Get Fancy at Home with These Charcuterie Board Ideas

Making a charcuterie board is a great way to serve an appetizer, provide snacks or substitute a meal, whether you’re hosting a nice dinner party or a casual Sunday afternoon gathering. Creating a charcuterie arrangement may seem complicated, but it’s actually an easy way to impress your guests once you learn the basics. Here are some pointers you should know.

What should I put on my charcuterie board?

On her comprehensive article on building a charcuterie board, Sarah of Snixy Kitchen explains, “Charcuterie is a French word used to describe any of a variety of cold cooked or cured meats.” Thus, the focus of your platter should be some flavorful, high-quality meats. Sarah’s recommendations are spicy peppered salami, thick cut cacciatore, Italian dry salami and calabrese salami, though prosciutto, bresaola, chorizo and capicola are also popular inclusions.

The rest of the items you include should cover a variety of flavors for a diverse yet balanced tasting experience. To achieve this, home cook Trish recommends following this rule on her blog Mom on Timeout: “Charcuterie boards should generally incorporate sweet, savory, salty, and spicy items.”

Fruit should obviously provide the sweet flavors, and those can involve either dried or fresh fruits. Make sure you use ones that are easy to serve, aren’t messy and won’t leave a strong, lingering aftertaste. Sarah suggests blackberries, grapes, pears, apples, dried fits, dried apricots or dried dates.

The spicy flavors can come from the vegetables and jams. Sarah suggests serving roasted tomatoes, roasted peppers, sliced radishes and pickled items like cornichons. Jams with sweet heat like a habanero jelly are also welcome inclusions and provide a zesty flavor contrast. Fill the remainder of the board with almonds, olives and crackers, alongside a loaf of artisan bread as a palate cleanser.

Charcuterie boards are traditionally focused on meats and cheeses, but you or some of your diners may be vegan, which could leave them with very few options. If you know a vegan will be dining with you, add some plant-based dips like hummus, cheese substitutes, vegan-friendly carbs and extra nuts.

How should I arrange and serve the items?

Now that you have your ingredients, make sure you arrange and serve them properly. The Di Lusso Deli Company has a great guide on its website for making charcuterie arrangements, and these are some of the suggestions offered. Label all the items so timid or curious diners know what they’re putting on their plate. Give every item its own serving utensil. Liven the display up with pops of color through small decorative elements like sprigs of rosemary. If you can’t fit everything on one board, that’s OK. Splitting the items among multiple boards is fine — like putting cheese and fruit on one and meat and vegetables on the other. Place the boards somewhere everyone can easily access and that won’t be blocked by people mingling.

What are some common mistakes I should avoid on my platter?

Being able to make a good charcuterie arrangement involves knowing what you shouldn’t do. There are mistakes you can make on your board that will ruin the experience. In a Williams Sonoma blog post, cheese expert Elena Santogade shared a couple of common errors you might be making on your spreads. Instead of setting out a block of unsliced cheese, she recommends slicing some or all of it to show guests how to properly slice that cheese type. And make sure that you let the cheese warm gradually to room temperature by letting it sit for at least a half-hour.

This suggestion can apply to most of the items on your board. Anything taken directly out of the fridge will be too cold and dense to impart their full, layered flavors. Let the items warm up and breathe before serving them. She also recommends going out of your comfort zone by incorporating items you haven’t tried before. Instead of the usual blocks of brand-name cheese in the dairy section of your chain grocery, go to a specialty grocer and find something unique.

Making a charcuterie platter is easier than you may realize. It’s a simple yet effective way to elevate finger foods into an appealing arrangement of flavors. The next time you want to dazzle someone with snacks, put your newfound knowledge of charcuterie to the test.

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