How to Build a Charcuterie Board

 

An impressive Charcuterie Board may seem like a lot of work, but it is mostly about doing an organized job. Order and diversity are key to amaze your guests; imagine your board as a mini buffet, giving options and making them look amazing.

Step by step to amaze your cheese grabbers:

 

1: Select Your Board

It can be made from wood, metal, plastic or even cardboard, the only thing it can’t be is dirty, so make sure you have a clean board to work on.

Contrary to Julia Child’s recommendation over the size of your cooking pot, for charcuterie boards you should use a smaller board size, be aware of what you wish to include in your board, and use the proper bowls, containers and silverware to place on your board.

If you think you don’t have a pretty board, stop your worries, the most important part of a Charcuterie Board is what you place on the board, however, if you want to improve the visual aspect of your board (and make it even easier to clean), just roll a piece of paper of your choice to cover it, while parchment paper will keep it the cleanest, kraft paper is also a great option.  Other options include foil paper and even old newspapers; this can be part of your judgment over the look and feel of your cheeseboard, according to the formality of how you want to receive your guests.

2: Select the Right Containers

Small containers thrive in a cheese board, they give you a chance to offer more options to your guests; these small containers will hold your butters, liquids, dips and can hold other great ingredients.

Be careful with your cooked options; if you are including a fondue or another hot preparation, choose a thick container that prevents it from heating the rest of the board.  Ceramics and wood covered dishes are a good idea as you can cover it with a pretty cloth for an extra layer to hold the heat.  This dish should always be near the bread or crackers and away from your cold cheeses to protect them against the heat.

3 : Before You Arrange Anything

There are some things you should take into consideration before you begin to arrange your cheeseboard.

For wine pairing, cheese should be at room temperature  (72-74 degrees); the general recommendation is to slice whatever you hope to slice and keep it in your fridge until 1 hour before your guests arrive.

4: Cut, Chop and Pre Arrangements

The best practice is to pre-cut your products to avoid people having to cut their own (can’t trust Uncle Bill with that sharp knife after last year).  Leaving the rest of the cheese round or the salami unsliced, is merely ornamental.

Your product presentation and the tools you have at home will determine how to cut your products.

Sliced or diced are great ideas, you can either have everything cut in the same matter or alternate them.

The size does matter, big cubes are tough to finish, and too small ones are impractical, a good size is 1/2 inch, although you can go a little more generous on your cubes, more than an inch size is where trouble begins.

Slices, on the other hand, should be somewhere around 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch, it will depend on the dimensions of your product.

For cured cylinder meats, like salami, its recommended to use 1/8 inch slices (that you can chop with a good knife) or cut into 1/2 inch chunks and then cut them either in half (if they seem to slim) or in quarters for thick pieces, it’s all a subjective matter, remember to taste the product while you’re preparing (you can use a glass of wine or two just to be sure).

If you have round cheeses, consider using triangles, this will bring more variety to the looks of your cheese board, try keeping the same portions as the rest of your options.

This is a great moment to toast your bread, for bread loaves like baguette you can cut it in 1/2 inch slices and place them over a baking sheet and toast them in the oven, if you want to, you can add melted butter at the end with a brush.

If you are baking for the event, it is highly recommended to place it in a separate place, because of the heat and because of time management, you shouldn’t hurry your baked goods.

5: Arranging Your Charcuterie Board

There’s an easy trick, like in silverware you should start from the outside; in cheese boards you should always start with the big things.

a) “Mise en place”: The French term for every-thing in its every place, this also translates to taking out all your products on display. So, take out whatever you stored in the freezer, and every other product you are using for your cheese board, before you start.

b) Dishes: Place first your empty bowls and dishes (you will fill them later), if you are serving something hot consider allocating it on the edge or a corner.

c) Cheese: Display them all on the board but remember to place your cheeses away from any hot dish you may serve, give that bowl a generous space around to place crackers or bread.

d) Bread and crackers: This is a very important element in your board, it is often the first thing people grab, since it may be used as base for their cheese, dip or any other preparation you may have. You should be careful to avoid obstacles for hands to grab them freely.

e) Fruits and nuts: For wine drinkers this is a very important element, since it helps a lot of the flavors to manifest, fruity and nutty notes are better detected with these two components (kind of obvious right?). While young wines express a wider range of fruit notes, aged wines will show barrel notes with the nuts.

f) Pickled goods: While a wide variety of olives are classic in cheese boards, other pickled goods have the same purpose, cucumbers are a great option, but also red onions (especially if you have a creamy dip to accompany).  These products go well with red wine, but do wonders when you pair them with whites or sparkling wines.

g) Fill your dishes: be careful in this step, you should have your products in an easy to pour container and fill your bowls from the lowest point you can start at and always finish right over the dish to prevent spilling.

h) Garnishes and extras: Whatever decoration you have in mind is time to place it, arugula leaves, microgreens and herbs are great. If there’s any cutlery you wish to display, this is when you should do it (please avoid sticking the knives into the product).