A complete guide on how to craft your ideal charcuterie board with a perfect ratio of cured meats, cheeses, fresh fruits, vegetables, spreads, snacks, and more.
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Table of Contents
- About Classic Charcuterie Board
- What is a charcuterie board?
- How do you pronounce “Charcuterie”?
- Can you make a charcuterie board in advance?
- How long can you leave out a charcuterie board?
- What you’ll need to make a charcuterie board
- Tips for styling a charuterie board
- What to add to a charcuterie board
- More great appetizers
- Recipe Details
About Classic Charcuterie Board
Charcuterie boards are the ultimate appetizer, providing a smorgasbord of the best types of finger foods: cured meats, cheeses, fresh fruit, crunchy vegetables, and as many snacks and spreads as you can handle.
What is a charcuterie board?
“Charcuterie” is a French term for presenting cold, prepared meats with other accompaniments. It’s almost like an art form, but for a specific type of food.
How do you pronounce “Charcuterie”?
Charcuterie is pronounced “shaar koo tr ee.” Americans tend to lengthen the vowels, so the “oo” and “ee” are more present. You can also listen to the pronunciation of it here: How to Pronounce Charcuterie.
Can you make a charcuterie board in advance?
While you can collect and prepare ingredients, it’s best to assemble a charcuterie board no longer than an hour before it’s ready to be served.
How long can you leave out a charcuterie board?
Whenever you serve an appetizer like this for your guests to enjoy, you should always keep track of how long it sits at room temperature.
For most foods, the general rule of thumb is that a perishable item should not be in the “danger zone” for more than two hours. And by “danger zone”, this is usually at or just above room temperature.
So, in total, this elaborate dish can be left out for “about” two hours, depending on the start temperature and the temperature of the room. However, be sure to still check the dip every now and then – meats and cheeses and be tricky like that.
Once you pass the recommended time, you can set it in the refrigerator (if it’ll fit) or disassemble it for storage, refrigerating the individual parts. If your guests still want more tasty eats, let everything chill for at least 30 minutes before bringing it back out again.
What you’ll need to make a charcuterie board
- Choose a wide, flat tray or board – You could go as simple as a baking sheet or go all out with a beautiful wooden board – both are amazing bases for charcuterie. But no matter what you pick, make sure it is at least 9×13 inches in size (and bigger is always okay). If you find that you’ve purchased more food than your tray or board can hold, you can always use the extra to restock the charcuterie board as guests have their fill.
- Prepare your board – If your chosen board is unfinished wood or you plan on having lots of juicy foods, lay a piece of parchment paper or wax paper on the board before adding the food.
- Cheese knives – These are short, stout knives that are designed for smearing cheese. Many cheese knife sets also include other knives that are great for cutting or serving from a charcuterie board.
- Tongs – A charcuterie board is a smorgasbord of finger food, but that doesn’t mean that guests have to serve themselves with their fingers. If you’ll be proving tongs, make sure you have enough for the meats, one for cheese, and one for “everything else.”
Tips for styling a charuterie board
- Spreads, Jellys, Jams, Anything in a jar or bowl, etc – Place these items first, spreading them out so they aren’t too close together, and then build related items around them. For example, place meats and bread near a cheese spread, or brie around jelly and jams.
- Crackers and Bread – Place in between big sections, around spreads, or near the edges. Many guests will start by picking crackers or bread, so make sure they’re easy to get to.
- Meats – It’s best to keep each type of meat in separate groups. See if you can arrange the meats to be at opposite points on the board. Meats can be arranged in little piles or rows. For firmer meats, they can also be used to create division between other ingredients.
- Cheeses – Great to place around meats for convenience and color contrast to darker, vibrant foods. And like meats, can be arranged in piles or rows. Try not to place more than two types of cheeses near each other.
- Fresh Fruit and Vegetables – Great for adding separation between the meat and cheese. Plus, wonderful pops of color.
- Nuts and Dried Fruits – These “snacky” items are perfect for filling any gaps or holes in the board. Do these last.
What to add to a charcuterie board
There are so many options for a charcuterie board (which is exactly what makes them so fun) and what foods you choose will ultimately come down to personal preference and the occasion. However, there are some “standard choices” and ratios you should keep in mind when building your ideal combination.
Below are some general tips and suggestions you can use to help build your perfect board.
Note: Feel free to mix and match anything from the below list, from omitting whole groups to doubling up on others. These are merely meant to be guidelines, not rules, so have fun with what you create!
Pick 3 to 5 Meats (2-3 OZ PER GUEST)
Any cured or smoked meat is a great pick for a charcuterie board. Meats also tend to be one of the focal points of a charcuterie board, so look to pick anywhere from three to five of the following:
- Prosciutto – This meat is sliced thin and can stick together, so it’s great for rolling or folding.
- Salame – Can be sliced to whatever thickness you’d like. Salami is also great for folding and creating “rows” on the board.
- Smoked Salmon
- Ham – Plenty of flavors to try!
- Jerky (also sometimes called meat sticks)
- Bacon – Cooked and cooled, whole or crumbled.
Pick 2 or 3 Hard Cheeses (1-2 OZ PER GUEST)
For firm cheese, it’s good to pick anywhere from two to three options. I’d suggest:
- Swiss – Mild cheese with trademark holes. Great served sliced.
- Cheddar – Can use mild, medium, sharp, or white.
- Gouda – A sweet cheese that can also come smoked.
- Blue Cheese – Very strong smell and taste, but great as a garnish and good for presentation. Can be served sliced or crumbled.
- Monterey Jack – Mild and slightly sweet.
- Pepper Jack – Monterey jack cheese that’s flavored with peppers and herbs.
- Pecorino – Made with sheep’s milk with a salty flavor.
- Gruyere – Has a salty, nutty flavor.
- Manchego – Another cheese made with sheep’s milk with a buttery taste and texture. Visually interesting thanks to the air pockets in the cheese.
- Havarti – A danish semisoft cheese made with Cow’s milk. Also has air pockets like manchego.
- Provolone – An aged Italian smoked cheese.
Pick 1 or 2 Soft Cheeses (1-2 OZ PER GUEST)
Soft cheeses can be a solid mellow filler, so look to pick one or two of the following:
- Brie – Great for decorating (can cut a shape out of the top rind) or can be served with the rind removed.
- Mozzarella – Can either slice up a fresh mozzarella ball or get the mozzarella pearls (small, individual-portion-sized balls of mozzarella).
- Goat Cheese – Also best served sliced.
- Cream Cheese – Always popular. Serve it sliced or as a whipped spread.
- Fontina – A cow’s milk cheese that’s typically sold in a wedge. Can keep it in its shape or slice it.
- Camembert – Another soft cheese with a rind, similar in texture to brie.
Pick 2 to 4 Fresh Fruit and Vegetables (1-2 OZ PER GUEST)
Fruit gives amazing pops of color! Ideally, pick fruits or vegetables that aren’t too “juicy” so they can rest on the board without drenching the food around them with juice (or make sure that they’re in their own bowl). For a great presentation, plan on using two to four of the following:
- Grapes – Get multiple colors, if you can.
- Oranges – Either a whole peeled orange, individual orange slices, or sliced orange.
- Carrots – Sliced or use baby carrots.
- Onions – Typically red, though yellow or sweet could also work.
- Cherry Tomatoes – Ideal because they don’t need to be sliced.
- Snap Peas
Pick 3 to 5 Crackers and Bread (2-3 OZ PER GUEST)
Crackers and bread are the staples that will help your guests enjoy all the other flavors. Plan on picking anywhere from three to five of the following:
- Triscuit Crackers – Simple choice and comes in many different flavors, too.
- Ritz Crackers
- French Bread – Ideally dried or toasted. Can also use fresh, soft french bread, but a firm bread will stand up better to spreading.
- Rye Bread
- Sourdough Bread
- Ciabatta Bread – Tends to be on the chewy side.
- Crispy Breadsticks
Pick 2 to 3 Dried Fruit and Nuts (1-2 OZ PER GUEST)
Ideal for adding texture and filling gaps in your board, look to pick anywhere from two to three of the following:
- Shelled Sunflower Seeds
- Dried Apricots
- Dried Mango
- Dried Dates
- Dried Pineapple
Pick 2 to 3 Pickled or Jarred Items (1 OZ PER GUEST)
These items can have intense flavor and scent, so aim to pick one or two from this list:
- Sliced Pickles
- Olives – Green, black, or both.
- Pickled Onions
- Pickled Carrots
- Sun Dried Tomatoes
- Cornichons – Tiny pickles.
Pick 2 to 4 Jam, Jelly, or Spreads (1 OZ PER GUEST)
Spreads will help bridge the flavor gaps and add some savory texture. Plan on picking two to four of the following, with an even split between sweet and savory/sour choices:
- Spinach Dip
- Blue Cheese Dip
- Ranch Dip
- Tzatziki Dip
- Red Pepper Jelly – Goes great with brie.
- Any Type of Fruit Jelly, Jam, Preserve, or Marmalade
- Mustard, Honey Mustard, or Grey Poupon
Any Amount of Herbs and Garnish
Items from this list can be offered as a garnish that guests can eat (so plan ahead for this, either by chopping the herbs or placing them in bowls if needed) OR they can be placed as just a visual addition (that guests may still eat – you never know). Pick as many as you want of the following:
- Parsley – Ideally chopped.
- Rosemary – Sprigs.
- Basil – Chopped.
- Cilantro – Chopped or sprigs.
- Mint – Full leaves or sprigs.
- Lemons or Limes – Only a few wedges or slices.
In addition to all of the above, don’t be afraid to add some items outside of the norm that you can your guests might like, such as:
- Maraschino Cherries
- Cheese Balls
More great appetizers
Classic Charcuterie Board
- 10 ounce spread or dip, such as spinach dip, blue cheese dip, ranch dip, tzatziki dip, relish, mustard, honey mustard, grey poupon, or chutney
- 10 ounce pickled or jarred items, such as sliced pickles, olives, pickled onions, pickled carrots, sun dried tomatoes, or cornichons
- 5 ounce jam or jelly, red pepper jelly or any fruit flavored jelly, jam, preserve, or marmalade
- 1 1/2 lb cured meats, such as prosciutto, salame, pepperoni, smoked salmon, sausage, sam, jerky, cooked bacon, or pâté
- 1 lb hard cheeses, such as swiss, cheddar, gouda, blue cheese, monterey jack, pepper jack, pecorino, gruyere, manchego, havarti, or provolone
- 1 lb soft cheeses, such as brie, mozzarella, goat cheese, cream cheese, fontina, or camembert
- 12 ounce bread, such as french bread, rye bread, sourdough, or ciabatta
- 12 ounce crackers, such as Triscuits, Ritz, biscotti, or crispy breadsticks
- 8 ounce fresh fruit, such as grapes, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, or oranges
- 8 ounce fresh vegetables, such as carrots, cucumbers, zucchini, onions, cherry tomatoes, edamame, snap peas, or celery
- 10 ounce dried fruit, such as dried apricots, dried mango, dried dates, or dried pineapple
- 8 ounce nuts, such as cashews, pecans, peanuts, walnuts, pistachios, or shelled sunflower seeds
- herbs for garnish, such as parsley, rosemary, basil, cilantro, lemons, limes, or mint
- Begin by placing any bowls, dishes, or cups on your chosen board, spacing them far apart. This could include spreads, dips, jellies, garnishes, olives, etc.
- Place the meat in either piles or rows. Keep meats separate and at opposite sides of the board, if possible.
- Next, arrange cheese near meats in piles or rows, in between the meats.
- Arrange bread and crackers in easy-to-reach places where they’ll be most used, like around dips or jams.
- Fill in the “holes” with fruits, vegetables, dried fruits, nuts, and garnishes.
- Review the board arrangement and make sure that flavors alternate well (sweet to savory, mild to salty to spicy, etc) and no food of the same color is close together.
- Serve immediately.
I do my best to provide nutrition information, but please keep in mind that I’m not a certified nutritionist. Any nutritional information discussed or disclosed in this post should only be seen as my best amateur estimates of the correct values.