Nothing gets a party going like a cheese board: it breaks the ice, provides a place to congregate, and gets the people snacking. While no one will turn her nose up at a box of crackers and block of extra sharp cheddar, a truly next-level cheeseboard is both impressive and easy to put together—so long as you’ve got a game plan. Read on for our guidelines and a few pro tips.
The Best Cheese for a Cheese Board
The cheese is the reason we’re all here, but the best advice is to keep it simple. Odd numbers tend to look best on a board, so pick three delicious, interesting, eclectic cheeses. Age, texture, and origin are they key factors to consider: one creamy, one crumbly, and one funky cheese is a good place to start.
PRO TIP: Cut small pieces or slices into your cheese before you put the board out for guests; this is a great way to suggest a serving size, create motion in your presentation, and make people feel comfortable to dive right in. No “first person to cut into the cheese” jitters.
What is a Charcuterie Board
Charcuterie is the French word to describe cured and cooked meats like pâté, bacon, and cured salami. Incorporating some charcuterie into your cheese board, or building a separate charcuterie board with an array of cured meats, will add luxurious flavor and texture to your spread. Try visiting a local butcher to what’s in stock. Freshly shaved prosciutto and whole dried sausages will beat the precut stuff at the supermarket any day.
Picking Meats for a Charcuterie Board
Balance is key when it comes to the carnivore-friendly part of your cheese board. Texture and flavor are the most important variables: try pairing delicate prosciutto (a fan favorite) with one hard, cured salame (such as chorizo) and one soft salame (like soppressata). Avoid overkill on salt or spice. If you’ve loaded up on powerful flavors, add a slice of pâté or terrine to provide a mild foil for them.
PRO TIP: Lili Dagan, Culinary Manager, is the resident cheese board expert in the Test Kitchen after years perfecting the craft while working in events. Her signature move? A meat river. Fanning out delicately rumpled prosciutto or slices of salami into a ribbon that travels from one end of the board to the other makes the arrangement feel ample and deliberate.
Other Additions to a Cheese & Charcuterie Board
A cheese board goes from good to great with the addition of a few *extras* — some crunchy, tender, sweet, and pickly bits to cut through the salt and fat of the main event. Little bowls of one-biters like roasted nuts or olives, provide necessary textural contrast. Briny bites like a cornichons or gherkins refresh your palate. Finish things off with a few condiments. Grainy mustard, honey, and jam all adds a spreadable or drizzly pop of flavor. The sweet and salty contrast of jam or honey will work will with almost any cheese.
Best Crackers for Cheese
PRO TIP: Don’t forget the carbs. Your cheeses and spreads will be SO lonely without something to put them on. Simple crackers will do the trick, providing a dependable base without overpowering any exciting flavors. For a gourmet touch, try this: thinly slice a baguette, brush it with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and toast in a 400ºF oven for 15-20 minutes, flipping once.
Charcuterie & Cheese Board Tips
Fruit is your friend! Celebrate the time of year by adding some seasonal produce to your board. Concord grapes and stone fruit in the summer or citrus and pears in the winter add color, freshness, and a welcome respite from cheese.
PRO TIP: Temperature matters. Take your cheese out of the refrigerator at least 1 hour before you plan to serve it, to come to room temperature. A cheese’s flavor, smell, and texture changes in the cold (and not in a good way), and you want those wedges and wheels to shine!
Charcuterie & Cheese Board Pairings
Cheese’s best friend? Wine, of course. Check out the Blue Apron collection of food-friendly white wines, six wines to pair with your festive holiday cheese board.