Are you constantly looking for new ways to present appetizers for your guests? Or maybe, your family is tired of eating spaghetti or some variation of chicken for dinner every night. If so, you should try a charcuterie board. The items for a charcuterie board can be budget-friendly or as extravagant as you like.
What Does Charcuterie Mean?
Charcuterie (pronounced “shar-koo-tuh-ree”) is a French term for the cooking, processing and curing of cold meats. These days when someone mentions charcuterie, they are usually making reference to the assembly of a board with various prepared food items.
Food Items For A Charcuterie Board
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The main items for a simple charcuterie board are quite simply meat and cheese. Have you ever seen those meat, cheese and cracker trays at the grocery store? Assemble those ingredients on a nice wooden board and you have charcuterie. Add on these other items to take your charcuterie board to the next level.
The foundation of your board will be the cured meats. I like to go for variety so there’s something for everyone. My favorite meat on the board is sliced prosciutto. The kids really like hard salami. I get smoked turkey slices from the deli for my guests that do not eat pork or beef.
I like to have hard cheeses already sliced or in cubes. Pepper-jack and cheddar cheese are always on my charcuterie boards as they are well received by all crowds. If you offer softer cheeses that come in a wedge or container like brie, be sure to provide small serving knives for your guests to serve themselves.
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3. Bread and/or Crackers
You want something that will stand up to layering so no soft breads here. Think small toasted baguettes and flavorful crackers. You don’t have to go overly fancy. Ritz and Triscuits have lots of cracker varieties to add nice flavors to your charcuterie board. My kids especially like when I add pita chips to the mix.
4. Olives and Pickles
Adding olives and pickles gives you the chance to add salty and savory options to your board. You can go with traditional green and black olives, however, I love to add flavored olives to my charcuterie boards from the OLOVES company. They have delicious flavors like basic & garlic, lemon & rosemary and more. As for pickles, you want to go for the mini, snack-size instead of the slices.
5. Sweet & Savory Spreads
You want to offer your guests something to spread on their bread or crackers. Jams are great because you can have sweet jam like peach or hot, savory jam like hot pepper cranberry. I buy my jams from the Stonewall Kitchen Company because they have a variety of fantastic flavors. Flavored hummus is also a requested spread by my family when we have our game day charcuterie boards.
Fruits will give you the opportunity to add a splash of color, so try to mix it up with variety. The fruit can be dried, fresh or a combination of both. Think about fruits that typically pair with cheese – such as fresh apple slices and grapes. Dried fruits like mango and pineapple are one of my favorites fruit items for a charcuterie board.
You want to be sure that your guests do not have any nut allergies. When in doubt, you can leave nuts out since they are not a main item for your charcuterie board. Should you choose to add nuts be sure that they are shelled. My favorite choices are almonds and cashews.
How To Assemble A Charcuterie Board
Once you have all the food items for your charcuterie board, of course they need to be assembled. This is the fun and easy part (well, besides eating).
- Start with your choice of a wooden board. There are endless options for charcuterie boards on Amazon. Another option is to simply use a sturdy wooden cutting board. You want the presentation to look full, therefore, if you will only have a few guests choose a smaller board. You don’t want a large board with lots of empty space.
- Gather the small bowls. Do not keep the food items in their original jars. Instead place your spreads, pickles, nuts, olives, etc. into nice small bowls. I use the bowls as little guide points around the board to build around, however, you can even place the bowls outside the board if you are short on room.
- Add bread/crackers. I add the bread or crackers in overlapping layers, typically near the outside perimeter of the board.
- Add the cheese. Next is to add the cheese in close proximity to the breads and crackers. Place any wedges of soft cheese. You can place the harder cheeses in overlapping layers. Alternatively, you can cube the harder cheese and place in a bowl or pile a stack on the board.
- Ready for meat. Next is to add the star of the show – the meats. You want to display the meat in a way that makes it look plentiful across the charcuterie board. I do this by adding in rolled or layered meat close to each corner of the board and some in the middle.
- Fill in any spaces with fruit and other items. Almost done! Fill in any spaces on the charcuterie board with food items that did not go into a bowl such as grapes, apple slices and dried fruit.
What Does a Charcuterie Board Look Like?
Do you still need a few inspirations before putting together your own board? If so, take a look at the assembly of a few of these following examples:
If you want a charcuterie board that guides you to the perfect food item set-up check out this premium charcuterie platter by Smirly:
Our Final Thoughts On Charcuterie Board Food Items
You now know what food items are perfect for a charcuterie board as well as how to proceed with assembly. The only thing left is to surprise your family or guests at your next gathering with an impressive spread of meats, cheeses and accents!