Essential Charcuterie Board Meats And Tips For Clueless Beginners

Here’s a list of different types of charcuterie board meats to add to your party platters and cheese plates for your next holiday or family gathering, plus some useful tips for beginners. 

An informal apero at home with friends over a glass of wine with a charcuterie board and cheese board:

Charcuterie 101 Basics

Charcuterie boards are awesome. They’re not only easy and convenient but also eye-catching party pleasers that you can make in advance. 

Best of all, they also help set the mood for any occasion as a focal point where people can congregate and socialize.

It’s one of many reasons why they are a popular choice in France for l’apero, a time-honoured French tradition where friends and family can get together while enjoying a light appetizer over drinks before dinner and at “apero dinnatoire” parties where the charcuterie board and finger foods are the main meal. Friends enjoying a picnic apéro

With that said, charcuterie boards can be confusing, even for French people, especially when it comes to which cured meats and cooked meats to use and how much to serve. 

I’ve compiled a list and profiled some charcuterie meats, along with a quick description of how they are made, which I find really helpful when it comes to choosing what to include on a charcuterie platter. 

Before we jump into the list of charcuterie board meats, let’s go over some basic terminology and some beginner tips for creating charcuterie boards. 

What is charcuterie?

Charcuterie has two meanings: 

  • In France, a Charcuterie is a store where you buy prepared meats, kind of like a deli. In contrast, a Boucherie (butcher) is where you buy unprepared meats, lamb, steak, chicken, veal etc.

Charcuterie et Boucherie


  • Charcuterie (SHAR-Coo-Tree) is also a French word that describes a branch of cooking that includes any meats that are ready to eat and prepared using a variety of methods. Traditionally charcuterie meats were just pork meat, but these days they can also include beef, poultry, rabbit, and even fish. 

One thing to keep in mind is that many charcuterie meats which are cured go through a similar curing process where they’ve been preserved through ageing, air drying, canning, salting, brining or smoking, but they’re called different things in different regions or countries. 

What is a charcuterie board?

Charcuterie board with cheese

A charcuterie board is the actual board itself and the things you put on the board, including charcuterie board meats, the accompaniments and garnishes.

Sometimes cheese board and charcuterie board are used interchangeably, and to a certain degree, there is a lot of overlap.

Purists might argue that a charcuterie board should only have meat, but in my experience, from ordering charcuterie boards at restaurants in France and eating at friend’s homes here in France, a charcuterie board usually does have cheese, and a cheese board will sometimes have meat. But again, it’s all open for interpretation. Call it a party platter if you want, or call it a charcuterie and cheese board. It all comes down to semantics. 

Which charcuterie board should I use?

Anything you have on hand. A cutting board, a big serving platter, a couple of dinner plates, a lazy Suzanne, a pizza tray, a cheeseboard.

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Tips for assembling the best charcuterie board

Simple charcuterie board at a restaurant in France


In my experience, “best charcuterie board” is a relative term, and there is no right or wrong way to put one together because they’re as individual as the person who is making them.

Something for everyone

The most important thing to remember is a great charcuterie board should have something for everyone.

Try to include a mix with different flavour profiles to satisfy the different taste buds of your guests. For instance, if you’re only serving 2 types of meat, you might not want to serve Prosciutto and Jambon de Bayonne together because they are very similar. I mean, you could, but why not chose something with a different flavour profile. 

Try choosing one meat from the type of charcuterie meats below. 

  • 1 Cured whole: Meats preserved and cured whole that are then sliced thinly, such as prosciutto, bresaola and speck.
  • 1 Spreadable: Smooth, spreadable meats such as paté and rillette are great for spreading on bread. 
  • 1 Dry-cured Sausage: french saucisson sec and Italian Salami will add heartiness to your board. Spanish chorizo will add a spiced kick.
  • 1 Smoky meat:  Speck and Smoked Savoy ham will add a savoury, smoky flavour

When in doubt, or if you don’t have access to a wide variety of charcuterie meats, go with the basics.

In France, for example, cooked sliced ham, dried sausages and salami-type meats are popular staples that usually end up on French charcuterie boards because they have wide appeal and can satisfy the masses. They’re sure bets. What are sure bets where you live? 

Want to try something different like pâté? While it might be a good choice in France, your guests might not appreciate it, so choose wisely based on your invitees. 


Naturally, you want your charcuterie platter to look aesthetically pleasing, but it doesn’t have to be complicated if you don’t want it to be.

If you don’t have time to go all out and create an Instagram-worthy charcuterie board, it’s ok to make a simple one with just one or two types of meats served with a baguette, some olives and a nice bottle of wine or beer if that’s how you roll. 

Little touches

  • Convenience, to cut or not to cut: When assembling charcuterie boards, remember, it should be convenient to eat. Except for certain cheeses and spreads, people shouldn’t really have to cut anything, so serve everything in slices and bite-size pieces when appropriate.
  • Utensils: If there are dips and spreads, be sure to include a small knife or spoon for each one.
  • Anticipate what you’ll need: It’s finger food, so make sure you have extra paper towels on the table. Bowls so people can throw out their olive pits or toothpicks. Water or wine on the table, etc. 
  • To label or not to label: Consider getting some of those little labels that you can use to identify certain cheeses or charcuterie meats. It’s not necessary, but people won’t have to guess. It’s just a nice touch that adds that wow factor with very little effort.

How much meat and cheese per person?

Here’s an easy rule of thumb to follow. 

For a charcuterie board that will be the main meal served with wine

  • About 150 grams per person, which is about 6 slices of meat per person.
  • About 200g of cheese per person

For a Charcuterie board that will be an appetizer followed by a full meal

  • About 80 grams per person, which is about 3 slices per person. 
  • About 50g of cheese per person.

Accompaniments and side dishes for charcuterie boards:

charcuterie board meat placement

Charcuterie boards are a lot like a blank canvas. You can add anything and as much or as little as you want, but it’s fairly common to have something acidic and salty to cut through the fat of charcuterie meats and cheeses. Here are some ideas.

  • Cornichons (crunchy mini pickles: very acidic and bitter, not sweet)
  • Spreads like onion chutney (confit d’oignon) and configures go well with tangy cheeses.
  • Olives, green or black.
  • Dried tomatoes (really popular with my friends in France)
  • Dried fruits
  • Hummus and tapenade (an olive spread) because I have vegetarians friends, and even the meat-eaters like the variety.
  • Grapes, radishes and cherry tomatoes are nice too.
  • Nuts

Complimentary Cheese Pairings for cured meats

If you plan on including some cheeses and want to give your board balance, a good rule of thumb is to include one hard cheese, one semi-firm cheese and one soft cheese. I don’t recommend smoky cheeses because it’s too similar to the smoked meats and fresh Mozzarella is too wet. Here are some suggestions. 

Hard Cheese & Semi-hard: 

  • Gruyere: 
  • Manchego: 
  • Aged Gouda: 
  • Aged Cheddar:
  • Provolone:
  • Compte
  • Parmesan

Soft cheese: 

  • Brie
  • Camembert
  • Goat or Chèvre.
  • Blue Cheese

Bread and crackers?

In France, baguettes are the go-to choice for French hosts and hostesses to serve with meat and cheese trays. However, I’ve noticed on Instagram that crackers seem to be popular in non-European countries.

Foccacia bread and artisanal bread such as country bread or olive bread are also great choices. My German friends like to serve dark german bread. 

Best Charcuterie Board Meats: 

This is NOT an exhaustive list of every single type of charcuterie board meat available because there are just too many to list.

I’ve included the popular ones in Europe, namely France, which includes meats from Italy, Spain and France. You may not be able to find some of these, but I think there is enough crossover that you should be able to find similar types of charcuterie board meats in your area. 


saucisson sec: A popular type of cured air dried sausage eaten in France

What are cured meats?

Many charcuterie board meats are salt-cured and air-cured, a natural method of preserving meat and preventing spoilage that dates back thousands of years to Cato the Elder. 

Prosciutto, for example, is an Italian cured ham that has been 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. While 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. 

Some meats are cured by smoking which also draws out moisture while adding a desirable smoky flavour and dark red colour.

Some sausages are cured by fermenting using a bacteria mould, similar to brie cheese. As the saucisson ages, friendly, healthy bacteria mould forms on the outside of the casing, which stops bad bacteria from contaminating the meat. You’ll recognize if a saucisson has been cured by fermentation by its white dusty casing, which I like to remove because it’s like eating dusty paper. 

Some charcuterie meats use a combination of curing methods: each one yielding a different taste and texture. 

Cured Charcuterie board meat hanging in a shop

And finally, you should know that not all charcuterie meats are preserved or cured. Pâté, for example, is cooked, not cured. 

Saucisse and Saucisson: French for sausage from Latin salsus meaning salted

Saucisse = A sausage that is cooked. 

Saucisson = Prepared ready to eat cured, air dried or fermented meats that you would eat like a cold cut such as salami. 

1) Saucisson Sec (French-style dry sausage)

French style Saucisson Sec: charcuterie board meat

Italy has salami, France has saucisson sec, a French classic widely available in France and a popular goto for French charcuterie boards. It’s a great gateway sausage for anyone new to charcuterie and wants to try something new.

Saucisson sec, literally dry sausage, is dry-cured and fermented. While it’s typically made of pork, it can also be made from a mixture of other meats seasoned with salt and spices such as peppers, garlic, sugar, fruits, nuts, wine and fermenting bacteria.

Because of its form factor, it’s not uncommon to see people in France slicing a saucisson sec at the beach or on a picnic and tearing into a baguette. It’s just super convenient. 

Many regions of France produce saucisson sec, each having different flavour profiles.

Rosette de Lyon for example is a cured French pork saucisson from Lyon made from the leg of pork usually served in thick slices. Saucisson sec d’Auvergne is from Auvergne France, Saucisson de l’Ardèche is from Ardeche etc etc.

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 saucisson sec” or “French-style sausage.” 

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2) Fuet Saucisson


Dry cured fuet salami sausage slices: charcuterie board meat

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 spices. Everything is stuffed into a thin pork casing which turns into a white dusty like paper due to the cultivated penicillium mould (bloom). That’s the part that ferments the sausage. 

It has a strong flavour that not everyone likes, but some absolutely love it. 

3) Salami

Italian Salami: charcuterie board meat

Salami, like French saucisson sec, is a cured dry sausage that is air-dried and fermented. It’s typically made with pork.

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 . 

4) Soppressata

Soppressata: charcuterie board meat

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 meat that are coarsely ground, while most salamis contain fine ground meat and come in a cylindrical shape. 

5) Jambon de Bayonne (The French Prosciutto)

Jambon de Bayonne: a popular cured meat eaten in France: charcuterie board meat

Jambon de Bayonne (Bayonne’s ancient port city in the far South West of France, where it’s been made for generations. 

It’s considered the Champagne of hams throughout Europe. Producers must follow strict regulations concerning diet, care, transport, slaughter and fat content to call their hams Bayonne. Only eight distinct breeds of pig can be used to make it.

Bayonne hams are salted and hung to air-dry for a minimum of seven months, with the best being cured for 12 months to bring out its delicate, slightly sweet-salty flavour. Because Bayonne ham tends to be chewy compared to other hams, it’s usually sliced paper-thin.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find outside of Europe. You might be able to buy it online, but you may have to buy a 12 to 15-pound leg, which you then have to mount onto a ham holder (support de jambon). 

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Tost famous French cured ham, jambon de Bayonne (Bayonne ham), is considered the Champagne of hams throughout Europe.

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You might be interested in reading weird food French people eat for New Year’s Eve. 

6) Prosciutto

Prosciutto: charcuterie board meat

Prosciutto, which means ham in Italian, is one of the most well-known Italian meats worldwide. There are actually 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 Bayonne, Prosciutto makers must follow strict quality controls using the hind legs of specially bred pigs that are cured with sea salt, hung to air dry, and aged nine months to two years.

7) Pancetta

Italian Pancetta Ham: charcuterie board meat

Pancetta, sometimes referred to as Italian-style bacon, is very similar to prosciutto, but pancetta comes from the pig’s belly, whereas prosciutto comes from the hind leg.  

A lot of people outside of Europe might be thinking Pancetta, raw on a charcuterie board? Well, yes, because the pork belly used to make Pancetta is salted, cured, rubbed with herbs, and hung to air dry and cure for two to three months. It’s usually cut paper-thin when served on a charcuterie board, and while most pancetta is not smoked, pancetta affumicata is smoked, similar to bacon. 

It’s also ok to cook it and serve at room temperature if you want to. 

8) Speck Ham

Italian Speck Charcuterie Ham: charcuterie board meat

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 spices, including juniper berries, bay leaves, nutmeg and garlic. Every producer’s spice mix recipe varies slightly. Then it’s smoked and aged, giving it a browner colour, a smokey taste and a more intense flavour than prosciutto. It also has a very elastic texture. 

7) Coppa (aka Capicolla or Capocollo )

coppa: A popular type of cured meat eaten in France: charcuterie board meat

Italian Coppa ham is extremely popular in France and Italy. Unlike Bayonne ham and Prosciutto, Coppa is made from the pig’s shoulder or neck instead of the back leg.

Before being salted and stuffed into a natural casing and hung for up to six months to cure, coppa is first lightly seasoned- sometimes with white or red wine, garlic, and various herbs and spices, depending on the region. 

8) Lomo Serrano

Lomo-saucisson: A popular type of cured meat eaten in France: charcuterie board meat

Lomo Serrano is made from dry-cured pork tenderloin from Spain. Lomo comes in a variety of distinct flavours, not from the curing process but the breed of pig used. Lower in fat than many charcuterie options, it makes a nice addition to any charcuterie platter.

9) Jamon Serrano

Jamon Serrano ham: charcuterie board meat

Jamon Serrano or Serrano ham is a Spanish cured meat made using the leg of white pigs; either the Landrace or Duroc breed which are fed cereals and cured for 8 months to 2 years. Also similar to prosciutto.

12) Bresaola Beef

Bresaola: saucisson sec: A popular type of cured meat eaten in France and a charcuterie board meat

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 spices, nutmeg, Juniper berries and cinnamon, then air-cured for one to three months. The result is very rich, soft and tender meat. It can also be eaten on its own similar to how you might eat beef Carpaccio- sliced thin and drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil and maybe even a little bit of parmesan cheese.

13) Chorizo

Spanish Chorizo: Charcuterie board meats

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 casing or sold hashed. It’s not cured or smoked, so the end result is raw pork which you need to cook. Once cooked, serve at room temperature on your charcuterie meat boards. 

Spanish and Portuguese chorizo is a pork sausage made with garlic, pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika), salt and other spices and can be spicy or sweet. It’s then placed in a sausage casing and cured by smoking and air drying it, after which it’s stored in fat or oil. It usually comes in a string-style sausage which you can immediately slice and add to your charcuterie board. Or you can cook it. It’s often used in Spanish Paella recipes. 

14) Sobrassada

Spanish Sobrassado Charcuterie board meats

Sobrassada is a cured sausage from the Spanish Balearic Islands made with ground pork and seasoned with paprika, salt and other spices. Sometimes producers also add cayenne. Once seasoned, the raw meat is stuffed into a sausage casing, hung and left to air dry and cure for one to 8 months. The larger the size, the longer it needs to cure. It goes great with soft bread such as baguettes. 

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 over scrambled eggs. 

15)  Jambon de Savoie (Savoy ham)

Jambon de savoie (savoy ham): Charcuterie Board Meats

Jambon de Savoie is made in the Savoy region of France. Like Bayonne ham, Savoy hams are produced under similarly strict conditions but are boiled before being hung to air cure for a minimum of 12 months in Alpine curing sheds at an altitude of at least 600 metres.

This delicious ham is also richer and saltier tasting than Bayonne ham. Another interesting thing about Savoy hams is they can also be smoked, which gives the meat a stronger taste than most cured meats making it a popular choice for French charcuterie boards.

16) Mortadella

mortadella:Charcuterie Board Meats

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, 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.


Spreadable soft meats such as Pâté tend to confuse people, but they are a popular addition to most French charcuterie boards. Regardless of whether you love them or hate them, you’ll want to be able to tell the difference so you can enjoy them or avoid them. 

17) Pâté (cooked charcuterie)


Pâté is a French word that means paste.

In French Cooking, pâté is a forcemeat: a dish that is made from a mixture of meat, fish, or organs such as liver that has been seasoned and finely minced, chopped, or shredded and emulsified with a fat. The mixture is sometimes combined with other ingredients such as eggs, garlic, onion, vegetables or alcohol.

Forcemeat is basically any meat stuffing mixture, for instance, ground-up sausage is a forcemeat but it’s not a pâté.

There are many different types of pâté that can vary by type and region and texture. 

Sometimes Pâté can be baked in a crust “pâté en croûte”, baked in a mould such as a terrine “pâté en terrine” or just “terrine”. Sometimes it’s whipped together to form a smooth, spreadable mousse.

18) Pâté de Foie Gras: Fatty liver pâté

Pate tartine aperitif for l'apéro:Charcuterie Board Meats

The most well-known forcemeat pâté but the least understood (outside of France) is probably “pâté de foie gras” which French law defines as the duck or goose liver that’s been fattened by gavage. Code for abnormally enlarged liver from a disease called hepatic steatosis by force-feeding the animal with a tube: In short torture. Hence the word “Foie Gras” (fattened liver)

The word Foie Gras doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a pâté because Foie gras can also refer to fatty liver bought whole and cooked in a pan. 

Foie gras de Mousseline and Mousse pâté are the smoothest, lightest and most delicate type of pâté made from an emulsion of puréed foie gras, eggs, and cream. This is the one most people are accustomed to eating. In France, it’s especially popular during Christmas bread served with baguettes or pain d’épices (spiced bread). 

19) Terrines (a cooked loaf-shaped pâté)


A terrine is a dish that is called a terrine because of the metal or ceramic loaf pan 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 loads of different types of terrine, and they can be made of fish, meat, vegetables or a mixture of several types of meat and vegetables. It can also contain eggs and other ingredients such as cream. All the ingredients are seasoned and layered together before placing the mixture in a mould to bake in a bain-marie (water bath) in the oven, cooled and then sliced for serving. 

Pâté en terrine

pâté de Campagne Terrine: Charcuterie Board Meats

Terrine de poison: Fish terrine

Self-explanatory, it’s a terrine made with fish. there are hundreds of recipes out there. 

Fish Terrine de saumon

Pâté de Campagne (French meatloaf)

Pâté de champagne (country pâté) is a rustic style terrine well-known throughout France that contains fat, herbs, onions and seasonings, coarsely ground meat, not puréed. There is usually some type of binder added, such as egg, bread crumbs and 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 loaf pan in a water bath.

It’s the closest thing to a meat load you’ll find. 

Pâté en croûte

pâté en croûte: Charcuterie Board Meats

Pâté en croûte (literally paste in crust) is also a well-known terrine throughout France that’s baked simply baked in a crust. The one difference in the cooking method is that it is not baked in the oven in a water bath.

Terrine de legume: Vegetable terrine

There are quite literally hundreds of ways to cook a vegetable terrine with any number of vegetables. They can be boiled and set in gelatin or baked with cream. 

Terrine de legume: Vegetable terrine

20) Rillette  (a cooked shredded pâté)


Rillette Charcuterie Board Meats

Rillette is a spreadable chunky pâté and a type of “potted meat.”

If you have an aversion to liver, then rillette is for you because, unlike other pâtés, rillettes pâté doesn’t contain organ meat. 

Rillette can be made from pork, beef, tuna, rabbit, goose, turkey, or poultry. The meat and seasonings are usually slow-cooked, shredded or chopped, and preserved in lots of fat; animal fat, olive oil or butter. Other pâtés combine the fats before cooking, not after. 

 Here’s a recipe for pork rillette you can try at home. It’s easy to make and can be made ahead of time. 

The rule is there are no rules.

Don’t be afraid to try new things and experiment. 

I’ve made charcuterie boards with cooked sausages, deli sandwich meats, but the most unusual one I’ve made was a meatless vegan charcuterie board. When you have vegan friends in France, that’s what you do. 

Photo of Annie André:

Annie André

About the author 

I'm Annie André, a bilingual North American with Thai and French Canadian roots. I've lived in France since 2011. When I'm not eating cheese, drinking wine or hanging out with my husband and children, I write articles on my personal blog for intellectually curious people interested in all things France: Life in France, travel to France, French culture, French language, travel and more.


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