Charcuterie Board Plating
After a long season of leaning over hot stoves and meticulously decorating cookies, we’re ready for a little break. As much joy as we might get from entertaining, we only have so much time and energy. On those occasions when we’re running low on both, we’re especially thankful for every great host’s secret weapon – the charcuterie board.
Charcuterie Board 101
Charcuterie boards are, traditionally, platters of all our favorite cold cured meats, but these days have grown to include samplings of meats, cheeses, and more – often served with condiments, bread, and crackers. What separates a charcuterie board from the simpler, straight-from-the-store meat and cheese platters commonly found at your typical social is a focus on quality ingredients and presentation.
Plating a charcuterie board is not unlike arranging a bouquet of flowers. You want to make sure that all your high-quality ingredients are displayed beautifully and in a way that every piece compliments its neighbour. A beautifully-presented charcuterie board should consider:
Scale – A variety of heights on your charcuterie board gives the presentation appealing dimension. Try cutting firm cheeses and placing them on their side, or serving meats or condiments on risers for a tiered effect. Stacking and well-planned slicing not only give your platter more visual appeal, but the flexibility to fit more crowd-pleasers on a single tray.
Colour – An interesting combination of shades makes your charcuterie look much more appetizing. Try combining very different-looking cheeses with dried fruit, pickled vegetables, and fine condiments to add pops of colour, while matching their exciting flavours.
Flow – A charcuterie board is made for sharing, mingling, and experimenting. Create space between each element so guests can feast without being in the way of others. Encourage guests to try certain combinations by arranging specific complementary ingredients closer together. People tend to scan from left to right, so give some thought to which order you want people to explore the selection and place them accordingly.
Charcuterie Board Accessories
Beautiful accessories go a long way in making the presentation look picture-perfect. For starters, a set of cheese knives is a must-have for serving charcuterie, pairing function with grace. Opt for a dedicated surface, like a raw-edge wooden serving tray, which sets the stage for a gorgeous arrangement. Cute, tiny vessels for condiments will keep the area neat while adding visual appeal. And, of course, make sure any packaging you leave on the board is beautiful – keep any shrink wrap or price tags hidden away!
What to Put on a Charcuterie Board
The best part about charcuterie is it requires no heat, minimal prep, and you can usually get everything you need at the specialty foods shop. Really the only downside is how overwhelming it can be to choose from a hundred cheeses and meats! As a rule of thumb, we recommend each charcuterie board contain:
- At least three types of cheese – Ideally something soft, something firm, and something a little daring.
- At least three types of meat – Always try to have something mild and approachable, something a little more robust, and something spicy.
- Condiments – At least one savoury and at least one sweet, but a little kick of spice is always good, too.
- Carbohydrates for serving – Typically crackers or a selection of breads.
Foolproof Charcuterie Board Ideas
There are thousands of to-die-for combinations and options, but these boards are guaranteed to send the compliments rolling in. Try one of these serving suggestions at your next function, or use them as a starting point to inspire your own:
For Low-Key Gatherings
Boursin – Soft, spreadable, mild yet addictive
Applewood – smoked cheddar – Firm, sharp, and smoky
Shropshire bleu – Has the savoury qualities of cheddar with the tang of a milder bleu cheese
Genoa salami – A mild, easy-to-eat classic
Dry-aged prosciutto – Salty with a dry, jerky-like texture
Hot capicola – Tender and very spicy
Condiments: Olive tapenade and liquid honey
Serve with: French bread and Ritz crackers
For Intimate Special Occasions
– Baked brie – Try it seasoned with lemon zest and fresh herbs!
– Gorgonzola – A strong, soft-textured bleu
– Aged Irish cheddar – Sharp, delicious flavour with a unique texture
– Prosciutto – A chewy Italian ham with an earthy flavour
– Chorizo – A boldly spicy dry sausage
– Soppressata – A full-flavoured dry salami with a kick
Condiments: Honey, fig preserves
Serve with: Pear slices, bias-cut discs of baguette
For Black-Tie Soirees
– Délice de Bourgogne – Can be hard to find, but has an unforgettable buttery flavour and texture. Substitute – with Saint-André if unavailable.
– Castello Blue – A bold Danish bleu
– Manchego Viejo – Aged Spanish cheese with a slightly sweet flavour and crumbly texture
– Jamón – A well-cured ham with a distinctive flavour
– Foie gras – A true delicacy. Substitute pâté if foie gras is not available.
– Hot Coppa – A spicy, dry salami similar in texture to aged prosciutto
– Condiments: Dried fruit, agave syrup
– Serve with: Water crackers, cream crackers, assorted bread, and dry toasts
Serving delicious foods to our guests doesn’t always mean hours of prepping, cooking, and plating. For a sophisticated serving that will be the hit of any soiree, these charcuterie boards will be a surefire success!