Prepared meats, fancy cheeses, delicious dips—what’s not to like about a charcuterie board? Not only are charcuterie boards a party hit, but creating them can also be downright relaxing and double as creative self-care. Think of it as painting but with food, and you get to eat your masterpiece afterward.
A little backstory on charcuterie boards: The term has become synonymous with any type of cheese plate, cheese board, or even iterations with chocolate and cookies. But for Marissa Mullen, founder of That Cheese Plate, a platform providing cheese and charcuterie board-building tips, it doesn’t become a proper charcuterie board until meat makes an appearance. “The French term charcuterie originally described the shops in which cured, aged, and cooked meats were sold, primarily pork,” she says. “In the present day, the term ‘charcuterie’ typically refers to the cured or aged meat on a cheese plate.”
Whether you’re hosting a small, socially distanced gathering or chilling at home on a Friday night, here’s how to make a charcuterie board in just a few easy steps.
What to include in a charcuterie board
Meat may be the star of a charcuterie board, but it’s not complete without other ingredients. “A great charcuterie board should include equal parts cheese and meat,” Mullen says. “Add in some produce items to pair, crackers and nuts for a crunchy texture, and a dip lie honey for an extra burst of flavor. Finish off the plate with fresh herbs to garnish.” Here are some ideas for assembling your charcuterie board:
- Meat: salami, soppressata, mortadella, prosciutto, bresaola, capocollo
- Cheese: Brie, cheddar, blue, aged Gouda, fresh mozzarella
- Produce: apples, berries, cucumbers, olives, grape tomatoes
- Crunch: flatbread crackers, candied nuts, almonds
- Dip: grainy mustard, pepper jam, fig jam, honey
- Fresh herbs: rosemary, edible flowers
How to make a charcuterie board, step by step
Get your foundation ready
Mullen’s “Cheese By Numbers” method for making a charcuterie board starts with gathering all items you’ll need to display the charcuterie. “I like to use wooden boards, slate boards, or porcelain plates,” she says. Don’t have access to a cheese board? Cutting boards, cookie trays, and lazy susans also work, she says. Don’t forget bowls or ramekins for dips and briny items such as olives.
Start with cheese
Next, spread out the cheeses on the board. Mullen advises working with three or four cheeses for variety. “You could choose a cow’s milk with a goat’s milk and a sheep’s milk; one hard, one soft, and one aged cheese; or a Brie, a cheddar, and a blue,” she says.
Lay out the meat
Choose meats that pair well with the cheeses. Mullen recommends salami with aged Gouda, saucisson sec with Brie, and prosciutto with fresh mozzarella. “I coined a term called the ‘Salami River,’ which refers to the salami flowing down the center of your charcuterie board,” she says. “Fold your salami in half, and half again, into a line across the board. This adds some dimension to the plate as well as separates the slices for easy grazing.”
Bring in the produce
Once you’ve got the main attractions laid out on your charcuterie board, fill in the empty spaces with produce. “Create ‘produce ponds’ by making piles of fruits and veggies to fill in the gaps on the board,” Mullen says. “This is where you can add some beautiful color to the plate. I like to pair fresh apples, berries, cucumbers, olives and cornichons with cheese and meat.”
Add some crunch
Fill any remaining gaps on the charcuterie board with crunchy foods to add texture and flavor. “I like to use candied nuts here, as well as flatbread crackers,” Mullen says. Pro tip: “Always serve a cracker plate on the side for easy refilling.”
Pass the dip
Choose a dip that pairs well with the cheese and meat. “If you want to go for a savory vibe, add something like a grainy mustard or pepper jam,” Mullen says. “For sweetness, try out fig jam or honey.”
Finish with a garnish
Lastly, no charcuterie board is complete without a nice garnish to put it over the top. Mullen suggests garnishing the board with fresh herbs and edible flowers to add an extra pop of color and aroma. And voila! You’ve got a charcuterie board worthy of celebrating.
Tips for making a charcuterie board look picture-worthy
Okay, so your board is delicious. But is it aesthetically pleasing? Here are Mullen’s top tips for taking the visual charcuterie board experience up a notch.
Creating some dimension on your charcuterie is a surefire way to elevate it. One way Mullen recommends doing this is by pre-cutting your hard cheeses. This trick also makes for easier grazing.
Highlight the details
With charcuterie boards, the beauty is in the details. For example, instead of just plopping the produce onto the board, Mullen suggests cutting it. “I like to cut strawberries directly in half with the stem on to add some green to the plate,” she says. Speaking of green…
Add some color
A neutral, monochromatic aesthetic may work for a curated Instagram feed or an athleisure outfit, but you definitely want pops of color when it comes to charcuterie boards. To do this, Mullen recommends adding color via garnishes such as sage, rosemary, lavender, or marigolds. Once your “rainbow” is in place, there’s only one thing left to do: eat!
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