Are you a beginner at charcuterie boards and party platters who doesn’t know where to start or just looking for ideas? From choosing the right charcuterie meats and serving sizes to selecting the perfect cheeses and accompaniments, I’ll be sharing my best tips on how to create a beautiful, delicious, and balanced charcuterie board or party platter.
The art of the French charcuterie board
Charcuterie, and charcuterie boards are engrained in French culture.
You can find charcuterie platters at many restaurants, brasseries, and bistros in France. But you can also find them in many households in France too because French Charcuterie boards are easy to prepare, convenient, and 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 charcuterie boards are a popular choice for the time-honoured tradition of the French apero, where friends and family get together to enjoy light appetizers over drinks before dinner.
Tips for assembling a balanced good, looking charcuterie board
Traditional French cuisine wouldn’t be complete without the famous French charcuterie.
Although putting together a charcuterie board may seem straightforward, determining which cured meats and the amount to serve can be perplexing, even for the French.
I created this guide to simplify the selection process and help you assemble the perfect charcuterie platter and accompaniments to include, with serving suggestions.
If you’re not sure what charcuterie meats to include on your charcuterie board, I have a post that will explain the various charcuterie meats and differences here.
In my experience, “best charcuterie board” is a relative term. In other words, there is no right or wrong way to put one together because they’re as individual as the person making them.
However, there are some general guidelines you can follow that will help you create the best charcuterie board for your taste, your guest, and your style.
TIP #1) Include charcuterie meats that are crowd pleasers:
When choosing charcuterie board meats, consider the preferences of your guests.
The most important thing to remember is a great charcuterie board should have something for everyone, so it’s important to choose charcuterie meats that will please as many people as possible.
Try to include a mix of charcuterie meats with different flavour profiles to satisfy the different taste buds of your guests.
For example, if you’re only serving two types of meat, you might NOT want to serve Prosciutto and Jambon de
If there will be children at the event, they might not appreciate the taste of prosciutto, so choose something they might be more open to eating, like salami or cooked sausages.
Want to try something different, like liver pâté? While it might be a good choice in France, your guests might not appreciate it, so choose wisely based on your invitees.
Tip #3) Mix and match your charcuterie board meats:
There’s no shortage of choices when it comes to choosing charcuterie for your boards and platters. Several countries are known for their charcuterie meats, each with its unique flavour profile. For example:
- France – is known for various cured types of meat, such as cooked sausage (saucisson,) jambon de
Bayonne(ham from Bayonne,) and pâté.
- Italy – known for prosciutto, salami, pancetta, and speck.
- Spain – Famous for jamón ibérico, chorizo, and lomo.
- Germany – is known for various types of sausages, such as bratwurst and weisswurst.
- Portugal – is famous for presunto, a type of dry-cured ham.
- Switzerland – is famous for an air-cured beef called bündnerfleisch.
Suggestion for mixing and matching charcuterie meats for your charcuterie board.
When creating a beautiful and delicious charcuterie board, mixing and matching different types of charcuterie meats is key. Here are some suggestions for creating a beautiful and delicious charcuterie board, mixing and matching different types of charcuterie meats.
Meats preserved and cured whole are a great addition to any charcuterie board. These meats are typically sliced thinly and arranged decoratively. Prosciutto is a classic example of cured meat, but you can also include bresaola, speck, or coppa.
Spreadable Cooked Meats:
Smooth and spreadable meats like paté and rillette are perfect for spreading on Bread or crackers. Chicken liver paté is popular, but you can also try pork or duck liver paté for a different flavour. Rillette, made from slow-cooked and shredded meat, is another excellent option.
Dry-cured sausages are a staple of any good charcuterie board. French
Smoky meats like speck and smoked savoy ham add a delicious savoury flavour to your board. These meats are great for pairing with cheeses and crackers. You can also try smoked salmon or trout for a seafood twist.
Cooked meats like ham, turkey, and roast beef can also be added to the board. Make sure they’re sliced thinly and arranged in a separate section of the board.
Vegetable terrines are a great addition to a charcuterie board, especially for vegetarian guests.
Tip #3) When in doubt, go with the basics.
When in doubt or if you don’t have access to a wide variety of charcuterie meats, choose sure bets.
Charcuterie boards are great for gatherings or events; however, it can be overwhelming to choose which meats to include on a charcuterie board, or you may not have access to a wide selection.
That’s where the concept of “going with the basics” comes in handy.
By opting for tried-and-true charcuterie meats that have a wider appeal, you can create a charcuterie board that is both delicious and easy to assemble.
In other words, they’re sure bets.
Of course, the “sure bets” for charcuterie will vary depending on where you live.
In France, for example, sausages (les saucisses), 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, which makes them a safe choice.
In some regions, cured meats like prosciutto, chorizo, or mortadella may be more common. In other areas, smoked meats like beef jerky or smoked salmon might be preferred. The key is to choose meats that have broad appeal and are likely to be enjoyed by the majority of your guests.
And while it’s always fun to experiment with new and unusual meats, sometimes it’s best to keep things simple and stick with what works.
Aesthetics of a French charcuterie board
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 charcuterie board with just one, two, or three types of meats served with a baguette, some olives, a salad and a nice bottle of wine or beer if that’s how you roll.
If you plan on having a larger selection on your charcuterie board, here are some tips on arranging a beautiful charcuterie board:
Tip #4) Choose the Right Board:
Wooden boards are a timeless option that adds warmth and texture, while marble or slate can provide a more contemporary look.
However, you don’t have to limit yourself to these options.
You can get creative and use just about anything for your charcuterie platter, from a basic cutting board, a big serving platter, or a cheeseboard, to a couple of dinner plates or a lazy Suzanne.
Just be sure you have enough space to include all your ingredients. If you don’t have a big enough platter, you can use a few platters and group similar items together.
This versatile 3 peice board is made of Acacia wood. It has magnets to connect 1) 13" square cutting board to the 2) halves round boards to create a 26" long wooden board that's perfect for serving cheese, meets, crudities and more.
Bring the beach to your table with this surboard shaped cheese board with a center inlay of darker bamboo.14-1/2" x 6" x 5/8"
Tip #5) Start with the Largest Items:
When arranging your board, start with the largest items first. This could be a large wedge of cheese or a whole salami. Place these items in different areas of the board to create balance.
Tip #6) Add Smaller Items after the larger items:
Once you have your large items in place, start adding smaller items like sliced meats, crackers, and fruits. Arrange these items in clusters around the board to create interest and visual appeal.
Tip #7) Use Different Textures:
To create a visually interesting charcuterie board, use different textures. This could be a smooth and creamy cheese paired with a crunchy cracker or a soft paté paired with a crusty baguette. Mix and match textures to create a sensory experience for your guests.
Tip #8) Vary Colors:
Adding a variety of colours to your charcuterie board can make it look more appetizing. Use brightly coloured fruits like grapes and berries, or add pops of colour with colourful vegetables like cherry tomatoes or carrots.
Tip #9) Add Fresh Herbs:
Fresh herbs can add a fragrant aroma and flavour to your charcuterie board. Sprinkle fresh herbs like thyme or rosemary over your cheeses or arrange sprigs of herbs around the board for a decorative touch.
Tip #10) Consider the Flow:
When arranging your charcuterie board, consider the flow of the ingredients. Arrange items in a way that makes sense for the way people will be eating them. For example, place crackers and Bread near the spreads and cheeses, and place fruits and nuts near the meats.
Anticipate what you’ll need: Little touches for your charcuterie board
Tip #11) Convenience, to cut or not to cut:
When assembling charcuterie boards, remember that it should be convenient to eat.
The decision to pre-cut sausages for a charcuterie board will depend on a combination of factors and personal preference.
I recommend precutting hard salamis or cured meats that are difficult to cut to make it easier for guests to enjoy.
If the board is small and there are many guests, it may be more efficient to pre-cut the sausages to avoid crowding around the board or running out of space.
For a more formal event, pre-cutting the sausages can make the charcuterie board look neater. For a casual gathering, you can let guests cut the sausages themselves, which creates a more relaxed atmosphere and encourages mingling.
Tip #12) Utensils:
If there are dips and spreads, include a small knife or spoon for each one.
Tip #13) 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 a nice touch that adds that wow factor with little effort.
Tip #14) Misc things most people forget
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 with glasses, etc.
How much meat and cheese per person?
The amount of meat and cheese you need per person will depend on the specific details of your event, such as how many other items you are serving and how hungry your guests are. If you’re serving other items like Bread, crackers, hummus, fruits, and nuts, you can plan for slightly less meat and cheese.
Tip #15) Choose the amount of meat and cheese you’ll need by the number of people
Here’s an easy rule of thumb to follow.
For a Charcuterie board, that will be an appetizer followed by a full meal
- Approximately 80 grams per person, which is about 3 slices per person.
- About 50g of cheese per person.
For a charcuterie board that will be the main meal served with wine
- About 150 grams per person, about 6 slices of meat per person.
- About 200g of cheese per person
Accompaniments and side dishes for French charcuterie boards:
When it comes to charcuterie boards, they’re a lot like a blank canvas.
You can add anything and as many or as few accompaniments as you want.
There are plenty of options to choose from to create a well-rounded and satisfying spread. Here is a suggested list of items that you can consider including.
Tip #16) Include something acidic or salty
It’s pretty common to have something acidic and salty on a charcuterie board.
The saltiness of cured meats such as salami, prosciutto, or ham can be balanced out by acidic or tangy flavours such as pickles and olives, which can help cut through the richness of fatty meats, cheese, and nuts. This helps to enhance the flavours of the meat and prevent it from becoming too overpowering or salty.
The combination of salty and acidic flavours can stimulate the taste buds and increase the appetite, making the charcuterie board more enjoyable and satisfying to eat.
- Cornichons (crunchy mini pickles: acidic and bitter, not sweet)
- Olives, green or black.
- Dried tomatoes (really popular with my friends in France)
- Nuts: such as almonds, cashews, or pistachios
Tip #17) Complimentary Cheese Pairings for cured meats
If you want to give your charcuterie board some balance, you can include some complimentary cheese parings for the cured and cooked meats.
A good rule of thumb is to include a mix of the following:
- one hard cheese
- one semi-firm cheese
- one soft cheese.
- If you’re brave, a stinky cheese
I don’t recommend smoky cheeses because they may be too similar to smoked meats, and
Hard Cheese & Semi-hard:
- Aged Gouda:
- Aged Cheddar:
- Goat or Chèvre.
- Blue Cheese
Tip #18) Add sweet jam or chutney to compliment the cheese
If you plan on putting out some cheese with your charcuterie, it adds a nice touch to include jams, jellies, or even honey to complement the cheese. The sweetness of the jams, jellies, or honey can balance out the salty and savoury flavours of the cheese, creating a more complex and interesting taste experience.
In addition, certain types of cheese, such as
The type of jam, jelly, or honey that you choose will depend on the kind of cheese that you are serving. For example, fig jam and confit onion (onion configure) pair well with blue cheese.
- onion chutney (confit d’oignon) and confitures go well with tangy cheeses like blue cheese.
- Fig jam goes well with tang cheeses too.
- Apricot jam complements cheddar cheese.
- Honey is a versatile option that can go well with
briecheese, camembert, and goat cheese.
Tip #19) Include mustard to compliment the charcuterie meats
Mustard is a great accompaniment for charcuterie boards for a few reasons.
Firstly, mustard adds a tangy flavour to the meats, which can help cut through the charcuterie’s richness and saltiness.
Secondly, mustard can be used with Bread to create a variety of flavour combinations with the meats and cheeses on the charcuterie board.
Tip #20) Include some fresh fruits or dried fruits
Fresh fruit is a great addition to a charcuterie board for several reasons.
Firstly, fresh fruit adds a sweet and refreshing contrast to the rich and savoury flavours of charcuterie meats and cheeses. This helps balance out the flavours and textures on the board, making eating more enjoyable.
Secondly, fresh fruit is visually appealing. The bright colours and natural shapes of fruits can help to break up the monotony of the meats and cheeses, creating a more interesting and inviting display.
Some popular options include
- sliced apples
- sliced pears
- melon balls
- Dried fruits: such as figs, apricots, or cranberries
Tip #21) Include some hummus and dips on your charcuterie board
Including hummus and dips on a charcuterie board is a great way to add some variety and flavour to your charcuterie board. They provide a creamy and savoury element that pairs well with the other meats, cheeses, and Bread. They are also great if you have invitees that are not big meat eaters or vegetarians.
Other popular dips that can be included on a charcuterie board are:
- Baba Ghanoush – A Middle Eastern dip made from roasted eggplant,
tahini, and spices.
- Guacamole – A creamy avocado-based dip that pairs well with tortilla chips.
- Spinach and Artichoke Dip – A warm and cheesy dip that goes well with crackers or a toasted baguette.
- Salsa – A classic dip made from tomatoes, onions, and
spicesthat goes well with tortilla chips or crostini.
- Tzatziki – A Greek dip made from yogurt, cucumber, and garlic that goes well with pita chips or veggies.
- Ranch Dip – A creamy dip made from sour cream and
spicesthat pairs well with vegetables or crackers.
- Tapenade – A French dip made from olives, capers, and anchovies that pairs well with Bread.
- Aioli – a Mediterranean sauce made from garlic, olive oil, egg yolks, and lemon juice or vinegar, and often includes additional flavours such as mustard, herbs, or
Including various dips allows guests to customize their charcuterie board experience and try different flavour combinations. It’s also a great way to accommodate any dietary restrictions.
Tip #22) Include a side salad or crunchy vegetables
Add a fresh and healthy element to your charcuterie spread by including vegetable crudité or a side salad.
- Various fresh garden ingredients: Radishes and cherry tomatoes are nice too.
- Salad, such as mixed greens or a grain-based salad
Tip #23) Include Bread and or crackers.
Crackers are often included with a charcuterie board in the US and Canada. However, crackers are not a popular choice on French charcuterie boards or cheese boards in France.
Instead, the almighty baguettes are the go-to choice for French hosts and hostesses. Foccacia bread and artisanal Bread such as country bread or olive bread are also excellent choices—my German friends who live in France like to serve dark german Bread.
Including Bread, baguettes, or crackers on a charcuterie board is a great idea because they can create various flavour combinations with meats and cheeses.
For example, you can top a slice of baguette with a slice of prosciutto and some fig jam or spread soft cheese on a piece of Bread and top it with sliced salami.
When selecting Bread and baguettes for a charcuterie board, it is a good idea to choose varieties that complement the meats and cheeses you have picked. For example, a crusty baguette pairs well with hard and salty cheeses, while softer Bread can be a good choice for milder cheeses.
When in doubt, go with a baguette; they are more versatile than crackers.
Wrapping up how to create a delicious and beautiful charcuterie board
Making a delicious and beautiful charcuterie board is all about balance, variety, and presentation.
Don’t be afraid to mix and match different meats, cheeses, fruits, nuts, and dips to create a unique and personalized board that will impress your guests.
Remember to consider your guests’ preferences and dietary restrictions when choosing your ingredients.
And finally, have fun with it! A charcuterie board is not only a tasty appetizer; it can be a complete meal and a work of art that will leave a lasting impression on your guests.