie board is a great way to create visual appeal and contrast especially if you use white or cream colored ramekins.
Other people believe that a great board will look better if anything that could be in a bowl is in a jar - for example, some dijon mustard, fig jam or raw honey may look better in its original jar than in a small bowl.
However, most believe that unifying all the condiments into small bowls looks beautiful - and we agree. The best way to do this is to pick up half a dozen or so bowls of the same size and fill them with condiments that will be suitable for dunking or scooping alongside anything else on the board.
As well as holding more than their fair share of condiments, bowls are also good as the foundation of the board that you’re building. A good charcuterie board will be packed, and you need something to contain and support them all. That is exactly the thing that bowls are great at. You can use them to lean crackers against, or even as the centerpiece in a small mountain of cheddar!
Place your bowls evenly around your board, and you won’t look back.
4. Meats and cheese
After the bowls are in place, you really want to work in decreasing order of sturdiness. This means that you’re best off starting with meats and cheese - they’ll both typically support themselves very well, and can be placed nearly anywhere on the board.
To serve up cheese, you have a number of options. More aesthetically pleasing cheeses (like brie or blue) might be best served as a generous wedge alongside a knife for people to use. This method will allow you to engage your guests too, letting them get in on the action and serve themselves.
If you have semi-hard cheese such as gouda you can simply dice or slice that and add it to your board. We’d recommend cubing hard cheese like white cheddar or parmesan and then pouring the cubes onto the board - they’ll distribute themselves quickly and easily, without needing to worry about the finer points of cheese presentation.
There are a lot of different ways to present meat, and it honestly depends upon the meat that you’re serving. For example, if you’re serving salami, then you’d perhaps be best served by lying the individual rounds onto your charcuterie board in the same way they were packaged. If you’re serving longer slices of cured meat, then you can get creative. For prosciutto, just let it fall on the board to form elegant ribbons.
The most impressive method we’ve seen for meat are salami rivers. How to make a salami river or a salami ribbon? To do this, fold the salami slice in quarters. Then stack the salami in your hand and add a little bit of pressure. Build the river in sections and create the “flow” shape at the end. Cheese boards with an edge help keep the meat in place or wedge it between firm ingredients like a bowl or hard cheese. It’s an impressive and really visually appealing way to draw the eye across any board.
5. Crackers and Bread
Crackers and bread are a vital part of a great charcuterie board as they serve as your carriers and vehicles. Once you and your guests start to dig in, you’ll want something to stack those flavors on and it better be sturdy!
You also need to consider that you’ll likely want to get some variety on the board too - think two to four different types of cracker or bread, that way everyone can try a little of everything.
One of our favorites is Raincoast Crisps! They have a great selection of crackers which combine a variety of fruit, herbs, and seeds. They have an incredible flavor and texture, giving you some great crunch to pair with anything on your board. Some of their selections also have a sweet flavor which complements many of salty meat options on your charcuterie board.
Before we move on from crackers and bread, there’s something that you have to bear in mind - if you’re serving particularly dry food, consider having butter or seasoned olive oil on your charcuterie board. There are plenty of recipes out there for herb-infused olive oil such as rosemary or even saffron. These go well with fresh slices of baguette or sourdough!
6. Fruit, Nuts, Crudités and Garnish
This is where you can get a little more creative and go wild with pretty colors. Flowers from your garden are underrated garnish but works well as alternatives to greenery like herbs. Just make sure to wash them before using and shake bugs off.
When considering fruit, try to go for produce that’s in season. We say this because it’s traditional, but also because it will be fresher and tastier. Additionally, they will be less expensive!
The fruits that spring to mind for a charcuterie board are grapes and apples. The sweetness and juiciness of those two fruits mean that they make a great choice for serving alongside meat and cheese.
If you want to switch things up a little you could go for berries that are a bit less conventional such as gooseberries or raspberries (preferably in a bowl as they can get messy). Strawberries are always a great choice, and you could even slice them into thin fans or leave them whole with the leaves on. If you do opt for them, consider having some balsamic vinegar nearby - it’s an epic combination!
In terms of nuts, you can simply go for whatever you like most BUT just make sure your guests aren’t allergic to any of it. If some are and some aren’t, just leave them off the board and in a bowl. We recommend going for nuts that are crunchier rather than creamier. For example, a walnut will provide more textural uniqueness than cashew. We really love serving roasted pistachios on a charcuterie board - they’re sweet, salty, and have a unique color to them when de-shelled.
Finally, we come to herbs. Fresh herbs make any meal aromatic and taste fresh. Mint and basil are wonderful choices for a charcuterie board, they’re well-known flavors that everyone will know to pair with certain ingredients on your board. For example, you can sit back and watch people create mountains of mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, and fresh basil all day long - it’s a classic Italian flavor mixture.
If you wanted to switch things up a little bit, you could opt for some lavender. It’s a fragrant herb that has a pretty subtle color. It can also be paired with a number of ingredients like honey and goat cheese. Actually, an unexpected but superb pairing to try is brie and lavender.
Not into herbs or want to cut down on carbs? Try crudités which are super colorful. It's a fancy term for a collection of raw vegetables such as carrots, radishes, cucumbers, celery or even mini peppers which you can stuff with cream cheese and top with Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel seasoning.
How and Where to Buy A Great Charcuterie Board
There are a few things that you should consider when creating your first charcuterie board, but what board to use for a charcuterie board isn’t one of them. After you’ve made a few and you’ve realized just how special they can be, you’ll likely want a brand new board to show off your skills. There are a few things to bear in mind when buying a board.
First, the material of the board is very important. While you can get charcuterie boards that are made out of plastic or metal, we would always recommend one made from wood or wood alternatives like bamboo, hemp or wood composites. The surface will feel warmer to touch and it will be a lot prettier as well!
Beyond that, what size charcuterie board is also something to think about. Honestly, something large enough for a small gathering is best. Just make sure that you get one that has a food-safe finish. This will ensure that your board will stand up to food stains and stay clean after you’ve washed it.
Another thing to consider is whether or not the boards you’re looking at are made of sustainable materials. This is a surprisingly uncommon feature but certainly a welcome one. Who doesn’t want to take care of our planet?
One last thing to think about is to make sure that you buy a board with raised edges. Not having a lip on the edge of your charcuterie boards may lead to your carefully prepared food simply slipping off the edge unhappily, which is certainly to be avoided if at all possible. A beveled rim will allow you to make your feast in the kitchen, and then easily transport it to wherever you might be eating. Yes, you can go with one that has handles but they can fall off or get in the way when storing in a cupboard.
We know that we’re more than a little biased here, but we’re really proud of the charcuterie boards that we sell. We’ve been able to design elegant boards which are both high quality and great value for your money.
Our high-quality bamboo boards are not just sustainably made, they’re also built to last. We’ve made sure that our boards are sturdy and won’t easily stain or splinter. On top of that, there are no rough surfaces or edges in our products - they’re sleek and elegant from form to finish. The quality of our charcuterie boards is of paramount importance to us - why compromise on that?
We’re also proud of the fact that we’ve gone to great lengths to ensure that our product is sustainably made. The bamboo in our boards is a renewable resource, meaning that the supply will renew itself in no time at all. It’s a truly remarkable resource, and we’re really proud to be using it.
Using bamboo as we do also increases the quality of our product. Sure, oak and pine look lovely, but they’re so heavy! Bamboo has a higher tensile strength than steel, and it’s light enough for anyone to carry. Despite this tough exterior, it’s actually grass - when harvested the roots remain, and the plant grows again.
Of course, we would say all of that about our boards. There’s only one way to know that we’re telling the truth - get one for your kitchen! We’re sure you’ll be glad you did as thousands of our customers are.
More Pro Tips and Charcuterie Board Ideas
TIP # 1 Balance Your Charcuterie Board
A great charcuterie board that’s sure to delight anyone around you should balance up the four s’s: sweet, savory, salty, and spicy.
The sweetness on most charcuterie boards will come from the fruits and jams that you layout. If you’re big on combining different ingredients on your board, then try to opt for jams and fruits that are quite purely sweet, rather than being sweet and a little sour, for example. A great choice for that case could be an apricot jam! That will be exceptionally sweet, ideal for covering the first ‘s’.
Savory is, perhaps, the easiest of the four flavors to take care of: you’ve got a platter of meat and cheese! To get a good variety on the charcuterie board, try to go for at least three varieties of each.
Saltiness is almost as easy to take care of as savory - meat and cheese are often both very salty. However, if you’re using cheese like ricotta or mozzarella, then you might want to add something else to the board. A great option could be green or black olives because they have a unique salty taste.
How spicy you make your charcuterie board is entirely up to you. We love spicy food, so we would often include some jalapenos in a small bowl, or perhaps a spicy pickle or chutney. If you like your food to be a little cooler, then we might recommend picking meat or cheese that has a gentle innate heat. For example, chorizo or a habanero cheddar would be great choices - they’re just mildly spicy.
TIP # 2 Pick A Few Different Kinds of Cheese
When picking out cheese for your charcuterie board, you’ll be faced with endless options. It’s completely understandable to be paralyzed at the deli counter - we almost always feel the same.
As a rule of thumb, you need to get roughly three ounces of cheese per person in total. Therefore, if you’re making a charcuterie board for yourself, your spouse, and two friends, then you’d want to buy twelve ounces of cheese in total. This doesn’t sound like a lot, but it will go a surprisingly long way.
There are four main types of cheese that you’ll be picking from to get the right stuff for your charcuterie board. Those types are firm, aged, blue, and soft.
Firm cheese is a cheese that has been made in such a way that it is a solid block, but is not aged. This type can be like both cheddar (aged) and mozzarella (soft) at the same time. We’d recommend going for manchego if you’re getting one of these cheeses, everybody loves manchego.
Aged cheese is typically firm cheese that has been allowed to mature. They typically have quite a tangy flavor and can be quite sharp, ideal for pairing with sweet fruit like grapes and apples. Some great options are cheddar and gouda, although you could opt for a more expensive cheese like parmesan - the flavor is unique, but much adored when thinly sliced on a cracker.
Blue cheese is a cheese that has been inoculated with mold at some point during the manufacturing process. This means that it typically has blue ‘veins’ throughout it, and might smell particularly strong. Usually, blue cheeses have an exceptionally creamy taste - especially stilton. We’d recommend going for a chunky wedge of stilton - it has a rich, creamy taste. You could also opt for gorgonzola, which is often a little firmer and has a gentle bite from the veining.
Soft cheese is the final, and most varied, category. With hits such as brie and ricotta, you’d be forgiven for thinking that soft cheese is exclusively smooth, creamy cheeses. This isn’t the case! Goat’s cheese, for example, can be very sharp. We’d recommend going for two soft types of cheese, as there’s so much variety. Brie is a classic that everyone loves, and goat’s cheese is delicious too.
When you serve cheese remember to provide a separate cheese knife for each cheese, and encourage guests not to mix the knives to avoid mixing the flavors of the cheese. Here’s a great blog post on How to Use Cheese Knives.
TIP #3 Experiment with Shapes, Flatware and Tableware
A fun and trendy way to take your board to the next level is to create seasonal or occasion themed boards for Halloween, Valentines, Fall, Christmas, Easter or Birthdays. It could even be one inspired by a grocery store...like making a Trader Joe’s Charcuterie Board or a diet like a Keto Charcuterie Board.
One way is to use cookie cutters to create shapes from your cheese, fruits or veggies. Food picks are also great to hold things like a caprese skewer.
Another way is by buying small seasonal decor or craft accessories from places like Home Goods, Dollar Store, Target and Michaels to place on or around your board. You can even throw a gauzy runner on your table or add gold cheese knives or an ornate spreader for a sophisticated look.
Don’t be afraid to experiment different food cutting and meat folding techniques. Pinterest and Instagram are great places to get more ideas on this.
TIP #4 Pick Some Gorgeous Wine
It’s hard to say what wine you should offer your guests when you make a charcuterie board - there are so many flavors on offer that you might find it difficult to get a good pairing.
If you and your guests prefer red wine, then we might suggest Pinot Noir. Pinot noir has quite a dry, fruity flavor which will complement a lot of what you have on your charcuterie board.
If you’d like to switch things up and offer your guests some wine that will contrast with what you’re eating, you ought to opt for a sweeter, less dry wine. In that case, you could opt for a Moscato - a wine that is known for its sweet, floral notes. To take it even further, you could even try going for a dessert wine like Sauternes, which is exceptionally sweet for wine.
TIP#5 How Long Can Charcuterie Sit Out and How Long in Advance can you make a Charcuterie Board?
You can keep the meat food safe by holding it at a temperature above 140 degrees Fahrenheit for a few hours, but at room temperature it should be discarded after 2 hours.
You can make a charcuterie board as far in advance as the night before or a day in advance. Just leave out items that can get soggy or that need to be crunchy like crackers and bread. Also, make sure to have it wrapped really well or if your board fits in an airtight container like a cake caddy. Do keep in mind that cheese is best served at room temperature but your cured meats will start to oxidize (losing its bright color) while it sits at room temperature.