An Experts Guide To Making A Charcuterie Board To Impress
The Holiday season has begun, and you are ready to show off your solid party-hosting skills. You’re great at creating the perfect mix of people. Your playlists are famously the kind that gets people’s heads bobbing. You love a good theme for dinner night. One problem: you’re cooking skills are lacking, or maybe time is just not on your side to prepare. Either way, we can fix that problem with two words: charcuterie board.
Is it just us, or does it trigger your foodie endorphins to see a beautiful cutting board full of finger foods with all the flavors; savory, salty, sweet, and sour? It’s like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory for adults. It’s a time for fancy cheeses you wouldn’t buy yourself, and cured meats that smell like the best holiday gathering is underway.
Charcuterie is more than just a fancy French word for cured meat. A charcuterie board is a key gathering spot for any social get-together. A beautifully done display of mini edible delights is an easy way to level up the evening without too much effort. It is also a great way to buy yourself time while you finish preparing the main course.
To put together an Instagram-worthy charcuterie tray, you’ll need a few key neighborhood players and a little bit of creativity. Below, we outline an expert’s guide on creating a charcuterie board to impress.
First Things First: Get Prepared, Stay Prepared
The great thing about preparing for your charcuterie board debut is that most ingredients are non-perishable. We find it handy to keep some of the items we’ll lay out below on hand at all times. In case you find yourself suddenly hosting an emergency social gathering.
Also, tap into your local neighborhood vendors. Everyone needs their own “meat guy,” “cheese lady,” and “super friendly baker” in their life. You can find these people in food incubator apps like SAPi or in your neighborhood. The closer the ingredients, the fresher the goods.
Not only are you supporting local businesses, but you’re spreading the word when people ask you, “where did you find this salami!” In doing so, you also support a circular economy where everyone wins.
The Six Essential Ingredients To A Perfect Charcuterie Board
Before we dive into ingredients, there’s one not listed below that plays an essential role: the board—the vessel for your epic finger food display.
We recommend natural wood serving platter or cutting board with a lot of real estate to spread out the edibles. There are also customizable boards with tiny drawers to hide cutlery or matching serving bowls when you’ve decided to go all in on your display like this one from Uncommon Goods.
You can place parchment paper over a cake platter in a pinch or bust out a trusty serving platter. And now, without further adieu, the categories are balanced in harmony to make the perfect charcuterie display.
Peanuts aren’t just for tiny bowls at the bar; they’re also for your charcuterie board. So are almonds, cashews, and exotic pistachios. We love salty additions for the way they encourage another sip of your holiday beverage, as much as we love them for the way they balance with all the other flavors on the plate. It’s not all about nuts. Here are some other ideas for the salty component of your charcuterie tray:
- Roasted nuts
- Cured meats
A crucial component of any snack tray is the cheese. Not just one, at least two, three is satisfactory, four varieties of cheese show you’re serious, and five is “I’m cultured.”
A charcuterie tray should be all-inclusive – there are alternatives for the lactose intolerant that can be even tastier than their traditional counterparts. Whatever message you want to send with your cheese selection, just make sure it’s fresh. A local cheese shop can make seasonal recommendations about what goes well together, what to pre-slice, what to leave whole, and even what drinks pair well with your selections. Try for at least one hard and one soft.
- Goat cheese
- Bleu cheese
- A classic sharp cheddar
Some call this the star of the charcuterie world. You can’t go wrong with a locally cured salami, Italian prosciutto, or Spanish chorizo for this category. When in doubt, ask the butcher. Also, look next to where you choose your cheeses for good pairings. Cube some, slice some and have fun with the display. Other protein potential for your board includes;
- Genoa salami
Sweet additions create harmony between savory components like cured meats and salty additions like nuts or olives. The options here are open to creativity, but having one that is spreadable is key. Think apricot chutneys, jams, or honey. In addition, densely sweet fruit like figs, apples, or berries are not only great for diversity, but they also create a beautiful eye-pleasing color palette. Because, after all, cheese and meats come in only so many shades of color, right?
Go ultra fresh on this one if possible. A dense sourdough pairs well with creamy cheeses, the same way a baguette pairs better with a salty cured meat. Have one or both! Slice some, toast some, and leave some uncut.
6. Things That Make You Say “What Is This?”
We also firmly believe in introducing new flavors to every charcuterie board. Something visually interesting that adds a talking point! Think goat cheese stuffed figs, chili chocolate, or unexpected spreads like pesto or olive tapenade. Keeping things interesting will make a memorable experience for your guests and can only boost your reputation as King or Queen of the snack tray.
Charcuterie Extra Credit
Once you’ve mastered the charcuterie ingredient categories, it’s time to level up your presentation. Here are a few ways you can go the extra mile without having to actually go another mile. Low effort, big impact details can make the difference!
Consult with your local wine seller for recommendations on pairings that go well with your ingredient selections. Even the most economical wines can create a dynamic pairing bringing out the savory flavors, making the sweet notes more vibrant, and harmonizing with the salty or sour.
It can make a huge visual difference to give height to an otherwise flat-looking snack board by stacking cheeses and meats or putting them on top of an upside-down serving bowl. In addition, you can display cut meats in a semi-circle or alternate with slices of cheese.
Once you are comfortable with your charcuterie skills, you can think outside the box for themed snack boards. Consider theming a brunch board with pancake stacks, berries, and toppings. Or maybe you to transport your holiday guests into the warm Mediterranean with cous cous, feta cheese, and kalamata olives. In the south? Think hushpuppies, fried okra, and biscuits. There are no hard and fast rules to charcuterie trays! Go wild.
Lastly, it’s all about the colors. No matter the theme or ingredients, make sure that you have at least 3 to 4 color tones on the board. Even the more artisan cheese and exotic salami will be overlooked if the board is too “beige.”
May your holidays be made of overflowing charcuterie trays, family, and friends!
Download the SAPi App here to find a local maker to make your holiday spread shine bright.