Build a Charcuterie Board your guests will love

Story by Sandi Haustein

If you enjoy entertaining, you've probably noticed that charcuterie boards are everywhere these days. You've seen them in magazines, on Instagram and at your best friend's last party. And it's easy to see why: Charcuterie boards are a win for everyone involved.

With all store-bought ingredients, they're a quick and stress-free way for hosts to entertain. And guests love them, too. Everyone enjoys picking and choosing what they want on a charcuterie board – plus they're pretty and fun!

Figuring quantities
"How much should I make?" you ask. That depends. How big are your appetites? What time is your function? Are you serving anything else along with your charcuterie board?
If you’re serving charcuterie as a party appetizer, stick to about 2-3 ounces of meat and cheese (total) per person. If your charcuterie board is the star of the show, double the amount to about 4-6 ounces of meat and cheese (total) per person and serve it with plenty of bread. You may need to employ a little guesswork here, but to be safe, lean on the heavy side. It’s always best to have leftovers rather than not enough. Most cured meats and cheeses last up to two weeks in the fridge too.

But what is charcuterie, exactly? Charcuterie is the French word for "cured meats." Originally, a charcuterie board just contained two to three meats, a couple of cheeses, and a few cornichon pickles. But today's charcuterie has taken on a life of its own – combining fruits, vegetables, breads, spreads, olives and just about anything you can imagine.

Here’s what you need:

If you're going to serve charcuterie at your next get-together, there are a few things you're going to need.

A board. To serve charcuterie, you need something to arrange it on. Consider using a beautiful wood or slate charcuterie board or a marble slab, or you can opt for any attractive platter or tray. Or, even simpler, just use a baking sheet, a pizza pan, or even the counter or table (just cover it first with butcher paper or parchment paper).

2-3 meats. You should definitely include some robust salami, and then choose a couple of other softer, salt-cured meats like ham, pepperoni or copocollo. You may also want to add in a rich and smooth pâté and/or terrine for spreading on some crusty bread.

2-3 cheeses. Choose a good variety of cheeses. Include one or two cheeses from each category: soft cheese (such as Brie, Blue, Feta, Fresh Mozzarella, Camembert); semi/soft and medium cheeses (such as Gouda, Gruyere, Havarti, Munster, Port Salut); semi/hard and hard cheeses (such as Cheddar, Parmesan, Colby, Pecorino Romano, Monterey Jack); and something unique (such as Roquefort or a flavored goat cheese).

1-2 spreads or jams. Dijon mustard and fig jam are a couple of traditional choices for a charcuterie board, but you can choose any kind of spread or jam. Use your imagination and think about what would taste good with the cheeses you've selected.

1 ingredient with a brine. It's good to include an acid ingredient on your board because it helps break up the heaviness of the meat and cheese. Pick out your favorite olives, pickles or pickled vegetables to include.
Crackers and breads. Try to incorporate at least two different types of crackers or breads. Some ideas are thinly sliced baquettes, water crackers, pita chips, crostini or crispy breadsticks.

1-2 extras. If you have a few empty spaces on your board, you can fill them with some "extras" like grapes, apple slices, dried fruits, assorted berries, nuts or chocolate to add some color and pizzazz to your board. These add-ons also help balance out the meaty, salty and rich items.

Here’s what you do:

When it comes to arranging your charcuterie board, there's no right or wrong way. But the ones that are sure to wow will have a variety of color, texture, flavor and a stylish presentation. For guidance, here are some suggestions:

Start with your cheeses. They're the biggest ingredient and need the most space.

Next, add any bowls or jars. Make use of small bowls, jars or ramekins for olives, jams, etc. to create height and a more organized spread.

Next, add your meats. You can fold them into half circles, roll them, or make them into flower shapes. Fit them into the spaces between your bowls and cheeses.

Add your crackers and breads. If you don't have enough room, you can put them in a bowl or on another small board next to your charcuterie board. Otherwise, spread them into the nooks and crannies that are left.

Fill in spaces with your extras. A handful of nuts or a few grapes here and there help add color and texture to your board.

Trust your artistic instincts when putting together your charcuterie board. If you're struggling, though, Google a few pictures and try to copy what you see. Don't stress about it. The most important thing is that you have fun.

Whether you use your charcuterie board as an appetizer or a main dish, it's sure to be a hit at your next party or get-together. So, invite some friends over, break out the meat and cheese, and enjoy a fun evening together charcuterie-ing!