Hands up if you love a classic meat and cheese board! Now hands up if you’ve never made one, because: where to start!?
Making a charcuterie board can be intimidating. There are a lot of ingredients going on, things you haven’t tried or wouldn’t think to add – even just the trip to the grocery store can be confusing! But you shouldn’t shy away from these babies – a charcuterie board is one of those ‘one size fits all’ meals. It’s perfect for almost any occasion.
That’s why I created this thorough guide, to help you learn how to put together a charcuterie spread easily and efficiently, so you won’t have to do any guessing or Googling outside this post. I’ll help you navigate the cheese aisle at the store, and show you step by step how to lay your board out!
By the end of this tutorial, you’ll feel confident enough to take something like the above photo on! But don’t worry, you can also just choose your favourite display above and make it on a smaller scale.
I would advise giving this whole post a scan before you begin. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the steps and end result, then you can hit the grocery store!
Speaking of which, let’s start with our grocery list:
I typically choose 2 soft, 1 strong, 1 semi-hard, and 1 hard. For a smaller, beginner scale, I’d suggest 1 soft, and 2 semi-hard .
Soft: think creamy, smooth, and mild to tangy in flavour.
- Goat cheese
Strong: think musty, ripe, and pungent in flavour (I highly recommend trying at least 1 of these, but if you are easily squiked out by unknown foods, it’s okay to skip it).
Semi-hard: think familiar favourites that usually go in sandwiches.
Hard: think cheese you’d usually top a pasta with.
- Grana Padano
If you are very new to charcuterie boards, here are cheeses to skip: ricotta, burrata, bocconcini, feta, mozzarella, and things like Babybel, string cheese and processed cheese slices. Also skip cream cheese and sour cream dips. While these are all delicious, they’re better off in other dishes, not necessarily on a cheeseboard.
2. CURED MEATS
Choose 2-3 kinds, or grab a variety pack.
- Smoked salmon
3. PICKLED THINGS:
Choose 1-2 items (pickles and pickled asparagus are good for beginners).
- Pickled asparagus
- Banana peppers
- Pickled beans
- Pickled onions
4. OILY THINGS
Choose 1-2 varieties.
- Stuffed jalapeno peppers
5. CONDIMENTS AND JELLIES
Choose at least 1 hot, 1 sweet, and 1 tangy.
- Jellies (hot pepper and apricot are my faves)
- Mustards (go for grainy or dijon rather than plain yellow)
6. FRESH FARE
Choose 1-2 fresh fruits and 1-2 fresh herbs.
- Herbs (rosemary, parsley, dill)
*you can also add dried fruit like figs and apricots if you wish.
7. CRACKERS, NUTS AND BREADS
Choose at least 3 of the following:
- Familiar crackers (Wheat Thins, Triscuits)
- Artisinal crackers (PC Artisan Crisps, 34° Savoury Crisps)
- Breadsticks (PC Swiss Sticks)
- Nuts (mixed, salted, almonds, cashews)
- Baguette (fresh baguette or Ace Bakery baguette crisps)
Gather your dishes. Think your favourite platters, trays, bowls, drinking cups and dip cups, cake stands, even candle holders!
Please note: I’m building a big display for this tutorial to show you a few different tray/platter styles (3). If a large display is intimidating, you can simply choose your favourite style of the three, and use that as your inspo.
Candle holders and cake stands are so much fun because they add height to the board. That’s what really gives it the ‘wow’ factor and elegant presentation.
Use a different variety of textures, as well. I’m using white and pink ceramics, clear glass, wood, and different metals.
Cover painted surfaces such as trays with parchment paper (to make them food safe; you should not eat off of painted surfaces, and because your trays may get stained).
I like having a collection of tiny ‘pinch’ bowls for the condiments. Dessert and cereal bowls are a bit too big for this job!
A cheese serving set is nice to have, but you can also use small forks and spoons if you don’t have any. I’ve even used measuring spoons!
Start by laying out your dishes and boards. Remember, nothing is permanent, you can adjust as you go if need be.
Start with everything in cups. Spreads, pickled things, and oily things. It’s easier to arrange around them rather than trying to fit them in at the end.
Next, the main attraction – your cheeses!
Now, with cheeses, you can pre-slice and dice everything if you like a tidy, organized board. I prefer a more organic looking board, so I ‘start’ slicing the cheese, but place the entire blocks on the board as well. Arrange them apart, so that other elements will separate each cheese.
Here, I’ve cubed some Grana Padano, but also left the blocks in case people want to cut off slices or wedges as well.
And here with the blue, I’ve started crumbling it so that no one feels awkward ‘making the first cut’ and they can dive right in.
With the brie, I’ve purchased an entire wheel, and cut 1/4 out and placed it on top. I think it gives the impression of a display in an authentic cheese shop window!
Next up: your cured meats.
I like to roll the meat rather than layer it, because it makes it go further (by taking up more space), and they’re easier to take without having to ‘peel’ off of the others.
Make neat little piles around the board.
PRO TIP: if you have any vegetarian friends, make a second, smaller board without any meat on it. It’s a thoughtful touch they will appreciate.
Now let’s add our fresh elements! I’m using strawberries and grapes. I gave the grapes their own tiered bowl, and artfully draped a few over the side. I removed the stems from the strawberries and arranged them in a neat pile, and also added one atop the brie wheel.
Now, all of your fresh items are on the boards! It’s time to start filling in the blanks with crackers, bread and nuts.
Group them in at will, and feel free to repeat the same items around the board. You can see that the baguette crisps, PC artisan crackers, and mixed nuts are in several places.
I like putting the breadsticks/twists in cups to add height, and also take up less space on the board.
Now add in your fresh herbs!
I’ve used rosemary, dill and flat leaf parsley, just tucking them in anywhere I see a little space.
Now grab your signs and your chalk pen!
You can label the cheese with it’s actual name (Cheddar, Blue, Brie), or you can label by texture/smell (Sharp, Stinky, Creamy).
Insert them at different angles. Finally, add your cheese knives, forks and spoons around the boards!
A display that is sure to wow your guests (or your family)!
Charcuterie doesn’t just have to be for special occasions (though it’s a great go-to to make ahead for parties), you can make charcuterie any night of the week! Spontaneous snack dinners are so much fun.
But, again, this is a great thing to make for special occasions, birthdays, Christmas, New Years Eve, and girls night in!
I hope you learned a few new tricks today, and that this tutorial inspires you to create a beautiful charcuterie spread for your next special event. Let me know if you have any questions! Do you have any must-haves for your charcuterie boards?