Everybody loves a charcuterie board. After all, they’re packed with savory meats, tasty cheeses, and crunchy crackers. What’s not to love? Putting together a delicious and Instagram-worthy charcuterie board can be your magnum opus as a chef and as a host, but despite what you might believe based on the hand-carved solid oak charcuterie boards adorned with pools of pâté that you see online, putting together a charcuterie board is actually really easy.
If you keep a few simple principles in mind and get adventurous with your flavor profiles, you can assemble a board that your guests will still be gushing over by this time next year. Here’s what you need to know in order to build the ultimate charcuterie board.
Source Local Meats and Cheeses
While you can absolutely build a respectable charcuterie board with meats, cheeses, and crackers bought from a regular grocery store or deli, you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor by shopping at local and small businesses to find your mortadella and Manchego.
The charcuterie materials that you’re able to get at a local market or small deli are usually going to be a lot more interesting, unique, and carefully crafted than the ones you can get at bigger chain stores. They’ll likely be more adventurous with their flavors and techniques (like soaking cheese in wine), giving you more interesting pairings on your board, and you’ll get the added bonus of supporting a local business! If you’re not sure where to go, try checking out the market at Weaver’s Orchard.
Pick Your Crackers Carefully
Getting adventurous with flavors in the meat and cheese department is a great idea when you’re building a charcuterie board. Creamy goat cheeses, stinky bries, and spicy chorizos are all going to be more exciting to munch on, and you can even find unusual ingredients like fennel and pistachios in your cured meats. However, this “get out of your comfort zone” principle does not necessarily apply to your crackers, breads, and the other vehicles of your charcuterie board.
Charcuterie literally means cured meats, and meat and cheese should be the stars of the show on your board! In that regard, it’s probably best to go a bit simpler in terms of your crackers to allow them to really shine. A little sesame or rosemary in your crackers or baguettes isn’t going to hurt anyone, but try to keep the flavors mellow and unobtrusive so that your selection of local treats can stand out.
Incorporate Other Treats
Even though meat and cheese are doing the heavy lifting, the best charcuterie boards have fruit, nuts, olives, and other condiments to enhance the snacking experience. You can use just about anything, from simple strawberries and grapes and some mustard for kick to spicy honey with figs and fancy cornichons on the side, but get creative with the other treats you add to the board. Not only will they make your board look great visually, but your guests will love stacking their crackers high with so many delicious flavor combinations! Also, do not miss out on getting some caramelized onion jam. Thank us later.
Arrange Based on Flavor Profile
Arranging a charcuterie board isn’t as much of an exact science as you might think. As long as there’s a little bit of everything available, your guests are going to be happy, but if you want a little guidance in deciding on your layout, try grouping things together based on flavor profiles.
While it isn’t a hard and fast rule, you’ll usually want to group things near each other on the board based on what will taste the best together. For instance, brie goes great with figs and almonds, so put them close together, while prosciutto and melon is a classic combination, and salami and gouda as a pairing is always a crowd favorite. Outside of that, experiment! Don’t be afraid to try different layouts. Give arranging slices of meat in a wavy river up the center of the board a shot, or try shaping rounds of salami in a flower. Putting together a charcuterie board can be a creative activity, so have fun and get artistic with it!
With just a little bit of forethought and an adventurous palate, you can easily build an awesome charcuterie board. Just don’t be surprised if your guests fill up on cheese and crackers before dinner is even on the table!