By the end of this article, you’ll know the difference between paté, terrine, and saucisson, as well as the difference between cured and cooked charcuterie meats.
Charcuterie in France is a French tradition that dates back thousands of years.
Charcuterie in France is more than just a food; it’s a cultural tradition and an art form that involves preparing, curing, or preserving meat using methods passed down through generations.
Charcuterie is also an important cultural tradition in Itali, where it’s called “salumi” or “salumeria.” There are many similarities, but there are also many differences between French Charcuterie and Italian Salumi.
The tradition of charcuterie in France dates back to the Romans, who were known for their innovations in curing meat using salt, herbs, and various smoking and drying techniques to preserve meat. They were also skilled at creating sausages and other cured meats that could be easily transported and stored during a time when refrigeration didn’t exist.
Today, the charcuterie board has become a popular way to entertain and feed a crowd while showcasing various charcuterie meats, cheese, fruits, nuts, and bread.
However, with so many different types of cured and cooked meats available, it can be overwhelming to choose which ones to include on your board.
Let’s start by taking a look at cooked French charcuterie meats; then, we’ll move on to cured French charcuterie meats. Most will involve meat, sometimes fish, and even a few vegetable options, such as a vegetable terrine.
You might be interested in reading about French aperitifs: 77 French Apéritif drinks explained: A mini guide to predinner drinks
Cooked French Charcuterie in France: Soft or spreadable forcemeat
There’s more to French charcuterie than just cured meats.
While Italian charcuterie meats like prosciutto and salami are well known, there’s a lesser-known branch of cooked French charcuterie that tends to confuse people known as forcemeat.
What is forcemeat?
Forcemeat is a charcuterie term that refers to a meat mixture made by grinding, chopping, or pureeing meat and then combining it with fat and other ingredients such as herbs and
The forcemeat mixture is then used as a base for making a variety of charcuterie products, including pâtés, terrines, and sausages, which can be either smooth or coarse and spreadable or soft and sliceable.
True to its name, forcemeat is derived from the French word “Farcir” which means to stuff. Over time farcir became farce in English and then force. For example, stuffed zuchini in French is called “Courgettes farcies.”
Examples of French charcuterie in France made from forcemeat (stuffed meat) include the following:
- Sausage (which you need to cook at home)
- Boudin noir
- Boudin blanc
Let’s go over these popular French charcuterie board meats from France
Terrines: sliceable (cooked in a loaf-shaped mould)
A terrine is a dish that is named after the rectangular metal, ceramic, or glass mould it’s cooked in. In English, it would be similar to calling something a meatloaf or vegetable loaf simply because it was cooked in a loaf-shaped pan.
There are a lot of different types of terrine, which are typically made of pork, but they can be made of fish, beef, chicken, vegetables or a mixture of several types of meat and vegetables. Terrines also contain binders such as eggs, cream, flour, cornstarch, or gelatine.
All the ingredients are blended and seasoned with herbs,
Then everything is placed in the terrine mould and baked, usually in a bain-marie (water bath) in the oven. Once the terrine is fully cooked, it’s allowed to cool and then refrigerated to allow the flavours to meld together.
Once cooled, terrines are usually sliceable and a great addition to charcuterie boards.
Below, I’ve included some examples of French charcuterie in France that fall under the category of terrines, but there are literally hundreds of ways to make a terrine.
Fromage de tête: Headcheese
“Fromage de tête,” literally “head cheese,” is also known in England as brawn (or meat jelly if it’s made with Aspic jelly). It’s typically made by cooking the meat and connective tissue from the head or feet of a pig or calf.
Head cheese can be classified as a type of terrine because after the meat is mixed with
Fromage de tête is typically thinly sliced and served cold like a French cold cut, as part of a meal or on a French charcuterie board.
The main difference between “fromage de tête” and other types of terrines is the use of the binding agent gelatin, which holds everything together to create a firm, sliceable texture.
Pâté de Campagne (Country style pâté- Cold French meatloaf)
“Pâté de champagne,” aka “Terrine de champagne,” is a well-known rustic style French charcuterie made of coarsely ground meat (not puréed,) herbs, onions and seasonings. There is usually some type of binder added, such as egg, bread crumbs or cream and sometimes alcohol. It just depends on the recipe.
In France, many recipes call for a small amount of liver for flavour.
Everything is mixed together and baked in a terrine or loaf pan in a water bath (bain de Marie.)
Despite their differences, some people may compare Pâté de champagne to meatloaf because it has a similar texture and is made from ground or minced meat, eggs and breadcrumbs. However, Pâté de champagne is a much more elevated, luxurious and flavorful dish that is typically served cold, while meatloaf is a simpler and heartier dish that is served hot.
Terrine de poison: Fish terrine
Terrine de poisson is a seafood terrine that is made with fish and other seafood. It’s a popular dish in French cuisine and is often served as an appetizer, a light lunch or on a charcuterie board.
The fish and seafood used in terrine de poisson can vary, but it can be made with salmon, shrimp, and scallops, as well as white fish such as cod or halibut. The fish is typically poached or baked, then mixed with other ingredients such as eggs, cream, and herbs to create a thick, custard-like mixture. The mixture is then poured into a terrine mould or loaf pan and baked and refrigerated until it sets.
Terrine de poisson can be challenging to make due to the delicate texture of the fish and seafood.
Terrine de legume: Vegetable terrine
Terrine de légumes, or vegetable terrine, is a versatile vegetarian dish that can be customized with different vegetables and seasonings to suit personal tastes and preferences.
The vegetables can be pureed to create a smooth, custard-like texture, chopped or a combination of both. The binder used to hold everything together can vary but usually involves some combination of eggs, cream, flour, cornstarch, or gelatin. You can even make vegan vegetable terrine by using plant-based substitutes for the egg and cream binder.
Once everything is seasoned and mixed, it’s all poured, if pureed, or layered, if chopped, into a terrine mould or loaf pan. The terrine is then baked until it sets and has a firm texture.
Vegetable terrines are a popular French dish served cold or room temperature as an appetizer, vegetarian main course, or sliced on a charcuterie board if you would like to have a vegetarian option.
Pâté: Mostly spreadable charcuterie
Pâté is a French word that means paste.
The term pâté often suggests a finer, spreadable textured forcemeat using liver, whereas terrines are usually coarser and sliceable like a meatloaf. However, there are many different types of pâté that differ in cooking technic and texture.
Some pâtés are cooked before being blended, while others are blended and then put in a mould or terrine before being cooked in a water bath.
Sometimes pâté can be baked with a crust, like “pâté en croûte,” which is sliceable, and sometimes pâté is whipped together to form a smooth, spreadable mousse.
Traditionally, Pâté is a cooked mixture of seasoned organ meat, such as liver, that’s been chopped, ground, shredded, or pureed and emulsified with fat such as lard. It’s then flavoured with
Goose liver and duck liver are the most common
What’s the difference between a terrine and a pâté?
Fun fact: Technically, all pâtés are considered terrines because they’re baked in a terrine or deep pan, but not all terrines are pâtés.
In order for a pâté to be considered a pâté, it must contain meat, but a terrine can be made of meat or other ingredients such as fish, vegetables and even grains.
For example, a vegetable terrine made with layers of sliced zucchini, eggplants and tomatoes baked in a terrine dish is considered a terrine but cannot be called a pâté for obvious reasons. But a liver
It’s important to note that
foie grasliver is a controversial topic because of the force-feeding of the animals to fatten their livers. As a result, foie grashas been banned in several countries, and its consumption is a topic of ethical debate.
Foie Gras: Fatty liver pâté
The most well-known forcemeat is probably pâté de
The word Foie Gras(fattened liver) doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a pâté because Foie grascan also refer to fatty liver bought whole and cooked in a pan.
French law defines
Pâté en croûte (Paté in a crust): in a class of it’s own
Pâté en croûte, which translates to “paste in the crust,” is a savoury French charcuterie meat dish that is similar to both a sliceable terrine and a spreadable pâté.
It’s typically made of various types of ground meat, such as pork, chicken, veal, beef, gamey meats, and even liver.
To prepare pâté en croûte, the meat filling is first seasoned, cooked, and chilled. Once chilled, the filling is wrapped in pastry dough like a pie or beef wellington and then baked in a terrine or deep mould until it’s fully cooked and the crust is golden brown, which makes this dish a terrine and a paté.
This dish is often served as an appetizer, a main course, or as part of a charcuterie board and is typically served cold. Its rich and savoury taste makes it a popular choice for special occasions or as a fancy addition to a meal.
Rillette (a slow-cooked chunky shredded potted pâté)
Rillette is a spreadable chunky pâté and a type of “potted meat.”
If you want to include spreadable charcuteries on your platter but have an aversion to liver pâté like
Rillette is made by
Rillettes is also commonly made with pork, beef, tuna, rabbit, goose, turkey, or poultry.
Rillettes can be made from pork, duck, chicken, salmon, or rabbit. The meat is slowly cooked in fat until it’s very tender and shreddable.
Rillette de canard: Duck rillette
As I mentioned earlier, if you have an aversion to liver and organ meat but want something spreadable, make sure to include a rillette on your charcuterie platter.
Rillette, from Old French “rille,” meaning a slice of pork, is a spreadable chunky pâté and a type of “potted meat.” It’s usually made of porc, but these days, you can get it made with practically any meat or fish, such as
- Tuna rillette
- Duck rillette
- Chicken rillette
- Salmon rillette
- Crab rillette
Here’s a recipe for pork rillette you can try at home. It’s easy to make and can be made ahead of time.
Cretons is a French-Canadian-style spiced pork spread or potted meat popular in French-speaking Quebec and not well known outside of Quebec, although I’m told you can find it in New England.
In Quebec, you can easily find cretons in most grocery stores like IGA, but you can also make it at home. My aunt Huguette loves to spread it on toast in the morning, which is the way it’s traditionally eaten in Quebec, but it’s also a great addition to a charcuterie board.
Cretons is best described as a cross between a French rillette and a thick pâté made by cooking ground pork and lard with milk or water and bread crumbs. Depending on the recipe, cretons can be seasoned and spiced with onions, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, garlic or allspice, etc.
The idea of spreadable potted meat made from pork was most likely inspired by French rillettes brought over to Quebec by early French settlers.
Here is a simple cretons recipe you can try yourself.
Les saucisses (Fresh sausages that you cook at home)
Fresh sausages are very popular in France, served as part of a meal or cooked and sliced as charcuterie board meat.
Sausages are a forcemeat mixture of ground meat and other ingredients, such as
While many French charcuterie sausages are cured, fresh sausages are not cured, so you’ll have to cook these at home, grilled, pan-fried, or boiled.
Here are some popular French sausages that you can find in French grocery stores, butcher shops and charcuterie shops.
- Chipolata – a small, thin pork sausage flavoured with herbs like thyme and sage.
- Saucisse de porc – a simple, fresh pork sausage, often flavoured with garlic or other herbs.
- Saucisse de Toulouse Fraîche – a fresh version of the cured Toulouse sausage, made with pork, white wine, and seasonings.
- Saucisse de volaille – a fresh chicken sausage, often flavoured with herbs like tarragon or parsley.
- Saucisse de canard – a fresh duck sausage, often flavoured with herbs like thyme or rosemary.
Merguez sausage – And last but not least, there’s fresh merguez sausage, which is actually a North African sausage that is extremely popular in France. In France, it’s typically grilled or pan-fried before serving it with couscous or in a baguette sandwich.
Merguez is made with either lamb or beef and is typically flavoured with a spicy chilli paste called harissa, garlic, and other
Boudin Blanc (white sausage)
The French word for sausage is “saucisse”; however, “Boudin” is another French word for a type of sausage in French cuisine that typically contains some form of filler, such as blood, bread crumbs, rice, or vegetables, in addition to meat. The exact origins of the word “boudin” are not clear; however, “boudin” has been used for centuries in French cuisine.
Boudin blanc is a traditional French white meat sausage made from a forcemeat mixture of finely ground pork, veal, chicken or a combination of these meats. Depending on the recipe, common binders added to the mixture include eggs, heavy cream or milk, and bread crumbs.
Aspiring home chefs and restaurants sometimes get more creative with their
Once cooked on a grill or fried in a pan, you can add sliced
boudin blancis eaten all year round, but it’s especially popular to serve boudin blancwhole as part of the Christmas holiday and New Year’s meals alongside other festive foods like roasted meats, vegetables, and desserts.
Boudin Noir, aka black pudding (blood sausage)
Boudin noir, which means black sausage in French, is known in English as Black pudding.
Boudin noir is a type of coagulated pig blood sausage that is eaten in France and many other countries, including the United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, parts of the Caribbean, and Quebec, Canada.
The recipe for
Because blood is the main ingredient,
In the UK and Ireland, slices of grilled or fried black puddings are usually served as part of a traditional full breakfast, whereas in France, that would never happen. Instead, it’s served as part of a meal or cooked and sliced as part of a charcuterie board.
Salt-cured, Smoked, air-dried, and Brined French charcuterie meats
Many types of charcuterie board meats are salt-cured and air-dried from large whole pieces of meat.
But did you know that cured charcuterie, such as Italian salami and prosciutto, are not cooked?
Don’t worry, because while cured charcuterie meat and fish may technically be considered “raw” in the sense that it’s not been cooked, it’s not considered a raw product from a food safety perspective once meat undergoes a curing process, which can range from a few days to several months.
This curing process prevents the growth of harmful bacteria, increases the shelf life of the meat, and makes it safe to eat.
However, it’s still important to handle and store cured meats properly to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. Cured meats should be stored at the appropriate temperature and consumed within a certain timeframe to ensure their safety and quality.
There are many ways to preserve and cure meat. Here is a brief explanation of a few methods.
Salt-cured charcuterie meats
Italian Prosciutto is a good example of an Italian cured ham preserved by taking a raw piece of meat, covering it with salt and leaving it to air dry for a few weeks to a few years.
During the time that it air dries, the salt draws out all the moisture and blood, which prevents bacteria from forming, and it’s this preservation method that makes it safe to eat the raw meat, which is no longer raw after curing.
Salting also makes the flavours of the meat more concentrated and gives the meat its deep red colour.
Smoked cured meats
Some meats are cured by smoking, which also draws out moisture while adding a desirable smoky flavour and dark red colour.
Fermented cured meats
Some sausages (saucissons) are cured by fermenting using a bacteria mould, similar to the process used to make
As the saucisson ages, friendly, healthy bacteria mould forms on the outside of the
Combination of cured charcuterie meats
Some charcuterie meats use a combination of curing methods, each one yielding a different taste and texture.
Table Summarizing French charcuterie meats
Here is a table of some French charcuterie meats, along with their English translations and brief descriptions where applicable:
|French Charcuterie Meats
|Sausage made from pork intestines and tripe
|Smoked or grilled
|Cured meat from pork belly, typically sliced thin and fried or baked
|Sausage made from pig’s blood and various fillings
|Boiled or grilled
|Sausage made from pork, veal or chicken, and milk
|Boiled or grilled
|Large, smoked sausage made from pork and beef originally from Switzerland but found in France, too.
|Smoked or boiled
|A traditional pork sausage from Corsica, typically made with pork liver and flavoured with garlic and red wine.
|Dry-cured and smoked
|Fromage de tête
|A terrine made from the head and feet of pork or calf, mixed with
|Cooked & cured
|cooked ham made from the hind leg of a pig that is typically brined and then boiled or steamed until fully cooked.
|Cooked in water or steam
|Typically made from the hind leg of a pig, and is dry-cured with salt for several weeks before being air-dried for several months.
|Air-cured and salted
|French-cooked ham typically made from the hind leg of a pig. Salted and seasoned with herbs and
|Cooked in water or steam
|Air-cured, salted ham
|Air-cured and salted
|Dry-cured ham from the Luxeuil region of France
|Air-cured, salted ham that is then dried
|Air-cured, salted, and dried
|Lard de jambon
|Salt-cured pork fat from the back or belly of the pig
|Cured and smoked pork belly with a higher fat content than regular bacon
|A smooth mixture of ground meat, fat, and other ingredients
|Cooked or baked
|Pâté de campagne
|Country style Pâté
|a rustic-style terrine made from ground pork, pork liver, and other ingredients, often flavoured with herbs and
|Baked in a water bath
|Pâté en croûte
|Pâté in pastry
|Pâté baked in a pastry crust
|Meat, poultry, or fish slow-cooked in fat until tender and spreadable
|Cooked in fat
|A Lyon specialty: French deli meat or French cold cuts like salmi of dry-cured sausage made from pork or beef
|Air-cured, salted, and dried
|A cured sausage that is air-dried
|Dry cured sausage
|A type of saucisson that is dried longer than regular saucisson
|Saucisse de Strasbourg
|A type of sausage from the Strasbourg region of France, made with pork and
|A dish made by baking a mixture of ground meat, fish, or vegetables and other ingredients in a rectangular mould called a terrine.
|Terrine de Campagne
|A type of terrine that typically contains pork, chicken, or game meat, as well as vegetables and herbs
Examples of Cured and preserved Charcuterie meats
Below are some detailed descriptions of the different types of charcuterie meats. I’ve included some Italian charcuterie meats since they are also popular in France.
Gravlax – salt-cured salmon
I’m going to start this list of cured French charcuterie with a salt-cured salmon called Gravlax, which is extremely popular in France. This might surprise you since most people outside of France don’t think of a cured fish as being a charcuterie dish. Nevertheless, it is in France.
“Gravlax” is originally a Scandinavian dish from the Scandinavian word “grav” (meaning “grave” or “burial”) and “lax” (meaning “salmon”) because Scandinavians traditionally buried salmon in the sand near the shore to cure it.
The French version of Gravlax salmon is usually cured with a mixture of salt, sugar, dill, and sometimes other herbs and
Adding gravlax to a charcuterie board is a good idea because it can add an element of freshness to a charcuterie board that may be heavy on cured meats.
Saucisson Sec (French-style dry sausage)
Italy has Salami, France has
Because of its form factor, it’s not uncommon to see people in France slicing a
Many regions of France produce
Rosette de Lyon for example is a cured French pork saucisson from Lyon made from the leg of pork usually served in thick slices.
Depending on where you live, these particular ones may not be available, but you should be able to find something similar under a different name, such as “French-style
Fuet is a thin, dry-cured, and fermented sausage (saucisson) from the Catalan region of Spain. It’s made with finely minced fat and lean pork and seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic and other
It has a strong flavour that not everyone likes, but some absolutely love it.
Salami, like French
Salami is part of a larger Italian food group called “salumi,” which includes everything from Prosciutto and Bresaola to Pancetta and Salami.
Like the french words Saucisson and Saucisse, the word “salami” which is the plural form of the Italian word salame is from Latin “salaris” meaning salted .
Technically, soppressata is an Italian salami whose curing process is the same as other Salami: salted, air-dried and fermented. However, soppressata is made with leaner cuts of coarsely ground meat, while most salamis contain fine ground meat and come in a cylindrical shape.
Bayonne (The French Prosciutto)
It’s considered the Champagne of hams throughout Europe because producers must follow strict diet, care, transport, slaughter and fat content regulations to call their hams
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find Jambon de
You might be interested in reading about the weird food French people eat for New Year’s Eve.
Prosciutto, which means ham in Italian, is one of the most well-known Italian charcuterie meats.
There are around 7 producers of prosciutto in Italy that carry the D.O.P. Label (Denomination of Protective Origin) Protected Designation of Origin, including Prosciutto di San Daniele and Prosciutto de Moderna, but the most popular and well-known is Prosciutto di Parma which dates back to Roman times.
Like French Jambon de
Pancetta, sometimes called Italian-style bacon, is very similar to prosciutto, but pancetta comes from the pig’s belly, like bacon, whereas prosciutto comes from the hind leg.
The pork belly used to make Pancetta is salted, cured, rubbed with herbs, and hung to air dry and cured for two to three months. It’s usually then cut paper-thin when served on a charcuterie board. While most pancetta is not smoked, pancetta affumicata is smoked, similar to bacon.
It’s also okay to cook it and serve it at room temperature if you want to.
Speck from the Tyrol region of northeast Italy is like a smoked variation of prosciutto and pancetta. It’s also very similar to bacon, and you can actually use speck as a replacement in your recipes if you can’t find any.
Before the speck is cured, the pig’s hindquarters are rubbed with
Coppa (aka Capicolla or Capocollo )
Italian Coppa ham is extremely popular in France and Italy. Unlike
Before being salted and stuffed into a natural
Lonzu is a cured pork loin from the Corsica region of France. It’s similar to the Spanish lomo
Unlike the vast majority of cured meats you’ll typically find on a French charcuterie platter, bresaola is made from beef instead of pork and is the counterpart to Coppa cured ham.
Bresaola is usually seasoned with a dry rub of salt and
Pork Chorizo needs no introduction, but did you know there are two different types of chorizo?
Mexican chorizo is usually ground, not chopped, and typically seasoned with chilli peppers and vinegar and placed in a sausage
Spanish and Portuguese chorizo is a pork sausage made with garlic, pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika), salt and other
Sobrassada is a cured sausage from the Spanish Balearic Islands made with ground pork and seasoned with paprika, salt and other
Once seasoned, the raw meat is stuffed into a sausage
It has the consistency of raw pork or raw beef tartare, which was a little scary the first time I had it. But it all turned out fine. I later discovered you can also cook it like minced meat and serve it over scrambled eggs.
Jambon de Savoie (Savoy ham)
This delicious ham is also richer and saltier tasting than
Mortadella is a classic Italian cold cut or sandwich meat made in Bologna, Italy. And although it has some similarities with baloney sandwich meat popular in Canada and the US, they are different.
Mortadella is made with finely minced pork, fat cubes from a pig’s throat, salt, and sometimes pistachios, and generally flavoured with myrtle berries, nutmeg, coriander and pepper. And unlike many of the other meats on this list, Mortadella is first cooked before it’s cured, and it isn’t aged.
Wrapping up French charcuterie meats for your charcuterie boards
Composing a French charcuterie board can seem daunting, but with a little knowledge and experimentation, anyone can create a beautiful and delicious spread.
Remember to include a variety of meats, textures, and flavours, and don’t forget to pair them with complementary accompaniments such as cheeses, fruits, and bread.