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How to Build a Charcuterie Board: The Perfect Way to Serve Hors D’oeuvres

A fall charcuterie board featuring pumpkins, gourds, olives, meats, cheeses, grapes, and dried fruits.
Fattyplace/Shutterstock.com

An enormous platter crowded with an assortment of various meats, cheeses, fruits, and nuts sits before you. The complementary colors and flavors are a sight for a foodie’s sore eyes. You can only gaze at the beauty for so long before digging in. This is why every autumn bonfire, family get-together, or holiday party needs a charcuterie board.

From standard meat and cheese fare to baked potatoes, and even ice cream, charcuterie boards have been having quite a “moment” over the last few years. We’ll show you how to build a bountiful, tempting charcuterie board for your next party or event that will have grazers coming back for more all night.

A Bit of Charcuterie History

Charcuterie (pronounced shar-coo-tree) boards originated in France, and the word actually means “pork-butcher shop.” Before refrigerators, charcutiers (butchers) salted, cured, and dried meats as a preservation method. In the 15th century, charcutiers weren’t allowed to sell raw pork, so they figured out a way to cure the meats for safe consumption.

Today, you see these platters at fancy parties, weddings, and other events, and as far as the foods that are featured, pretty much anything goes. Modern charcuterie boards include many types of meat, from duck, goose, and chicken, to pork. Cheese, crackers, and fruits, and veggies are popular, as well.

As we mentioned previously, though, you’re not limited to savories: some folks are serving up chocolate or chalet charcuteries. There are even some for dogs!

No matter which foods you choose to showcase on your charcuterie board, there are a few supplies you’ll need to pick up before you can start building.

Charcuterie Supplies

Three different sized bamboo cutting boards sitting up on a counter and leaned against a wall, and the same three boards with bread, cheeses, and crackers on them.
Farberware

The first thing you need for your charcuterie is something attractive to set it on. There are a few “presentation considerations” you’ll have to mull over to choose the right platter for your abundance of meats, cheeses, or other food selections. Many of these are simply based on your personal style.

The most important thing to avoid is serving your gorgeous array of foods on an old butchered cutting board. For a more natural, organic appeal, get yourself an attractive wooden, cutting board you can use only for serving.

We like this set by Farberware because you get three sizes (11 x 14 inches, 8 x 10 inches, 5-1/2 x 8 inches), so whether you’re hosting a large or small gathering, you’ll have the perfect serving platter. These are also made of bamboo which has natural antimicrobial properties.

For an awe-inspiring, rustic appearance that’s sure to wow your guests, we like a slate board, like this handled option from Oenophilia. The handy thing about slate is you can write on it with chalk and label the different meats and cheeses.

Finally, you’ll want to make sure you have some quality cheese knives so your guests can easily serve themselves. This classy, but affordable, six-piece set from JLIAN MIOR includes four cheese knives, one cheese fork, and one cheese spreader.

If you’re also serving scoopable foods, like potato or pasta salad, or jarred goods, like olives, you’re going to need some serving spoons. We love this unique set of four from Kyraton. Made of stainless steel with a gorgeous rainbow-colored, titanium coating, they’re bound to get loads of compliments.

Which Foods Work for a Charcuterie Board?

A wooden cutting board loaded with kiwi, grapes, jam, pomegranate, olives, cheese, apricots, oranges, and almonds.
hkalkan/Shutterstock.com

As we mentioned previously, anything goes these days when choosing which foods to feature on your charcuterie board. You’ll just want to make sure you stick with your theme. For example, if it’s a chocolate or dessert-themed board, you wouldn’t include baked potatoes.

Don’t be afraid to add some color to your charcuterie board with mini jars of jams or other spreads. Small jars of pickled mini-size foods also make a nice addition.

If you’d like to go with more classic appetizer fare, we recommend any (or a mix) of the following foods:

  • Various dried or cured meats: Do consider how many guests you’ll be serving, and then purchase about 2-3 ounces of meat per person. You can usually get cured meats, like prosciutto, Soppressata, and Capocollo, prepackaged at your local grocery store. You can also order these at the butcher’s counter, but be sure to ask that they’re very thinly sliced.
  • Cured sausage: Because it’s bulkier, it can add a nice contrast to your board. It’s a good idea to have some thinly sliced, delicate meats, along with some hearty pieces of sausage.
  • Pâté: If you want to get really fancy, you can include some of this—after all, it’s just a ground meat spread, made from pork, duck, chicken, or rabbit.
  • Cheese assortment: The rule of thumb is to serve two hard cheeses and two soft. The same as the meats, purchase around 2-3 ounces per person. Some delicious soft cheeses include Brie, chèvre, goat, Camembert, fresh mozzarella, and blue. For hard cheeses, we recommend Parmigiano-Reggiano, Gruyère, provolone, cheddar, or Swiss.
  • Assorted breads: The same as your cheese and/or meats, several varieties of breads make fantastic additions to your charcuterie board. French baguette is always a simple option, but other crusty farmer’s breads look excellent, too. You can also offer a combination of crackers and breads.
  • Pickled or brined foods: Jars of mini pickles, along with pickled onions, beets, or olives create an awesome color contrast, while offering fresh, complementary flavors to the cheeses and meats.
  • Assorted nuts: A few small bowls of different varieties make a great addition. You can serve any you like, but pecans, almonds, walnuts, pistachios, and macadamia all work well with certain cheeses.
  • Fruits: Like pickled foods, grapes, sliced oranges, and fresh avocado can all add some lovely color to your board.

Make It Seasonal

A cutting board with cheeses, grapes, ham, olives, pepperroni, and celery arranged in the shape of a Christmas tree.
Maria Castellanos/Shutterstock.com

Adding seasonal fruits and vegetables to your charcuterie board is a clever way to create edible décor. For example, a fall charcuterie board could include sliced apples and jams, pistachios, along with mini pumpkins and other gourds for some extra seasonal flair.

To create a modern winter charcuterie board, mix some dried cranberries with goat cheese, and then include some sliced pears and fresh raspberries on your board. Set a few pine cones around for some additional season-appropriate embellishment.

All sorts of fresh berries, homemade jams, sliced tomatoes, and avocado are perfect for a summer charcuterie board. They’ll also look magnificent and add a great boost of freshness.

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »

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