What is a Charcuterie Board?

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Want to make a festive charcuterie board for the holidays, but aren’t sure where to start? Well, get ready to be impressed. A charcuterie board is a simple way to set out appetizers that are both appealing and appetizing. The options available include a little bit of everything, and it’s totally versatile. 

In this post, we’ll explain the basics, let you know some of the most popular types of charcuterie boards, and help you make an impressively festive charcuterie board for the holidays, or any time!

What is a Charcuterie Board

What is a Charcuterie Board?

The charcuterie board originated in French traditions. It was the art of preparing and assembling cured meats and meat products. In France, those who cooked and prepared meats were called a Charcutier, hence the name charcuterie board. 

It became popular outside of French communities and evolved to include a variety of foods besides just meat. Today, a charcuterie board can be an assortment of meats, cheeses, slices of bread, veggies, fruits, and nuts that are all artfully arranged on a serving board. 

Not only have charcuterie boards changed over the years to incorporate more foods than just meat and cheese, but you can also create dessert boards as well completely taking out the meats often found. Bottom line is that these boards can be whatever you want them to be!

What is the Purpose of a Charcuterie Board?

The purpose of a charcuterie board or a cheese board is to give your guests an appetizer before the main course. But, instead of making a variety of different appetizers to appease the variety of guests you have coming, you can give them a variety of flavors and textures all on one serving platter. 

By placing different cheeses, meats, crackers, fruits, veggies, nuts, and dips, you give your guests a complex appetizer offering filled with a multitude of different flavors and textures. So, if one guest doesn’t like the cheese, they may like the fruit or vice versa. 

Additionally, cheese boards add a layer of festivity to any event. You can shape them like a Christmas tree for the holidays, arrange the cheese and crackers into cute animals for a baby shower, or add colored foods that fit the theme of your event. 

How Do You Pronounce Charcuterie Board?

The pronunciation of this board varies slightly from the original French term. Most people pronounce it “Shahr-Ku-Tuh-ree,” but the correct pronunciation is “Shar-coo-tree.”

What to Put on a Charcuterie Board

There are a variety of different kinds of charcuterie boards, and each kind may offer different meats, cheeses, veggies, or fruits. An ideal board would consist of a balance of flavors and textures that contrast, yet complements each other. Here are a few tips for pairing and choosing what to put on your charcuterie board. 

  1. Offer chewy and smooth options. For example, you can pair chewy, piquant salami with a rich and smooth pate. 
  2. Pair spicy and sweet. You can compliment spicy chorizo with sweet fruits. 
  3. Contrast cold and hot foods. Contrast different cold cheeses, fruits, or meat with warm sausage or cheese. 
  4. Smoked meat. Limit yourself to only one smoked meat since the smoked meats have a strong flavor that can overpower the rest of the board. 

4 Styles To Try

As stated above, there are a variety of approaches you can take to make an appetizing and artistically appealing charcuterie board. You can make traditional boards, or you can take more of a freestyle approach and pair your favorite flavors and textures. Here are a few examples to spark your creativity:

#1 Fruits and Cheeses

Pairing cheese with fruit provides a flavorful contrast of different textures and flavors. Classic fruit and cheese trays use grapes with cheddar, pears with gouda cheese, or cherries with brie. 

#2 Meats, Citrus, and Veggies

Think of crunchy vegetables like carrots, broccoli, celery, and citrus fruits like oranges. The combination of fresh produce and fattier meats like salami balances out the board. 

#3 Breads, Meats, and Cheese

Slices of toasted bread or crackers pair perfectly with slices of meat and cheese. For example, prosciutto and fig jam pair perfectly with a toasted baguette. 

#4 Dessert Board

You can even make a dessert charcuterie board! This is where sweet and salty come into play. Pretzels dipped in chocolate paired with strawberries and fruit dip combine for a perfect sweet and salty board with a little crunch. 

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Popular Types of Meat to Use

In addition to there being a variety of different styles, there are a variety of meats that you can put on your board as well. You want to have at least 2-different meats on your board unless you are doing a different style. Here are some of the best meats to use:

Meat and Cheeses
  • Prosciutto-This is a salty, silky meat that is made from curing the whole hind leg of a pig. Prosciutto is a whole muscle salami sliced paper-thin.
  • Rillettes– Rillettes is similar to a pâté but more approachable to many people. They are a slow cooked, shredded meat usually made from pork or duck. Essentially it’s shredded and chilled meat. 
  • Saucisson Sec-This is close to traditional salami. It’s thick, hard, and seasoned with fresh garlic and peppercorns.
  • Sopressata– Made with pork and seasoned with black pepper, this is very fatty, dry-cured pork salami. It pairs nicely with creamy soft cheeses. 
  • Genoa Salami– If you don’t want to scour your city looking for specific meats, Genoa salami is readily available at many grocery stores and markets. It’s a dry, spiced, cured, uncooked salami made from pork seasoned with garlic, salt, and black and/or white peppercorns and red or white wine.
  • Mortadella-Mortadella consists of cooked, cured pork emulsified into a purée combined with cubes of fat, peppercorns, pistachios and other spices. This meat gives your board a colorful, marbled look.
  • Spanish chorizo– Spanish chorizo is a fatty cured pork sausage that is seasoned with paprika, garlic, and salt. It’s a bright red color. This meat pairs well with Spanish cheeses like Manchego. 
  • ‘Nduja-If you want a board with crackers, this spreadable meat is the perfect addition. It’s a spreadable fermented pork sausage from Calabria, Italy.

Popular Types of Cheeses

There are also lots of cheeses you can add to your board. I like to add 2-3 different choices, but it’s all up to you! Here are 5 of the most popular types of cheeses you can use on your board:

Cheese Types
  • Gouda– Gouda is an all around crowd pleaser that has a nutty, butter taste infused with notes of caramel. It pairs well with breads and sweet fruits. 
  • Triple Cream Brie– It’s extra creamy and buttery and pairs perfectly with baguette, crackers, apples, grapes and berries.
  • Cheddar cheese– You can never go wrong with slices of cheddar. It pairs well with just about anything. Go crazy with salami, pepperoni, crackers, french bread, and even some almonds.
  • Goat cheese– Goat cheese has a range of flavors depending on which kind you get. But, it’s great on all boards. Pair it with berries, pears, salami, sliced bread, olives, crackers, cranberries, walnuts, bell peppers, or jam. 
  • Manchego– This is a firm sheep’s milk cheese that has tangy, nutty, and grassy flavors. You can pair it with spanish crackers, thin sliced ham, almonds, walnuts, and sweet spreadables like honey. 

How to Build a Charcuterie Board

The most important aspect of creating a charcuterie board is the presentation! The appearance of the board and the way the food is arranged is part of the charm that goes along with this appetizer platter. Here are some foods for a great charcuterie board:

  • Cheese– You want a variety of cheeses. Many boards include both hard and soft cheeses. 
  • Meats– Like cheese, you want a variety. I like to add 2-3 different meats and cheeses. 
  • Fruits– If you want more of a sweet and savory taste, use fruits that are in season like berries, oranges, figs, and kiwis to give your board color and flavor. 
  • Vegetables– Leave out the fruits if you are going with the veggies. Choose crunchy veggies like carrots, cucumbers, celery, and snap peas. 
  • Crackers– I always add crackers if I’m doing meats and cheeses. You can also use pretzels or gluten free crackers. 
  • Dips– Don’t forget dips for the fruits and veggies like hummus, honey, mustard, or cheesecake fruit dip

How to Build It: Step By Step Directions

Once you’ve decided on what you want on your board, it’s time to get a little artsy. Follow the steps below for an impressive charcuterie board:

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Step 1: Start by placing any bowls on your board. For example, if you have a ranch dip for the veggies or fruit dip for the fruits, place them on opposite sides of the board, but where they are easily accessible. 

Step 2: Add the cheese and crackers. Place your cheese on the board preferably on the savory side. Then, place the crackers near the cheeses. 

Step 3: Add the meat to the savory side. Place it next to the cheese and crackers. 

Step 4: Add the fruits. To divide your board with meats and cheeses on one side and fruits or veggies on the other, use a vine of grapes down the center of your board. 

Step 5: Fill in the gaps. Use nuts or dried berries to fill in any gaps on your board. 

Move things around or arrange them differently so that the board looks pretty and appealing.

Where to Buy a Charcuterie Board

You can buy a charcuterie board at any big box retail store such as Walmart, Target, or Bed, Bath and Beyond. Additionally, you can buy a charcuterie board on Amazon and have it shipped right to your door. 

The Best Boards

I like to use a wooden board because I feel like it gives it more of a rustic look that pairs well with fresh meats and cheeses. You can use a classic rectangular Bamboo Wood Cutting Board and it will work just fine, but if you want to get a little more creative, here are some of the best charcuterie boards: 

  • Unique Bamboo Cheese Board This one is super cool because it has carved out spots for different foods and makes it look fancy. 
  • Smirly Cheese Board and Knife Set– What I love about this one is that it has the charcuterie board, knife set, and a matching round fruit tray to go with it. 
  • Smirly Large Charcuterie Board– If you are having a lot of guests, this board has a huge center board with two pull out side boards, knives, 2 sauce bowls, labels, small forks, a wine opener, a fruit tray, and a cheeseboard guide. 
  • Besti Rustic Vintage Serving Platter– If you’re like me and are afraid of spilling your charcuterie board masterpiece, this board has high edges and handles so you can easily move it from one room to the other.
  • Round Charcuterie Board Set and Cheese Serving Platter– Round boards don’t have as much space as the rectangular ones, but they create the perfect centerpiece for your table. This one, however, has compartments for different bowls and foods, knives, removable bowls, and a utensil drawer. 

Charcuterie Board Ideas

Still not sure if you can make an artistically appealing charcuterie board? Here are some of my favorite board ideas:

  • Cheesecake Dip Charcuterie Board– I just made the dip, put it in the center of my board, and placed a variety of sweet treats such as wafers, peanut butter cookies and chocolate, around the dip. You could also add strawberries, cantaloupe, or watermelon to this board. 
  • Thanksgiving Charcuterie Board– Made with a variety of meats, cheeses, crackers, and festive fall fruits, and nuts, this board screams Thanksgiving!
  • Christmas Charcuterie Board– This one uses basic cheeses, meats, crackers, some olives, and a few decorative raisins and nuts to create a festive Christmas tree board. 
  • Gluten Free Cheese Board– If you have some guests that have a gluten intolerance, you can make the whole board gluten free with a little prep work. 
  • Chocolate Cheese Board– Made with sweet cheeses, chocolate, fruits, and roasted nuts, this board is for those with a sweet tooth.

Final Word

Whether you need a quick and easy appetizer for the holidays, a cookout, a baby shower, or a bridal shower, a charcuterie board is a win every time! I felt I needed to share something fun to do with all that’s going on around us. For those who have wanted a creative tray to serve special appetizers, here is the answer. Let me know what you included with yours and how it was received by your guests. I’d love to hear how things turned out. May God Bless this world, Linda

Copyright Images: Gourmet Fancy Charcuterie Depositphotos_188144454_S, Salami, and Breadsticks Depositphotos_361809578_S, Cheese and Grapes Depositphotos_171138952_S

2 thoughts on “What is a Charcuterie Board?

  • November 24, 2021 at 2:58 am
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    Thanks for the information Linda. I always wondered what a charcuterie board was. Might make a small one for the family to snack on early in the day until all the food is done.

    Reply
    • November 24, 2021 at 8:45 am
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      Hi Jackie, I just bought one for my nephew who got married on Monday. I wanted something for him and his wife they could treasure throughout their lifetime together. They would use it for fruits and vegetables, which is awesome! Linda

      Reply

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