The Perfect Charcuterie and Cheese Board

Y’all, I am a big fan of a good charcuterie and cheese board. Like, if there is one on a restaurant menu then there is also a 96% chance I am going to order it. Did you know that charcuterie refers to a group of prepared meats? To be honest, I typically use charcuterie to refer to the entire meat and cheese plate as a whole. I should probably try to use correct vocabulary, but it is what it is. I’m not an expert but any means, but here I’ll walk you through styling the perfect charcuterie and cheese board. 

example of charcuterie and cheese board

Putting one together at home can be as simple as slicing and piling your favorite meats and cheeses on a serving dish with some crackers. On the other hand, you can go all out and incorporate fruits, nuts, jams, and more! Over the years I’ve started to enjoy making charcuterie boards for when friends or family come over. Then we inevitably have leftovers and Jess and I will have “cheese plate” for lunch for a couple of days that week. Heck – sometimes I’ll have it for breakfast and it makes me feel very European, like I’m in a cute boutique hotel in Rome when I’m actually on my couch watching Good Morning America with two very hungry (not hungry at all) dogs staring at me. I digress – below you’ll find step-by-step how to style a perfect charcuterie and cheese board. 

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The Formula for a Perfect Charcuterie and Cheese Board

I typically use a 2-1-1 formula for creating a well-balanced charcuterie and cheese board: two cheeses, one meat, one cracker. More often than not I double that formula and it becomes four cheeses, two meats, and two crackers – it just depends on how many people and how “big” you want to go. If you’re just putting together a fun little snack for you and your friend/partner (or maybe just you – no judgment here), then it can just be that simple. However, if you want to make it pretty, adding the extras is where it’s at. Extras can include berries or other fruit, nuts or trail mix, anything to add color and texture to the plate because most cheeses and crackers are the same color.

Choosing the Perfect Cheeses for your Perfect Charcuterie & Cheese Board

I am not going to sit here and tell you what cheeses to include – you are presumably a grown adult and know what cheese you like or do not like. However, I will share some nice combinations to get you started. 

My favorite cheese of all time is brie. I think my love of brie cheese stems from staying at my aunt’s house when I was young – she would serve toasted french bread with spreadable brie for breakfast and it was magical. So, naturally, I always put a brie on my charcuterie and cheese boards. I usually always grab a nice smoked gouda or cheddar and if I’m making a larger board, I’ll add a pepperjack and something a bit more wild like goat cheese. It is fair to say that goat cheese is not for everyone, but I love it. 

So, when thinking about what cheese to use, choose ones that vary in texture and taste. You don’t want all soft cheeses or all cheddars. Balance a creamy brie with a more firm aged cheddar, compliment a bold herbed goat cheese with a subtle Swiss. 

Choosing the Perfect Charcuterie for your Perfect Charcuterie & Cheese Board

There are fewer options to choose from (or get lost in) when deciding on the actual charcuterie for your charcuterie and cheese board. My go to is prosciutto. It is so easy to roll up prosciutto slices or kind of crumple them up in an artistic way on your board. Jess is a hunter, so we pretty much always have venison summer sausage and I’ll sometimes add that. Other options include pepperoni, salami, ham, or even a pâté if you’re feeling adventurous.

Adding the Crackers

Considering the texture and weight of your charcuterie and cheeses, you should try to use crackers that will compliment but also stand up to what you put on them. For example, I love melba toasts but they are pretty hard and crumbly so they work better with softer cheeses and spreads. A thin water cracker works great for a slice of cheese and prosciutto. You can also add flavored crackers to go with your more mild cheeses, like a Triscuit or Wheat Thin. I’m also a huge fan of cheese twists from Trader Joe’s – they don’t really easily pair with your cheeses but they’re delicious and add some texture and height to your board.

Add Extras for a Beautiful Presentation

What really makes a perfect charcuterie and cheese board are the extras! The extras can be edible (I love candied lemons or oranges from Trader Joe’s!) or non-edible (sprigs of rosemary or other herbs). Other things to consider are jam (love chili fig!), honey, mixed nuts, olives, or bite sized pickles. By adding those textures and colors, you’ll have a gorgeous and Instagram-worthy board in no time! 

Selecting your Serving Vessel

Lol – vessel. I don’t know why that word makes me laugh but it does. You certainly do not need any special platter, any flat dish or plate will work. However, I do love a beautiful server. I have this one and this one that I use frequently. I also like this one and, full disclosure, this one is in my cart right now! TJ Maxx and HomeGoods often have great deals on trays, usually for less than $20.  

You also may want some fun pinch bowls for the jam, honey, or nuts. Small bowls and serving utensils are another way to add some color and interest to the board. You don’t need anything other than a knife or cheese cutter, but if you want to get a little fancier I like these and these.

Step-by-Step: How to Style a Perfect Charcuterie & Cheese Board

Putting together your board is more an art than a science, but below are some general steps to creating a lovely charcuterie and cheese board: 

  1. Place the “big” items spread out across your platter or plate (like blocks of cheese and serving bowls)
  2. Spread out crackers or bread in the spaces between
  3. Roll up or pile prosciutto or your other meats
  4. Fill serving bowls with your “extras” (jam, honey, nuts, olives)
  5. Finally, add some color by popping in a few sprigs of fresh herbs and/or fruit

I created the above charcuterie and cheese board for Thanksgiving dinner. I bought everything except the jam and oregano at Trader Joe’s. For this one, I used brie, gouda, truffle Italian, and herbed goat cheese. The charcuterie is just prosciutto and salami and the crackers were classic water crackers (says so on the box!) and cheese sticks. These cheese twists are always a hit. The extras I used were chili fig spread (Kroger), rosemary nuts mix, dried apricots, candied orange slices, and a few sprigs of oregano. Occasionally I choose to slice up a few of the cheeses before serving, but for this one I just put some cheese knives on the board and let everyone slice their own. 

Helpful Tips for Styling and Serving a Perfect Charcuterie and Cheese Board

  • You can prep your charcuterie and cheese board  a day or two early and keep in the refrigerator, either fully laid out or just sliced and ready in containers to be plated later. 
  • If you have an herb garden, you can use fresh herbs as decor! For this one I found some late season rosemary and thyme in my garden (buried under leaves!) to add as a green filler. 
  • Don’t forget the 2-1-1 ratio and to keep your types of cheese balanced (firmness, boldness of flavor, etc.). 
  • Charcuterie and cheese boards aren’t only for appetizers! They can also be served as a dessert or if you’re quite fancy, you can have a cheese course with your dinner. 
  • My favorite places to shop for charcuterie and cheese are Costco, Trader Joe’s, and my local farmer’s market. However Kroger typically sells a wide variety of Murray’s cheeses which are good. Costco also sells cheese flights that are quite delightful if you want to take the decision-making out of it!

The combinations of cheese, charcuterie, and crackers are nearly endless and I love trying new flavors. Share your favorite cheese or charcuterie board addition in the comments! If you make a charcuterie and cheese board this holiday season, tag me on instagram so I can see @amandaathomeandabroad.

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