According to Tastewise, charcuterie’s yearly consumption growth rate in the U.S. alone is at 49.57%. Not really surprising, as recently, charcuterie boards are becoming one fun way of entertaining guests by offering a selection of finger foods of varying tastes and textures.
And while offering the perfect charcuterie board may be all the rage today, the art of charcuterie dates back over a millennium, allowing us to understand what works and what doesn’t. Often, the best charcuterie boards go back to its simple roots of well-placed cured meats, cheeses, fruits, crackers, and so on on a board.
In this ultimate charcuterie board guide, we’ll be giving you an epic rundown on how to make the perfect charcuterie board within a budget that doesn’t look like a cheap charcuterie board.
What is charcuterie, and what does charcuterie board mean?
The concept of charcuterie is often lost in translation when discussed – which leads many to believe that a charcuterie board is just a platter of fancy meats and cheese.
In contrast, charcuterie is a culinary method of curing or preserving meats, evolving into an art over generations.
Typical charcuterie-style meats are prosciutto, salami, mortadella, bacon, and sausages. But today, a charcuterie board can contain almost any type of meat balanced out by a host of textures from soft and hard cheeses, spreads, crackers, bread, fruits, jams, and more.
The result is like an expression of a person’s palate – savory delicacies that dance in perfect harmony with sweet, sour, and bitter flavors with soft, hard, and brittle textures.
Step-by-step guide on how to make the ultimate charcuterie board
Step 1. Buy/prepare a board and the supplementary tools
The first mistake a lot of beginners make when constructing their ultimate charcuterie board is forgetting the foundation – the board itself.
A board or platter for the perfect charcuterie board need not be fancy or expensive – they can be a large wooden chopping board, a wide glass serving platter, or even a pizza pan.
Select an appropriately-sized board or platter where delicacies can comfortably fit without looking messy.
Purchase 3 to 5 or more boards, putting in mind the average number of people you usually host.
So in that line of thinking, the essential items you’ll need for the perfect charcuterie board are:
Serving board or platter
$18.99 to $69.99 per piece
Ramekins and small plates to hold dips, olives, nuts, etc.
$15 to $30 for a set of 6
$3 per piece
$10 per set
Cheese and spreading knives
$15 for a set of 4
$5-$10 per pack
Prices checked from Amazon and Crate&Barrel
Save yourself the hassle of tumbling olives, out-of-place plastic dip cups, and scattered nuts minutes before your guests arrive. Remember, a little organization keeps the charcuterie board presentation look clean and hassle-free.
Step 2. Prepare what to put on a charcuterie board
Now let’s tackle what goes on a charcuterie board or the charcuterie board ingredients.
Remember that a charcuterie board is like a dining and social experience combined – that’s why it’s also known as a gathering board. There will be different people with different tastes converging on a single platter of food.
So what should be on a charcuterie platter? By the book or unconventional, what you put on your board should follow “Charcuterie pairing.” Charcuterie board pairings are about balance. So if you add something savory or salty, partner it with something mellow or light.
Here are some examples of what you can put on a charcuterie board:
Meats – Include an assortment of flavors to provide an option going from mild to bold but also middle-of-the-road ones. A selection of 2 or 3 is perfect for the ultimate charcuterie board; prosciutto, salami, and bacon are common favorites. Average Price: $15.28 per pound
As an appetizer: 3 ounces of meat per guest
As main course: 6 ounces of meat per guest
Cheeses – Include soft and hard cheeses but keep in mind spreadable cheeses for added texture. 2 or 3 cheeses are great for any charcuterie board with Mild Cheddar, Camembert, and Brie being favorites. Average Price: $4.94 dollars per pound
- As an appetizer: 3 ounces of cheese per guest
- As main course: 6 ounces of cheese per guest
Fruits and Veggies – These are perfect go-to’s in-between bites that cut through the saltiness from the meat and cheese. Using in-season fruits and vegetables, go wild with your selections. Average Price: $0.28 for fruits and $0.21 for vegetables per serving
Jams, spreads, and dips – Mustards, tapenade, pate, ranch, etc., are great spreads on bread and crackers. They add a layer of flavor to the meats and cheeses. Average Price: $3.12 per unit/bottle
Crackers and bread – These are the stable stage to set your meats and cheeses. One can splurge on the type of bread and crackers used, however, a simple toasted baguette can do just fine. In fact, strictly french charcuterie board types don’t use crackers at all. Average Price: $2.36 for crackers per unit and $2 for bread per pound
Pickles or something briny – Gherkins, olives, jalapenos add a tanginess, balancing bold-flavored meats. Average Price: $5 per unit
Extras and garnish (optional) – These additions to the perfect charcuterie boards are primarily up to the taste or the imagination of the one making it. Touches of chocolates or nuts can offer a tangent in flavors, refreshing the palate.
Flowers or herbs add fragrance to the harmony of flavors – use aroma as another dimension to delight guests.
Step 3. Assemble!
Now it’s to assemble what you’ve chosen and create that perfect charcuterie board presentation.
Decide on how many boards you’re presenting by thinking about how many people you’re going to serve and how much you’re going to serve.
Sanitize and prep your charcuterie board:
- Remove all obvious debris
- Wipe the board with a soap-soaked hot dishcloth.
- Rinse under flowing water.
- Towel dry.
Build your board:
- Arrange your cheeses.
- Place your ramekins and small bowls containing your spreads and dips.
- Add your bread and/or crackers beside the cheese for easy reach.
- Tuck your meats close to the other items on the board. This will help the meat keep its folded shape while also close to the crackers and cheese for easy picking.
- Spread the fruits throughout the platter like little treats to look for, or you can place small fruits in a ramekin.
- If you have any gaps, you can add more ingredients or the extras or garnish.
If you don’t have the luxury of time to accomplish all the logistics required in setting up a charcuterie board, Platterful can set-up a couple of charcuterie food elements for you.
Their monthly supply of delicacy-filled boxes comes with instructional cards, detailing how to professionally set-up a charcuterie board. Complete with informational cards talking about each charcuterie element, Platterful actually wants to educate their subscribers on charcuterie boards.
Platterful is the first true charcuterie subscription brand in the U.S, gathering some of the best charcuterie delicacies from small artisan food makers throughout the United States in one box.