When we wanted to learn how to make an impressive cheese board for parties, we turned to specialty foods purveyor Sam Starr. Sam can always be counted on to present a balanced, thoughtful, and delicious array. She walked us through selecting and combining our components, breaking it down into simple rules of thumb that instantly gave us the confidence to volunteer for charcuterie duty. Read on for her guidelines to making a perfect charcuterie board every time.
How to Make a Charcuterie Board
A reference guide to creating a delightful charcuterie board for your holiday celebration.
Charcuterie Board Components
There are so many options for cheeses that it can get overwhelming. To make it simple, focus on having variety in textures and milk types. Depending on the size of your board you should have one each of cow, sheep, and goat options present with soft rind, firm, and hard cheeses in the mix. Flavors should range between nutty and mild to funky and unique.
Rule of thumb: 1 cow, 1 sheep, 1 goat; 1 soft, 1 firm, 1 hard.
When choosing meats for your boards, the colors, flavors, and sizes should all vary. Choose different sizes of meat such as small and large salamis, then toss whole-muscle cuts such as cured deli ham and prosciutto into the mix. The flavors of the meats can be paired with the cheeses or chosen for their own unique qualities, but always aim to have something spicy, something smoky, and something unexpected.
Rule of thumb: 1 small salami, 1 large salami, 1 whole-muscle meat
Dress up any board with the a wide assortment of accompaniments or keep it simple with just a few. Organic boards will call for things to be spread all over the board, whereas a more composed board will have things in individual containers. When choosing breads remember to go for multiple colors and texture—for example, baguette, sourdough, and rye. You can really play when selecting accompaniments, but you can't go wrong with Spanish figs, Marcona almonds, mustards, honeycomb, caramelized pecans, olives, and cornichons.
Rule of thumb: Variety: salty, sweet, spicy, acidic, savory; pickled, dried, fresh, soft, crunchy
"When choosing meats and cheeses, variety is the spice of life," Sam advises. You could focus on the meats of one region (Italy, France, Spain, or domestic) or create a spread of your favorites. Try new things, take risks, and offer contrasts.
A lot of people get hung up on quantities. Sam suggests having one ounce of cheese per person and 1-2 slices of meat per person to ensure everyone gets a taste of each item. If people will be waiting for the main course for an extended period of time, err on the side of abundance.
Charcuterie Board Guidelines
Small or large, this is what you do.
1 Meat, 1 Cheese.
Keep it simple and elegant.
Cheese: Choose a crowd pleaser like a semi-hard cow's milk cheese.
Meat: Opt for an uncontroversial whole-muscle cut. Serrano ham is a good choice.
Accompaniments: Marcona almonds, Castelvetrano olives, sel gris crackers
2 Meats, 2 Cheeses.
Add a little variation in texture and color.
Cheese: Think opposites. One soft goat cheese and one hard cheese made from cow's milk.
Creating a Vegan Charcuterie Board
When creating a vegan board, you want substance and options. A wealth of dried fruits and pickled vegetables will help build the board and take place of the cheese and meats. Include plenty of accompaniments such as Marcona almonds, caramelized pecans, Pajerero figs, cornichons, olives, green peppercorn mustard, and membrillo.