Charcuterie boards are not only delicious, and super handy for social gatherings and events, they’ve also become increasingly popular, turning into somewhat of a phenomenon.
In fact, the internet is full of picture-perfect charcuterie boards, matching all sorts of themes and requests, with beautiful picnic pictures and cottagecore vibes.
This can make charcuterie boards seem quite intimidating. How do you make one look that good? Especially when the bigger ones look like they might take hours to prepare, along with a lot of planning and careful consideration.
But the truth is that charcuterie boards aren’t that complicated to make. Sure, they have a lot of elements, and there are many different things to consider and arrange. But a simple charcuterie board shouldn’t take you very long, and it doesn’t need to be perfect either.
At the end of the day, it’s a board with some ingredients placed on it, and there is no “correct” way of doing it, so you can make your very own unique charcuterie board to suit your personal preferences!
That being said, if you’ve never made a charcuterie board before, you might feel a little lost as to where you should start, and how to build it up until it’s finished and ready to serve.
This is why we’re going to guide you through the whole process, step by step, from selecting your board to placing the ingredients, along with plenty of tips and tricks.
Does that sound good? Are you ready to make your very own picture-perfect charcuterie board? Then let’s get right into it!
What Is A Charcuterie Board?
Before we get into all the details and steps for creating and making a beautiful (and delicious) charcuterie board, it might be worth clarifying exactly what a charcuterie board is, just so that we’re sure we’re on the same page, and you know what we’re talking about.
Put simply, a charcuterie board is essentially just a wooden board with a display of cured meats and cheese, along with many other ingredients and items.
So it’s like a cheese board, but with a focus on the addition of cured meats (although there are vegetarian and vegan options, so the charcuterie board ends up being more of a selection of ingredients on a board, rather than necessarily cured meats).
The purpose of the charcuterie board is to be an appetizer for guests, used at picnic settings, social gatherings, and events. It is something from which guests can eat and nibble until the actual main course and meal are served.
Alternatively, the charcuterie board can act as the main meal, in events such as brunch. The charcuterie board basically offers guests a selection of flavors and textures, all on the same platter, so they can pick and choose what to try.
Charcuterie boards can be all sorts of sizes and shapes, some being simple and perfect for a person or two, and others being complex and impressive, suitable for larger groups of people
They can include all sorts of different ingredients, although there is a standard selection that is considered the default, and most will have these or variations of these.
And overall, charcuterie boards are super aesthetically pleasing, and very tasty thanks to the wide selection of ingredients, making them a perfect addition to any food event or social gathering. Some can get pretty high-end and fancy too, with even weddings showcasing them!
Is Making A Charcuterie Board Easy?
To many people, the idea of putting together their own charcuterie board recipe can seem quite daunting, as they can be quite intimidating in their picture-perfect appearance, which stops many from giving them a go. But we’re here to completely dismantle this notion.
Anyone can make a charcuterie board. Sure, it might not end up looking like in the Pinterest pictures, but there is no official right or wrong way of creating a charcuterie board. As long as you have some ingredients on a wooden board, you’ve successfully made one. So arguably, it’s a rather simple job!
Of course, if you want to get serious about it, and you want your charcuterie board to look good, and taste even better, then a little more effort is needed.
It is important to make sure the ingredients are chosen to complement each other, and that there is some sort of overarching theme or design behind the arrangement.
And of course, you have to consider portion sizes, how to slice ingredients, and much more.
But at the end of the day, a charcuterie board is as easy or as difficult as you make it to be. You can go for something easy, and slowly build it up to the best of your capabilities, or you can tackle a complicated charcuterie board for a larger group of people.
Regardless of what you want to do, we will guide you through the steps of a standard charcuterie board, and that should make it a little easier for you!
What You Need To Make A Charcuterie Board
Before you get started with the actual process of arranging and creating your charcuterie board, there are a few things you are going to need.
Now, when it comes to making a charcuterie board, you can either make do with whatever ingredients and items you have around the house, or you can come up with a list of things that you want to include, and go shopping for them.
Both methods are completely valid, and it depends on your budget, convenience and preference.
If you are going to use whatever you have at home, then proceed with the step by step guide, and simply adapt the ingredients to whatever you have available, or whatever is the most similar that can act as a suitable alternative.
If you are going to go shopping for the different ingredients, and you’re not sure what to buy, then here is a list of what you will need for a standard charcuterie board:
- A wooden board (alternatively you could use a plate, but then it won’t really look like a proper charcuterie board), we will talk about how to choose the right board further on
- Cutlery (such as knives for slicing ingredients and cutting them)
- A selection of cured meats (such as salami, prosciutto, chorizo, and similar)
- A selection of cheese (make sure to include variety, with both soft and hard kinds of cheese)
- Crackers and/or bread (this is ideal for scooping up other ingredients from the board!)
- Fruit (can be fresh fruit or dried fruit, variety is key)
- Olives (they will give your charcuterie board that Mediterranean feel!)
- Nuts (such as almonds, pistachios, and similar)
- Dips and spreads (to complement the rest of the ingredients, adding texture and flavor)
- Beverages (ideally drinks that will complement the flavors, either alcoholic or non-alcoholic, to be served separately but alongside the board)
These are just the standard elements of a charcuterie board, but again, you can include many different things, depending on the theme that you are going for, as well as your preferences.
The most important thing is to just ensure that there is a variety of textures and flavors, which complement each other so that guests can pick out different ingredients to try.
How To Make A Charcuterie Board Recipe – Step By Step
Now that we’ve talked about what a charcuterie board is, and whether it’s easy or not to make, and about what you will potentially need to make your own…it’s finally time to talk about the actual process of making one.
Once again, we want to clarify that there is no single right way of making a charcuterie board, as the only rule is to display a variety of ingredients on a wooden board (with a focus on cured meats if possible).
So you can go about making your very own charcuterie board in a completely unique way! Just try and make sure that the ingredients complement each other, and that they look good in the way you arrange them.
But if you want some guidance, then we’re going to give you some steps on how to make a charcuterie board, according to standard and average conventions. Feel free to change and adapt any of the steps in order to better personalize the charcuterie board that you are making!
And now, without further ado, here is how to make a charcuterie board:
Charcuterie Board Ideas: Pick A Recipe Theme
This isn’t necessary or mandatory, but picking out a theme or overarching design for your charcuterie board can be extremely useful, as it can help you pick the right ingredients, and come up with the right arrangement and display. Not to mention that it gives you direction and narrows down the possibilities.
It is also a great way of making sure that the charcuterie board matches the time of year, festivity, or event in question. You can also then make sure that the chosen ingredients match the flavor of the theme, or do it by colors!
You can even create your own theme, so it allows for plenty of creativity.
Here are some ideas of popular themes for charcuterie boards:
- Christmas charcuterie board cured (with Christmas-specific ingredients)
- Thanksgiving charcuterie board (with sliced turkey, roasted potatoes, vegetables, and similar)
- Halloween charcuterie board (with the spooky-themed presentation, pumpkin, and pastries)
- Asian charcuterie board put (with Asian-inspired ingredients and elements)
- Mediterranean charcuterie board (with all of the best Mediterranean ingredients including plenty of cured meats, their best cheese, and plenty of olives)
- And many more! Get as creative as you want.
Choose The Perfect Charcuterie Board:
You can’t have a charcuterie board without a board, as it defeats the whole concept. For example, if you place the ingredients on a plate, then it’s just a display of ingredients on plates, it’s not a charcuterie board. The board is essentially the whole aesthetic, after all!
The board should be made out of wood, which in itself narrows down the search a bit. But truth be told, there are many different types of charcuterie boards, as they come in all shapes and sizes, and can also be made out of different types of wood.
The main things to consider are the strength of the wood, the smoothness of the surface, and the appearance.
Ideally, your charcuterie board should be made out of non-porous hardwood. Some examples are hard maple, teak, acacia, olive, and American cherry. If you don’t want to use wood, then the best alternative is to use some kitchen slate, as this can also pass as a suitable charcuterie board.
Anything else will be very much on the edge, and might not be considered a proper charcuterie board.
Keep in mind that different woods will provide different visual textures and designs, so it’s good to match the board appearance to the theme of the overall charcuterie board, as well as to the ingredients you are going to include.
But ultimately, what you really need to make sure of, is that the board is big enough and that it is a convenient shape.
The average and standard charcuterie board will be rectangular in shape, measuring 9-inches by 13-inches. (However, you should adapt the size to the number of people you will be serving, and the number of ingredients you want to include).
Pick Your Selection Of Cheese:
Cheese is one of the highlights of a charcuterie board, and it really isn’t a true charcuterie board without, so it’s important that you choose a good selection! Ideally, you should select an average of two to three cheeses, and if possible, make sure that there is a variety of both soft and hard cheese.
Usually, it’s best to have more hard cheeses than soft cheeses, so we recommend two hard and one soft.
When placing the cheese on the board, you will want to cut out a few slices, pre-prepared, and then leave the rest as a block from which more slices can be cut.
As for specific types of cheese, here are some recommendations:
- Brie (soft cheese)
- Parmesan (hard cheese)
- Goat’s cheese (soft cheese)
- Baby swiss cheese (hard cheese)
- Feta cheese (soft cheese)
- Cheddar cheese (hard cheese)
- Mozzarella (semi-soft cheese)
- Provolone (hard cheese)
Add Crackers And/Or Bread:
Crackers are pretty mild in flavor, which is what makes them perfect as a neutral addition to any charcuterie board. Not to mention that they serve a purpose, they can be used to pick up other ingredients, acting as a sort of small mobile plate for each guest.
They also go extremely well with slices of cheese and cured meats, as well as any sort of spread and dip!
Alternatively, or as an addition, you could include some slices of bread. This can elevate your charcuterie board to appear more high-end, and it also makes the combination of food more filling for the guests.
Insert Dips And Spreads:
Dips and spreads are a great way to break up the arrangement a bit, and they also provide extra texture and flavor for the ingredients, in a complementary way that is completely optional to the guests.
When choosing them, it is important to make sure they go well with at least one of the ingredients on the board. It would make no sense to have a dip that doesn’t match any of the ingredients, as it would be taking up space for no reason at all.
For the best presentation, we suggest placing the dips and spreads in little bowls or jars, alongside small cutlery.
As for the amount, as a general rule, we would say that you should have enough dip and spread so that every guest could get between one and two tablespoons of each.
Here are some suggestions for popular dips and spreads that go well on a charcuterie board:
- Sweet jam
- Garlic spread
- Oil and vinegar
- Mayo spread
Pick Your Selection Of Cured Meats:
You can make a charcuterie board without cured meats, but cured meats truly are one of the main focuses, and all of the standard charcuterie boards will include some. These are best arranged around the board in groups, already pre-sliced and ready to be eaten by guests.
And the best thing is that you can find plenty of pre-sliced selections in grocery stores, with a variety designed to charcuterie boards specifically.
You could also include big chunks of cured meat that can be sliced there and then by guests, but make sure to have plenty of pre-sliced options as this will save a lot of time and hassle throughout the consumption of the charcuterie board.
Here are some of the main favorites that we recommend including:
- Cured salami
Add Fruit And Nuts:
Charcuterie boards are full of rich and flavorful ingredients, so in order to freshen up the tongue and have a rest in between bites, it’s a good idea to include some fruit and nuts. Plus, these look really good on the board in order to fill in any empty gaps!
We recommend having some fresh fruit that is in season within your local area, such as grapes, melon, apple, or similar. Alternatively, you could add in some dried fruit, and finish it off with some nuts.
These can all be used to properly compliment the theme of the charcuterie board too!
This is optional and depends on the type of charcuterie board that you are creating, but if you are going for a standard and traditional Mediterranean charcuterie board, you absolutely need some olives.
They go very well with cured meats, cheese, and the crackers or bread that you will have laid out. You could also include a selection of different types of olives!
Garnish With Herbs And Similar:
You can add some seasoning to the charcuterie board, if you want, or could provide guests with the means to season their ingredients as desired.
You could also, and we really recommend this, garnish the board with some edible herbs. This will add a little extra kick of flavor and freshness, and it will also make the board look even better, for the best possible presentation.
Add Small Knives And Spoons:
Guests are going to need to cut out slices of the cheese, meat, and other ingredients, and they are also going to need cutlery in order to serve themselves a spoonful of certain ingredients or dips as well as a small knife to apply spreads.
This is why you will need some small and elegant cutlery that can be strategically placed around the charcuterie board, where needed.
We also recommend having some paper or cloth tissues nearby, so that guests can wipe the cutlery clean after use if they so wish to.
Once you have all of the ingredients arranged on the charcuterie board, you can finish up any last touches by filling in any empty gaps with extra items, or re-arranging things so that they look better.
And that’s it! You now have your very own charcuterie board, packed with all sorts of ingredients, textures, and flavors, ready to be enjoyed by yourself and others.
How To Display A Simple Charcuterie Board
Following the steps that we laid out for making a charcuterie board should provide you with a good result, however, we didn’t really go into detail on how exactly you should be placing and arranging each ingredient and item, so that is what we will do next!
After all, the appearance and presentation of a charcuterie board play a big part in how it is received by those that are going to consume it, and it’s important to create a good aesthetic for it, within the theme or overall design of your choosing.
Here are some of our tips on how to arrange the display of a charcuterie board:
- Start by placing down the centerpieces first, the big items that are going to be the “star of the show”. Usually, these will be the selection of cheeses or any large fruits that you want to include. Place the biggest in the middle, and the rest spread out around the board. You will place all other ingredients around these.
- Place condiments, dips, and sauces near the ingredients that they will be used for.
- Place the crackers and slices of bread out in fan formation. You could position them around the centerpieces, and around the cheese selection.
- The cured meat should be one of the most creative parts of the charcuterie board. Create different formations and shapes with the selection of meat, and arrange the slices in different shapes as well, some folded, some rolled up, and some propped on the board with no definition.
- Use fruits and nuts to fill in the empty gaps, right at the end.
- Spread items around in an even manner, to add variety to every part of the board. Do not group the same ingredients all together, as this will make the board feel too organized, and will make it look boring.
Making your very own charcuterie board is easy enough. All you need is a wooden board, a selection of varied ingredients, and the creativity to arrange them all in a pleasing manner, making sure that there is enough texture and variety to surprise and entertain the guests.
Remember that having a theme or specific design in mind can really help with the creation of a charcuterie board and that you can use all manner of ingredients as long as they complement each other in some way!
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