Have you ever wanted to put together a gorgeous meat and cheese platter for your family, friends, or even a special event, but don’t know where to start? Well below we will share a few etiquette tips and tricks to help you get started!
First off, this meat and cheese board has a real name - charcuterie. How do you pronounce charcuterie? It is pronounced: [shahr-koo-tuh–ree]. Charcuterie comes from the French, and is devoted to the art of cooking meat products. So next time you're at a restaurant and you see this word on the menu, you can look your server in the eye with confidence and correctly order a [shahr-koo-tuh–ree] board as your starter!
Now let’s discuss what ingredients you’ll need to make the perfect board. We recommend taking time to think about the different colors and textures you want to present to your guests. Be creative and include ingredients beyond just meat and cheese! You can add fruit, nuts, honey, preserves, bread, and much more. Below are a few etiquette tips from meat and cheese experts around the world:
Have you ever ventured down the cheese section of your local market and wondered what some of these foreign cheeses taste like? Well be adventurous and try a few new ones for your next charcuterie and cheese board! You may surprise yourself and your guests. According to one French proverb “A meal without cheese is like a day without sunshine.” So what are the rules of engagement when it comes to cheese?
1. Name that Number:
When creating your board, it is typically suggested that an odd number of cheeses be served. Why? We believe this recommendation is more for aesthetic reasons than anything else. However, keep your cheese plate interesting. Don’t settle for cheddar and more cheddar. You should always serve a minimum of three varieties: a soft cheese, a hard, and one blue or goat cheese.
2. Order of Operations:
Now that you’ve decided how many cheeses you’re going to serve (we recommend around 5), there is also a certain order in which the cheeses should be consumed, or displayed for your guests.
Therefore it’s important to arrange the cheeses on the board in such a way that it will be easy for guests to proceed from mildest to strongest, which is usually the smelliest.
3. Just Breathe
No one enjoys sweaty cheese or really cold cheese. Cheese that has been imprisoned in its wrapping in the fridge is not immediately ready to be eaten. Therefore, it’s important to know the best temperature for the cheese you’re serving. A safe time for most cheese is to set it out thirty minutes to an hour before serving. Room temperature allows the flavors of most cheeses to really shine through! We also suggest keeping your cheese in the vegetable bin, which is the least cold part of your refrigerator.
4. Cut it, Cut it
Since all cheeses are not created equal, neither is the way in which they should be cut. Brace yourself for the most difficult geometry problem that is to be solved today! This may also be the one nuance that most hosts are not aware of. We first recommend having a separate knife for each cheese that will be served. This will avoid the mixing of flavors between cheeses since no one enjoys cross contamination. :)
We recommend cutting from the center of the cheese back to the rind to form the shape of a triangle.
As tempting as this may be, try to avoid cutting off the “nose” or “tip” of the cheese wedge. This is typically the most flavorful part of the cheese!
Log Shaped Cheeses:
You should cut log shaped cheeses into even slices down the length of the cheese to create small rounds.
Semi-soft Wedge Cheeses:
Cut the semi-soft wedge width-wise, about a third of the way down, then cut vertically along the rind.
Let's Add Meat!
The great news about preparing your charcuterie board is you traditionally do not have to cook the meats you are serving. They are already properly cured by your local butcher or market. The meats to be served on your charcuterie board typically fall into two categories: (1) encased meats like salami or pepperoni (2) whole muscle meats like prosciutto.
As you setup your board, spread your meat throughout the board to aesthetically compliment your cheeses. We also recommend being flexible in your texture selection of meats - some hard and some soft. If you're wondering how much meat to serve per guest, typically 2-3 oz will suffice.
Other Helpful Tips!
Now that we have our meat and cheese nailed, let's add a few other compliments to our board. Some of these can be:
- Raw honey, this will add a nice balance of sweet and sour
- Pomegranate seeds are not only yummy, but add a nice pop of color. If you do not enjoy pomegranate seeds, try adding grapes instead
- Bread, most french cheese lovers prefer to serve thin slices of bread instead of flavored crackers so as to not detract from the flavor of the cheese
- Olives are a colorful antipasti and add a nice tartness dimension for your guests
- Nuts also add a nice hard texture component to your board and saltiness
- Jams, Venture out and try different jams to pair with your cheese for a sweet / salty contrast
Below are other photos from some of our friends who did a great job gathering a variety of ingredients to serve their guests! Mixing different color and textures really made this dish the star of all their the tables:
Have a board that you wish to share? Feel free to submit your photos to email@example.com to share with others on this post!