Parents teach their kids all sorts of things, including calling their elders “ma’am” and “sir”, how to prioritize faith and family, and proper social etiquette. But in my family, my parents also taught me how to make a killer charcuterie board. I kid you not, growing up our Friday night tradition was having charcuterie! We called it “Challah Back Friday”, and my mom would buy a loaf of challah bread and an assortment of meats and cheeses, and that was our dinner after a long week. Honestly, it’s one of my favorite traditions outside the holidays because of it’s simplicity. We broke bread together and reveled in the events of the week. Now every time I make charcuterie for friends or family, I’m reminded of where the tradition started.
When feeding a crowd or hosting a happy hour, charcuterie is one of the simplest ways to provide sustenance for your guests without slaving away in the kitchen. Most items don’t require an oven or stovetop to create, so you can usually whip to together in a matter of minutes. Also, people can eat as much or as little as they want. If you have some picky eaters in your group (and everyone does!), this is a low-key option that allows them to not feel forced to eat everything being offered to them. No one will ever know what they did or didn’t eat. Therefore, the pressure to eat that casserole or side dish is no longer on the table, both figuratively and literally. Your guests can eat as they please!
I’m proud to say this is the most comprehensive list of charcuterie board necessities I’ve ever created. I heard a long time ago that the best way to build a charcuterie board is by country. This ensures that you achieve complementary pairings and flavors. You by no means have to buy EVERY. SINGLE. ITEM. for each country’s board, however it gives you a great jumping off point for creating your next entertaining masterpiece.
And when it comes to building the ULTIMATE charcuterie board, here are a couple of my own tips and tricks…
Find the perfect board
You can’t have proper charcuterie without the right board! There are so many to choose from: rectangular boards, square boards, circular boards. And then you have to pick the material: wood, marble, or a mixture of the two. Depending on the event, number of people, or theme, you need a board that corresponds and can fit all you wanna offer to your guests. I have a couple that I love and use for varying occasions. Truly, you can never have too many charcuterie boards! But if your spread is too big and bountiful to fit on a board, kraft paper on a large flat surface is a fabulous alternative.
Pick the country of inspiration
Whether your inspiration stems from Italy, the UK, or America, knowing what your goal is for the board can help you narrow down your options tremendously. Don’t make more work for yourself by trying to have it ALL on one board. Pick a country, region, or continent and run with it!
Start with the basics
Every charcuterie board needs these key things: meats, cheeses, veggies, fruits, spreads, nuts, and crackers/bread. You don’t necessarily HAVE to pick a country or theme for the board, but if you have these basics, your board will be a hit with your guests! The point of picking a country/theme is to help you narrow the flavors and hone in on what you want to achieve.
Always have three different cheeses
Every charcuterie board needs three cheeses: one SOFT, one HARD, and one BLUE cheese. This is a bare minimum requirement, because the variety in textures helps create the diversification that every charcuterie board demands. Also, by having at least three different types of cheese, you are ensuring that you have something to excite each of your guests.
Aim for variety
Variety in color, texture, size, shape… This can easily be achieved by picking colorful vegetables that go with your dips and condiments. There is nothing less appealing than a board that is all the same blah color. Throw in some cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, radishes, artichokes, apples, grapes, blueberries, strawberries…the world is your oyster! Make it a vibrant variety of tastes and colors. Also, if you are adding bowls of condiments, jams, or sauces to your board, use varying styles and shapes to make the board more aesthetically pleasing.
Don’t skimp on the garnish
Consider the garnish your bookends. Without it, the integrity and aesthetic of your board would topple. By adding in fresh sprigs of rosemary, mint, basil, or thyme, you are completing the look of your board. It helps your board look fuller and more abundant, and who doesn’t want that?!?
The pièce de résistance
Here are a couple of boards that were made by Shared Appetite, Snixy Kitchen, Acadiana Table, The Reluctant Entertainer, and A Bountiful Kitchen (aka I can’t take credit for these fabulous photos). However, I think all of these are great examples of color, variety, and texture. By grouping things together that compliment each other well and offering a rainbow assortment of savory and sweet bites, your guests will be sure to have a delectable foodie experience!