What Is Charcuterie Meat?

Charcuterie boards are currently making a comeback. From restaurants to dinner parties at home, anyone and everyone can enjoy the delicious taste of a charcuterie board and all of its goodies. But what is exactly is charcuterie meat?

In the French tradition, the word charcuterie means ‘Cooked Meats’ and refers to the way meats were cured and preserved before the days of refrigeration. Dating back to the 15th century in France, Charcutier’s would run specialist shops that made, cooked, and sold pork products hence why charcuterie is still made primarily from pork.

However, it is now fashionable to use any meats for charcuterie boards, as well as cheese, olives, artisan bread, and fruit and nuts.

Typically served in restaurants as an appetizer, a charcuterie board should always follow the golden rule of being attractively arranged and presented. In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at charcuterie meats and provide you with all of the knowledge you need to impress your nearest and dearest with your charcuterie skills. 

How Is Charcuterie Pronounced?

If you are staring at the word, trying to work out how it’s pronounced, then trust us when we say you are not alone. Lots of people have difficulty pronouncing it. 

The English pronunciation of charcuterie differs slightly from the French pronunciation. The English pronounce it ‘Shahr-kyu-tuh-ree’ while the French pronounce it ‘Shar-coo-tree’. 

No matter how you pronounce it, make sure you say it with confidence.

Meat Choices

When assembling your charcuterie board you may struggle when it comes to choosing your meat. But fear not! Our list below will help point you in the right direction. 

1. Prosciutto

Prosciutto is a must when it comes to charcuterie boards as this uncooked, dry-cured Italian ham has a classic taste to it that is loved the world over. It has a rosy color to it that is marbled with streaks of white fat that are full of flavor.

As this meat is incredibly thinly sliced it tends to melt in your mouth and pairs perfectly with creamy goat’s cheese and figs.

2. Uncured Soppressata

This dry salami comes from the Calabria, Vicenza, and Tuscany regions of Italy and is usually made from fresh pork, however, it can also be made with beef if you’re not a fan of pork.

Spices such as garlic and black pepper are added to the coarsely ground meat as well as sweet red pepper and occasionally, spicy red pepper flakes. This meat is a delicious addition to any board and pairs well with crackers, cheddar, and asiago cheese.

3. Calabrese

Calabrese is a gorgeous spicy salami, perfect for bringing a little kick to your charcuterie board. Named after a region in Southern Italy, this pork sausage is known for its spice. Typically sold in log form and wrapped in paper, this salami is perfect for creating thicker sliced meat and topping with cheese and honey. 

4. Genoa Salami

Just like Prosciutto, Genoa Salami is a firm favorite when it comes to charcuterie boards. Made from ground pork or sometimes veal, this meat has a tangy flavor to it thanks to the white peppercorns in each slice.

The ground meat is also mixed with white wine, garlic, and salt, as well as the white peppercorns which give this meat a really deep flavor. Pair this meat with creamy cheese, such as brie, for a truly delicious and rich treat.

5. Mortadella

Hailing from Bologna, this sausage is studded with pistachio pieces and white pork fat. It has a creamy texture and a deep ham flavor thanks to the finely ground pork shoulder that it is made with.

Additional flavors include myrtle berries, salt, pepper, and sometimes green olives. This meat is perfect for pairing with cheese and pickles such as cornichons. 

Handy Tip

Take the meat out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before serving so it can come to room temperature, and make sure you have around 2 ounces of meat per person.  

what is charcuterie meat?

How To Create A Charcuterie Board

Board

The first step in creating your charcuterie board is to choose your board. Depending on your space you may opt for one large board, or use smaller boards that you can spread around your space. The size of your board will also help you decide how much food you need to buy.

As well as the board(s) you will also need some small dishes that can be placed on the boards to create different heights and to help map out where you will place each item.

Cheese Selection

The amount of cheese needed will depend on the number of guests you have. However, as a guide, aim to have around 5 different types of cheese for around 20 people. They should all be different sizes and shapes to help make the board look interesting.

Dot the cheese in different areas of your board and provide a cheese knife with each one. Once you are happy with the cheese placement it’s time to move on to the foliage.

Fresh Herbs & Flowers

Adding fresh herbs, such as Rosemary and Thyme, is perfect for including a dash of greenery to your board and helps create a barrier between certain food. It also helps to make your board smell incredibly fresh.

If herbs aren’t your thing, you can always add some fresh flowers which bring a touch of luxury and beauty. Use them around to decorate the edges of your board and choose colors that will compliment your food selection. 

Meat

Once the herbs/flowers are in place, use your small bowls to map out where you can put the rest of your food. Once you’re satisfied with the layout, it’s time to add your chosen meats. 

For variety, try folding some meat and fan others out. Not only will this show the difference with each meat, but will help make the board look more interesting and inviting. 

Fruit

Add fresh berries, olives, pickles, and vegetables to your bowls. Artichokes and sweet peppers make a great addition and also pair well with most cheese and meat. 

To fill the space on the board, use dried fruit and nuts and lay them in small mounds rather than one large pile of each and dot them around the board. You can even use fresh fruit, such as pomegranate and figs, cut them into halves, and dot them around the board.

The more variety you have on your board, the better.

what is charcuterie meat?

Spreads

Spreads such as honey, jams, and chutneys all pair incredibly well with meat, cheese, and bread. It’s good to have contrasting jams and chutneys, such as an intense onion chutney and a light fig jam for everyone to enjoy. 

As well as pairing well with fresh fruit, honey also tastes great with cheese, such as Brie or goat’s cheese, so a little bowl of this will be very appreciated. Dot your chosen spreads around the table in little bowls for your guests to enjoy.

Crackers & Bread 

Lastly, you can fill in any remaining space with a selection of crackers and artisan bread. Make sure the slices of bread are nice and thick and each one brings a different flavor to your board. 

Final Thoughts

Creating a charcuterie board is not only easy but also an incredibly effective way to present food at an event. With so many options as to what to include on your board, your guests will be spoilt for choice with the flavor combinations available to them. 

Charcuterie meat is an incredibly important part of your board and choosing your different meats should be first on your to-do list as the choice of meat influences the rest of what you put on your board.

Be bold, add as many different flavors as you can, and choose a selection of meats that will leave your guests wanting more.