4 Steps to a Gorgeous Charcuterie Board Your Guests Will Devour (2024)

While charcuterie (pronounced shar-COO-tur-ree) technically refers only to a selection of cold cooked meats, it's usually inclusive of a broad supporting cast of cheeses, spreads, crackers, nuts, and produce. The best aspect of charcuterie boards is the flexibility they afford: Scale portions up or down depending on the number of guests, adjust ingredients for dietary needs and preferences, or shop for foods within a specific color palette or region. To get you started, we show you how to make a simple meat and cheese board from start to finish—with photos.

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4 Steps to a Gorgeous Charcuterie Board Your Guests Will Devour (1)

What Are the Elements of a Charcuterie Board?

The Platter

First, choose a board, tray, or platter to be your foundation. Wood and marble are popular charcuterie board material choices because they are sturdy and beautiful. The shape is simply a matter of preference, though you should take the elements of your board into account when making your selections. For example, a rectangular board may better accommodate long, leafy vegetable stems or cheese wedges than a square-shape one. We designed this rectangular 20x12-inch board to feed about 10 people. Bear in mind: The larger the board, the more money you'll spend to fill it up. If you want to keep your budget in check, fill large boards out with more produce or opt for a smaller one.

The Dishes

Dishes create structure on the board. Use little bowls and cups (we like these Better Homes & Gardens Small Coupe Ramekin Bowls, Set of 8 for $16, Walmart) to anchor the arrangement and help contain loose items like dips, nuts, and olives. Raid your kitchen cabinets for salt cellars, small candy dishes, and ramekins. What you have on hand is perfect—they don't need to match!

The Cheeses

If your budget and location allow it, go to a local cheese shop for unique, high-quality cheeses. As a rule of thumb, include three to five cheeses in these basic categories: a hard cheese, a soft cheese, and a blue cheese. Contrasting flavors and textures diversify the board and give guests a broader range of options to sample. If you aren't sure what to buy, ask the store for pairing recommendations.

The Meats

Include a few varieties of thinly sliced cured meats. Lay them flat or arrange them in loose rolls so they're easy for guests to pick up and nibble on. You can also include harder meats that guests can cut themselves, like smoked sausages and salamis, and a spreadable meat like pâté (chicken or duck liver). Some popular charcuterie meats include guanciale, pancetta, hard salami, prosciutto, and mortadella.

The Crackers

Crackers, breadsticks, breads. You'll want to include a few starchy sidekicks, especially if your board includes soft, spreadable cheeses and jams. There's no hard-and-fast rule here, though we recommend offering two types of crackers or breads with different flavor profiles. If someone on your guest list has gluten sensitivity, consider subbing in a nut-based cracker option.

The Produce

Fruits and veggies add color and freshness to a charcuterie or meat and cheese board. They're also a tasty contrast to rich, salty meats and cheeses. When planning which items to include, consider foods that can be eaten whole or cut into slices. Buy in-season produce for the best flavors (and to trim down your grocery bill).

Building a Charcuterie Board: Where Do I Start?

Though there are many easy charcuterie board ideas out there, the process is somewhat formulaic. Start by adding structure with little dishes, then place your ingredients on the board starting with the largest elements like the cheeses and meats, followed by smaller items like crackers and fresh produce.

4 Steps to a Gorgeous Charcuterie Board Your Guests Will Devour (2)

Step One: Add Structure

Fill small vessels with dips, spreads, and items that can be piled onto the board. Try honey, mustard, cornichons, blue cheese-stuffed olives, or a mixed selection of salted nuts.

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Step Two: Add the Cheeses and Meats

First, place the cheeses. Arrange them evenly around the board and allow space for slicing and scooping. We used two kinds of Brie (a robust, creamy Brie and a mild Brie), blue cheese, an aged cheddar, and goat cheese on this board. Next, add the meats. We placed the prosciutto, Italian salami, and American salami in little piles next to the cheeses. It's OK if items on the board touch; they're meant to be enjoyed together.

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Step Three: Add Crackers

Slip two or three small stacks of sliced bread or crackers among the bowls, meats, and cheeses. Let them topple over and get a bit messy—it's part of the board's beauty. We used two kinds of crackers— asiago cheese and flax seed—to complement the various flavors on the board.

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Step Four: Add Fruits, Veggies, and Herbs

This last step is the icing on the cake. Fill in any gaps on the board with fruits, vegetables, and sprigs of herbs. We used whole radishes, sliced figs, red grapes, and thyme. If you don't have fresh items available to you, sub in dried fruits like apricots, cherries, and plums for something sweet and chewy. When your board is finished, set it out with a few cheese knives so guests can help themselves after they marvel at your masterpiece. Enjoy!

Editor's note: Most charcuterie meats and cheeses are tastiest when served at room temperature. Perishable items shouldn't sit out for more than two hours. Consider keeping a small selection of "refill" items, like sliced meats and cheeses, in the refrigerator so they're ready to go when the board needs restocking.

4 Steps to a Gorgeous Charcuterie Board Your Guests Will Devour (2024)


4 Steps to a Gorgeous Charcuterie Board Your Guests Will Devour? ›

The 3333 rule applies to the number of foods to create the perfect board. To follow the 3,3,3,3 rule, stick to three cheeses, three meats, three starches, and three accoutrements.

What is the 3-3-3 rule for charcuterie board? ›

The 3333 rule applies to the number of foods to create the perfect board. To follow the 3,3,3,3 rule, stick to three cheeses, three meats, three starches, and three accoutrements.

What are 5 things to avoid on a charcuterie board? ›

CHARCUTERIE // Stop Adding These 10 Ingredients To Your Charcuterie Boards!
  • STINKY CHEESES. The cheese section at the grocery store can be overwhelming and intimidating. ...
  • SPICY FOODS. ...
  • Veggies. ...
  • Allergens and Sensitivities. ...
  • Dips, Sauces and Jams. ...
  • Boring and Bland Foods.
Jan 15, 2024

How do you make a prettiest charcuterie board? ›

There are different ways to place the charcuterie: You can shape slices into a rose-like shape, by rolling them like a cinnamon roll. Little clumps and swirls of cured hams are easy and fun. Salamis can be rolled or folded on themselves so they stand up. The most important thing is to make them easy to grab.

What are the elements of a charcuterie board? ›

Charcuterie Made Simple: 5 Components You Need For Your Board
  • Cheeses.
  • Meats.
  • Fruits and/or veggies.
  • Crackers and/or bread.
  • Spreads.

What is the rule for charcuterie? ›

To make things easier, she generally recommends following the simple rule of three – three types of cheese, three types of meat, three types of crackers, and so forth. "A good rule of thumb is to work in threes," she said. "As long as you have three of anything on a board then I think it has enough variety."

How to make a charcuterie board for 50 guests? ›

A typical board would be meat, cheese, extra (fruit, veggies, crackers). Therefore if you have 50 people you would want 50 ounces of meat, 50 ounces of cheese and 50 ounces of extras. One pound of cheese, one pound of meat, and one pound of a combination of fruit, veggies and crackers= 16 people.

How to make a charcuterie board look fancy? ›

Charcuterie Board Styling Tips & Tricks
  1. Consult the guest list. ...
  2. Work with uneven numbers. ...
  3. Keep organized. ...
  4. Start with your bowls or round shapes. ...
  5. Next, move on to your biggest pieces and arrange by category. ...
  6. Avoid same category items touching. ...
  7. Move and adjust as you go. ...
  8. Fill final empty spaces with nuts.
Nov 24, 2021

What are the 5 ingredient charcuterie? ›

Often, chocolate or sweets are included, too. However, the simplest board will always have five key ingredients: fruit, nuts or olives, cheese, meat, and a carb like toasted bread or crackers.

How do you make a charcuterie board for a crowd? ›

What should be on a charcuterie board?
  1. Cured Meats (2oz person)
  2. Cheeses (2-3 oz per person)
  3. Veggies.
  4. Fruits.
  5. Nuts and Olives.
  6. Crackers and Slices of bread (lots of them!)*
  7. Fresh Herbs.
  8. Sweet spreads ( marmalades, preserves, Fig spread, etc.)
Nov 14, 2022

What not to put on charcuterie? ›

What should you not put on a charcuterie board? You'll want to avoid overly juicy fruits whose juices will run across the board and turn your crackers and bread soggy. Skip fruits like watermelon, pineapple, and tomatoes and stick with grapes, berries, and apples or dried fruits.

What are 3 good cheeses for a charcuterie board? ›

Here are the best cheeses for your charcuterie board
  • Hard cheese: chunks of parmesan, aged gouda, asiago.
  • Firm cheese: gruyere, comte, manchego, colby, cheddar.
  • Semi-soft cheese: havarti, butterkäse, muenster.
  • Soft cheese: burrata, mascarpone, stracchino.
  • Blue cheese: gorgonzola, dunbarton blue, marbled blue jack.

What are the do's and don'ts of charcuterie? ›

However, some general tips for creating and enjoying a charcuterie plate might include choosing a variety of meats and cheeses, avoiding overpowering flavors, and allowing each person to build their own plate according to their preferences.

How far in advance should you prepare a charcuterie board? ›

You can assemble a charcuterie board up to 24 hours ahead of time, minus the fresh fruit. Just be sure to wrap the charcuterie board with plastic wrap before storing it in the fridge. Take it out of the fridge up to 30 minutes prior to serving.

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