If you're looking to compile a masterpiece of meats and cheeses, this guide to composing a Simple Charcuterie Board is a must-read!
Today, we'll cover:
- Fun suggestions for picking out meats, cheeses, and accompaniments for your board.
- How to dominate that aesthetic factor with a zero-fuss-assembly process!
- Plus, tips for cutting costs in more ways than one!
WHAT IS A CHARCUTERIE BOARD
Everyone loves a little variety when it comes to party nibbles, making the Charcuterie Board the ultimate crowd-pleaser. No-cook, fuss-free, and totally customizable, they're adored just as much by the assembler as they are the party-goer!
While it is true that the term charcuterie boards implies a mix of meats, cheeses, crackers, and the occasional dried fruit served together on a board or platter, the term has come to encompass far more than this!
After these boards became a millennial phenomenon, the term now covers just about any mix of handheld nibbles combined on a board, serving platter, and in extreme cases, an entire table! And, if you want to see a really fun take on a charcuterie board, check out this festive Christmas Board or our easy Dessert Board.
However, if we're talking about your most standard definition of a Charcuterie Board, it's all about the meat, baby.
WHAT GOES ON A CHARCUTERIE BOARD?
Before we get into how to assemble a Simple Charcuterie Board, you first need to pick out what's going on your charcuterie board. Your focus should begin with the meats and cheeses, and once you have those selections made, you can move on to extras like crackers, nuts, fruits, and pickled items!
Meats are truly the heart of a Simple Charcuterie Board, and before you pick any other items to land on your board, you should have an idea of how many and what types of meats you'll be putting on display!
Any of the above meats will work great on your board and are sure to be a hit with your crowd! I'd say for a solid charcuterie board, you should have a variety of at least 3 meats.
You'll need about 2-3 ounces of meat per person. Before you go to the store to purchase your board items, do the math! If this Simple Charcuterie Board is the star of your show, go with 3 ounces of meat per person. If the board is an addition to a buffet of other food items, go with 2 ounces of meat per person.
Make sure your meat is cut into thin slices. Cured meats can be hard to chew and quite unpleasant if left too thick.
Budget-Friendly Tip: Go to the deli instead of buying the pre-packaged stuff to prevent over-buying!
Most pre-packaged cured meats come in packaging that ranges from 4-ounces to 8-ounces. This can feel super limiting if you're only feeding 4 guests!
Once you know how many people you're serving and how much meat you need total, you may find you can get a better variety of meats for less by going to the deli counter and having them cut you a little bit of this and a little bit of that!
You can also kill two birds with one stone by grabbing a package of salami or prosciutto-wrapped cheese sticks. In my experience, these easy-to-eat nibbles go fast!
When assembling a cheese board, the rule of thumb is to serve one soft cheese, one hard cheese, and one semi-firm cheese. However, the focus here isn't on the cheese so feel free to throw those rules directly in the trash bin.
I've served a lot of meat and cheese boards in my day. I've seen what gets eaten, and sadly, what gets left behind. I've ranked the list of cheeses below by popularity and left off the ones that never get touched.
- Aged Cheddar
- Fresh Marinated Mozzarella
- Chevre (Goat Cheese)
- Blue Cheese
My best advice is to pick cheeses you have tried (and like) to serve to your guests. The last thing you want to do is waste $10-12 on a block of cheese no one cares to eat...especially you! Speaking from personal experience.
You'll want to have about 2-3 ounces of cheese per person on your board. Avoid pre-sliced cheeses, and rather, buy the block for this Simple Charcuterie Board. Cheese in its "original" block form will have better texture and flavor to it. You'll likely find the best options for your meat and cheese board near the deli section of your grocery store.
Serving Tip: Cheese is best at room temperature, but it is much easier to cut when it's cold! Slice your cheese and then let it sit out for about 30 minutes before serving to come to room temperature.
Adding a few pickled items is a great way to add some excitement to the pallet. Cured meats and cheeses often have a good deal of fat content and lead to a heavy mouthfeel. Pickled items like olives and peppers are an excellent way to spice things up.
- Pickled Okra
- Cherry Peppers
- Marinated Aritchokes
Don't feel limited by the list above. The olive bar at your grocery store is a super fun place to find major charcuterie board inspiration.
Budget-Friendly Tip: You don't have to run out and buy all new things every time you're whipping up a Simple Charcuterie Board! Check the back of the fridge and use up all of those pickled ingredients. Take a dive into the pantry and see what you have hiding back there! This applies to more than just pickled items; think crackers, dried fruits, spreads, and honey.
NUTS AND FRUIT
Nuts and fruits are great avenues for adding variety to a Simple Charcuterie Board!
- Marcona Almonds
- Salted Cashews
- Glazed Pecans
- Shelled Pistachios
- Dried Apricots
- Dried Cherries
Before you pick a certain nut to go down on your board, run through your guest list and take into consideration any nut allergies within your crew. Even if you aren't aware of any nut allergies in the group, it's a good idea to house any nuts in separate, small bowls.
Cheeses and fruit are a natural pairing. If you're stuck on the fruit, when in doubt, go with grapes. When there's cheese involved, you just can't go wrong with grapes!
Avoid placing super small fresh fruit and dried fruits (like berries) directly on your board. If you want to use them, that's okay, just place them in separate bowls with a small spoon or tongs on the side so they are easy to grab!
CRACKERS & BREAD
Last, but not least, you'll need a vehicle for all that meat and cheese! Below are my go-to carbs for adding to a meat and cheese board:
- Water Crackers
- Sliced Baguette
Choosing the crackers isn't rocket science; just get what you like!
And, if you're serving this Simple Charcuterie Board to any gluten-intolerant buddies, consider placing a bowl of gluten-free crackers off to the side for them.
Budget-Friendly Tip: Rather than buying 2-3 different types of crackers (which most definitely adds up), buy the variety box of assorted crackers often labeled "Entertainers Crackers."
WHAT TO USE FOR A BOARD
In the same way that a charcuterie board has come to mean more than a variety of cheeses and meats, the serving vessel itself expands beyond a wooden board.
These days you will find a large variety of non-porous, wooden boards online, all of which are great for building a charcuterie board! But, don't feel like you have to run out and buy something special. The board itself will barely be seen!
You could also use a large marble board, a stone board, a cutting board, a large serving platter, or even a metal, rimmed baking sheet to serve from.
HOW TO ASSEMBLE A SIMPLE CHARCUTERIE BOARD
First things first, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to assembling your board. I have never once followed any specific game plan when it comes to assembling a Simple Charcuterie Board! However, there are a few tips that will absolutely help you during the assembly process!
Place your heaviest or most dense items on the board first. This includes any small bowls you intend to use for nuts, olives, etc..., and it also includes large pieces of cheese (like a wedge of blue cheese or a round of brie).
Fill in with "big section" items, like groupings of meat or sliced cheeses.
Once you add the meats and cheeses, move on to the lighter items like crackers.
Then, fill in any gaps with small items like grapes and dried fruits.
The larger items will serve as "anchors." You can wedge lighter items like crackers underneath and around these heavy items, and the anchors will help keep them in place!
If you like this idea, you definitely need to try our Southern Appetizer Board next!
A fun combination of meats, cheeses, bread, and more to create a beautiful, yet simple charcuterie board! This meat and cheese board is quick and easy to assemble, and absolutely perfect for any party.
- 1 (8-ounce) package dry salami thinly sliced
- 1 (8-ounce) package pepperoni thinly sliced
- 1 (8-ounce) package soppressata thinly sliced
- 1 (8-ounce) package prosciutto thinly sliced
- 1 (8-ounce) block Gouda cut into wedges
- 1 (8-ounce) block Colby jack cheese cut into slices
- 1 (8-ounce) block aged white cheddar cut into slices
- 1 (8-ounce) package fresh mozzarella (Ciliegine), drained
- 1 (4-ounce) wedge of blue cheese
- 4 ounces parmesan cut into cubes
- 1 (4.5-ounce) package Salami & Mozzarella Panino
- 4 ounces Croccantini crackers
- 4 ounces crispy breadsticks or twisted cheese sticks
- 8 ounces water crackers, wheat crackers, or your favorite snack cracker
- ½ cup olives or olive bar item
- ⅓ cup Marcona almonds or favorite nut
- 1 (8-ounce) jar cherry peppers, drained
- 2 cups grapes
The items listed above are merely a suggestion. Feel free to get as creative as you like when it comes to adding to your Charcuterie Board.
Have ready a large, round or rectangular serving board or cutting board.
Place large items, like condiment bowls and large groupings of meats and cheeses down on the board first.
Fill in with smaller items like pickled items and fruit.
Add the crackers or bread and serve!