A charcuterie board is the perfect food to serve at a party. The presentation makes it look very appetizing, as all of the meats and cheeses are laid out neatly on the rustic wooden board.
It is an informal way to dine that is ideal for social gatherings, but still brings an element of sophistication to the event. And most importantly, the flavors are amazing.
Putting together a charcuterie board can seem like a bit of a challenge if you haven’t done one before, as you need to choose which elements to include.
We have made this easier for you by putting together this guide on how to pick which meat to put on your charcuterie board. Keep reading to find out more.
What Makes A Good Charcuterie Board?
A charcuterie board is quite a simple idea – a selection of meat and cheeses are laid out on a wooden board along with accompaniments that complement their flavors- but it needs to be done well.
One of the most important things to do is use good quality ingredients- the meats are not being served in a sauce with lots of extra seasoning so they need to taste brilliant as they are.
If possible, try to source your meats from a good butcher or delicatessen rather than an ordinary grocery store.
You need to choose meats, cheeses and accompaniments that go well together. The flavors don’t all need to match, they can also contrast, as long as they complement each other rather than clash.
This will require a bit of experimentation with flavor combinations as you compose the board.
The best charcuterie boards have a little bit of everything- a variety of different meats makes the board an exciting culinary experience.
We will take you through the different kinds of meat you should include on your board. Remember – you don’t have to choose just one meat from each category.
Start off with a cured, hard sausage. These are generally quite popular and a lot of guests will have tried something similar before, so they will be comfortable getting stuck in.
Spanish chorizo is a great choice, with lots of garlicky flavors and a vibrant color. If you want something spicy you could try sopressata- a dry salami with a chewy texture and a fiery, salty taste.
Calabrese is another spicy meat that you might enjoy, which comes from a region in Southern Italy that is well known for its spicy dishes. On the sweeter end of the spectrum is finocchiona, a salami that is flecked with fennel seeds.
Mortadella is a nice mild charcuterie meat – finely ground pork shoulder marbled with pork fat and studded with pistachios and sometimes olives.
The sausage is cooked slowly at a low temperature and then sliced very thinly. If you are struggling to choose then you can’t go wrong with Genoa salami- the pork is flavored with white wine, garlic, salt and white peppercorns before being cured for 10 weeks.
If you want a French cured sausage then go for saucisson sec which is flavored with fresh garlic and peppercorns.
Whole Muscle Cuts
Whole muscle cuts are sliced very thinly – usually paper thin – from one larger joint. Cured pork legs fall under this category. Two very popular options are prosciutto and jamon iberico.
Prosciutto has quite a salty flavor, and is marbled with tasty white fat. Good quality prosciutto should be paper thin and feel like it is melting in your mouth.
Capocollo is similar, but it is from the neck joint instead of the leg. Jamon iberico is often compared to prosciutto but it has a sweeter flavor, with a nutty and earthy taste.
If you would rather use beef instead of pork for your whole muscle cut then try lomo bresaola, a type of salted, air dried beef from northern Italy. Cecina is the Spanish version of the same cut of beef, and it is equally good.
Pate Or Terrine
The next thing you will want to include is a good quality pate or terrine. This provides an alternative texture to the other meats, as well as bringing a rich, fatty flavor and a touch of decadence.
You can go for the usual options like chicken liver pate, duck terrine, and brussels pate or you can try something a little different.
Lamb neck terrine or rabbit and pickled vegetable terrine are two excellent options that may take your guests by surprise whilst giving their taste buds a treat.
Pork rillettes is not quite a pate or a terrine – it is more similar to confit duck – but it fits in nicely on a charcuterie board.
The meat is seasoned with herbs then slow cooked in its own fat until it takes on a soft consistency that is spreadable. The fat acts as a preservative.
When it comes to fermented sausage there is one option that stands out from the rest – Nduja. This spreadable sausage meat is one part lean muscle and three parts fat, making it soft and full of flavor.
You can spread it over bread, or dip breadsticks into it. If you want to get creative you could layer up an Alpine style cheese like gouda onto a cracker and top it with a smear of nduja sausage for a really tasty mouthful.
What Should Accompany The Meat On A Charcuterie Board?
Your charcuterie board should be well balanced. Once you have chosen your meats, you can select some cheeses to go with it.
You could try to choose cheeses from similar regions that the meat is from – for example, if you have chosen chorizo, jamon iberico, and Cecina, you could choose a Spanish cheese like Manchego.
Smoked cheese goes well with German style salami, and brie is a good pairing with a chicken liver terrine. Alternatively you can choose the cheese based on the flavors you like.
You should aim for a variety of textures and types- an aged cheese like gouda or gruyere, a soft and creamy cheese like brie or camembert, a crumbly cheese like goats cheese or feta, a firm cheese like manchego or parmesan, a smoked cheese like provolone or cheddar, and a blue cheese like gorgonzola or stilton.
You need something bread-based to go alongside the meat and the cheese. Crackers are an easy option, but if you want to really impress your guests then make some slices of toasted sourdough or ciabatta brushed with olive oil and garlic.
You could also add some picos to your table, spanish breadsticks wrapped in salty ham.
The next accompaniment you need to add to your board is a jam or a chutney that will introduce a tangy, tart flavor. This will bring together the cheese and the meat.
A berry jam, a plum chutney, pickled raisins, or onion chutney are all great options. You should also put some nuts on the table for a crunchy texture- toasted walnuts go very well with the rich meats and cheeses.
The great thing about charcuterie boards is that you can personalize them and make them your own- add whatever you think goes well with your meats and cheese!
You could add olives, pickles, artichokes, cheese-stuffed peppers, stuffed vine leaves, fresh tomatoes, grapes, dried apricots – anything you want.