Whether you’re suddenly having a bunch of people over or you have a party planned way in advance, a charcuterie board is always a good idea. Once you have the basics down, assembling a charcuterie platter will take you no time at all, making sure you have an appetiser your guests will be happy to devour till you’ve got dinner done!
A basic charcuterie platter consists of these elements:
The cutlery: Start with your actual platter. Charcuterie boards are usually assembled on a slate or wooden tray, and they can be rectangular, round, or square. If you don’t own one, don’t fret. You can use a plate, a cutting board, or upturn a baking tray and use that in a pinch. And if you don't have one thing that's big enough, you can use multiple smaller boards and plates to serve in. Don’t forget the cheese knives, toothpicks, and spoons so your charcuterie board stays safe and sanitary.
The cheeses: When you’re selecting your cheeses, make sure you have a good mix of different flavours and textures.
The meats: Your board should have a good selection of meats to go with the different flavours. Prosciutto, salami, sopressata, chorizo, mortadella--they’re all great choices. But if you don’t want to splurge on expensive cured meats, get a few different kinds of spiced sausages to intersperse with a few good quality meats.
The savoury accompaniments: Olives, artichokes, pickles, roasted peppers, and nuts like almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, hazelnuts go very well on a charcuterie board.
The sweet accompaniments: Seasonal and dried fruits--think apple, plum, peach, or pear slices, figs, apricots, mixed berries, grapes. If you can get candied nuts, that would make for an interesting addition, or you can make your own by making a caramel and then tossing almonds, pecans, and/or walnuts in it.
The condiments: Put out a small pot of honey, some sweet jams and preserves, mustard, a delicate little bowl with some flaky salt, chutneys, and a few pats of butter.
The breads and crackers: For the simplest charcuterie platter, just get some plain crackers and a sliced baguette. If you want some more options, add crackers in different flavours and shapes, bread sticks, lavash, pita, and leave out breads both plain and rubbed with a little olive oil and garlic.
The garnishes: Round out your charcuterie board with a few sprinklings of herbs and edible flowers to make it look fuller and prettier.
How do I pick the right kind of cheeses?
For someone just stepping into the world of cheeses, this might seem quite overwhelming. When making a charcuterie or cheese board, a good rule of thumb is to make sure you have at least one cheese from different families. Some cheeses fall under two families, which means you can have fewer cheese options.
You can follow our chart to make life easier for yourself:
Aged: Aged Cheddar, Gruyere, Gouda, Manchego, Parmesan, Parmigiano-Reggiano
Soft: Brie, Camembert, Goat, Ricotta, Chevre, Roquefort, Burrata, and Gorgonzola
Firm: Manchego, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Edam, Cheddar, Cheshire, Derby
Blue: Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Stilton, Danish, Cambozola
What are the things I need to keep in mind when building a charcuterie board?
Make sure there is a good variety of sweet and savoury ingredients. Some people prefer to have their cheese with sweet ingredients, some like it savoury, and some like to mix it up. A good cheese board needs to keep all tastes in mind.
Just like with any recipe, a good variety of textures is important. Once you’ve made a list of all your ingredients, see if you’ve got a good mix of creamy, crunchy, crumbly, gooey, and crisp elements. If not, see which texture is being repeated and replace with something else.
To make it a fun experience, try getting cute labels for all the different cheeses so your guests know what they’re having. If you’re using a large slate board, you can write the names on it directly.
Always serve your cheese at room temperature, so remember to take it out 30 minutes before your guests arrive.
How do I actually assemble the charcuterie board?
Start with the biggest items
The biggest items on your charcuterie board will be your cheese and the bowls you use for your preserves. Place the bowls on your board, and then place your cheeses.
Add your meats and breads
Start placing your meats and breads. Cut your sausages and fan them out, and fold up thinner pieces of meats to form triangles or rough folds and place them around the cheeses and bowls. Space out the breads and crackers, making sure each corner has some variety. Make sure you fan out the crackers on the edges so it’s easier for guests to grab them.
Add your fruit and nuts
Now that most of the biggest pieces are done, start filling in the gaps. Add pops of colour by placing contrasting colours on opposite ends, like green grapes on one end, and strawberries on the other and apricots somewhere towards the center.
Fill the bowls and add other accompaniments
Fill the bowls with the preserves, and add olives and other savoury accompaniments in the spaces you have left.
Finish with your garnishes
Most of the items on your plate will be in dark shades of yellows and browns, so break it up adding some bright green. Use bright herbs anywhere there’s a gap, and tuck some at the edges to frame the charcuterie board.