Party Planning 101: Building the Perfect Cheese + Charcuterie Board
When it comes to planning the perfect party appetizer that allows guests to nibble and mingle, there’s one spread that generally ranks supreme. Everyone loves it – even if they’ve never heard the proper name for it.
We know it sounds rather fancy – especially if you’re not a regular connoisseur of it. But, it’s basically just a selection of cured meats with accompaniments of cheese, olives, crackers or crusty bread, and a sweet little something like preserves, chutney, or jam. Some charcuterie boards include almonds too while the more antipasti style will often include roasted red peppers and artichoke hearts alongside the salty meats and cheeses.
So how does one build a great charcuterie board? Well, that’s a loaded question – and can involve some trial and error, depending on your guest’s taste preferences. But we’re giving you a summarized “how-to” guide of sorts on the delicious party app. Because it’s great for everything from fancy cocktail attire soirees to your college game day watching party.
- Choose a variety of meats with different textures
Charcuterie should be diverse in terms of flavor profile and texture. So pick a hard-style robust salami, a softer, salt-cured ham like Prosciutto, and then throw in 1-2 rich and smooth Pâtés and/or terrines that will make for the perfect spread to some crusty bread. You can stick to meats all from the same region (ie: Italian cured meats) or mix it up with a selection from Italy, Spain, and France.
- Follow the same rule for cheese
When it comes to cheese, you want a selection of young and aged as well as soft and hard. If you’re serving wine, you’ll want to be sure that the wine can stand up to an especially creamy (ie: French Brie) or strong cheese (ie: Gorgonzola). But aside from using your best discretion with cheese and wine pairing (there are tons of helpful websites for this), have fun with your cheeses! We like a perfectly balanced aged Gouda, hard and nutty Manchego, and a truffle-infused Brie.
- Don’t forget the accompaniments
In addition to some crusty bread or crackers, be sure to include 2-3 small accompaniments for a delightful contrast. Charcuterie “add-ons” like whole grain mustard, fig jam, almonds, grapes, and olives will help balance out the meaty, salty, and rich items.
- Mind the Quantities
If you’re serving charcuterie as a party appetizer, we suggest sticking to about 3 ounces of meat and cheese (total) per person. If you’re serving it as a main course, 6 ounces per person is sufficient. Remember though that it’s always best to have leftovers rather than not enough. Most cured meats and cheeses last up to 2 weeks in the fridge too.
- Create a pretty presentation
Make snacking easy on your guests and slice the meats and cheeses ahead of time (no more than an hour before eating). Leave some of the un-sliced portions of meat and cheese on the board if there’s enough room. Arrange the hard cheese slices in accordion-like stacks and the meats in twirled or in lightly folded sections. If you’re serving Pâté, add a single large dollop of it on the board next to the bread or crackers. Make use of small ramekins for olives, jams, etc. to create height and a more organized spread. Use Pinterest for inspiration too!