Charcuterie Board 101: What You Need To Know

A charcuterie board is a way of serving cheeses, meats (typically deli-style meats) with garnishes, typically on some sort of board. They come in a variety of types, including ceramic, slate and wood, the latter of which can double for cutting boards. Charcuteries are popular ways of offering a small sample of a large variety of deli foods. They make great appetizers and hors d’oeuvres at parties, receptions, wineries, breweries, and business meetings.

Word Origin: What Does ‘Charcuterie’ Mean?

The French word “charcuterie” loosely translates into “delicatessen,” although the origins of the word, according to Merriam-Webster, literally refers to a pork butcher. Like many words in the English language, the meaning has evolved over the decades and in recent years the charcuterie has become a favorite starter item on restaurant menus.

How do you pronounce charcuterie? The word is pronounced “shaar-koo-tr-ee” with an emphasis on the “koo.” The “ch” is soft, like Charlotte, Cher and charlatan.

Alternatively, if you have a hard time with the four syllables that form the word, you can just call it a “meat and cheese board,” and your guests will be equally as impressed with your presentation.

Now that you know what it is, where it came from, and how to say it, let’s explore options for creating delicious charcuterie boards.

Charcuterie Essentials: Start with the Board

There is no rule saying you can have only one type of board to serve your meats and cheeses. In fact, if you’re hosting a holiday party, we recommend themed charcuterie in different rooms throughout your home or venue. Get started by adding a slate board starter kit to your charcuterie collection.

Slate charcuterie boards

We love to use a slate board for presenting charcuterie. Not only is it gorgeous and strong enough to withstand knife cuts, but you can write on them in chalk! Use a piece of chalk to identify the meats, cheese and accompaniments on each charcuterie you serve. We have slate boards in square, round, and rectangular shapes.

Wooden charcuterie boards

Who doesn’t appreciate kitchen gadgets and tools that serve more than just one purpose? When you’re not serving meats and cheeses from your favorite delicatessen on these wooden serving boards, you’re using them to chop, slice, and dice ingredients in your everyday meal preparations.

Our collection of wooden cutting boards come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Our editors recommend the paddle-shaped cutting boards, because they’re easy to hold and refill during your party. We feature Phil Gautreau’s walnut and exotic wood paddle cutting/serving boards for his award winning designs. To maintain the wood’s beauty, we recommend using a neutral mineral oil or food-safe conditioning cream, both of which you will find in our online shop.

You might be able to identify your meats and cheeses with chalk on the hardwood board, depending on how dark the wood is. We suggest using place cards to label cheese, meats, spreads, and any other items on your charcuterie board.

Ceramic charcuterie boards

Shinbone Alley offers three ceramic serving pieces from Montes Doggett, which makes fine-art handcrafted dishes and serving pieces. See Platform No. 253 in oval and rectangular Tray No. 954 with handles.

High-fired ceramic serving trays are incredibly versatile. You will appreciate their beautiful rustic design and their ease of use. They easily transport from refrigerator to oven to table and when the party’s over, run them through the dishwasher.

Other types of charcuterie boards

If you’re serving cheeses that need to be warmed or chilled, we recommend using a cheese stone. The cheese stone can be warmed in an oven and then used to serve soft cheeses such as brie. It can also be frozen or chilled and used to serve any variety of cold cuts and cheeses.

Despite the name “cheese” stone, they can be used to serve a variety of foods including sushi, deli meat, fruits and desserts.

These round cheese stones come in three sizes.

Ingredients for Charcuterie Boards

A typical charcuterie board offers a combination of cured meats, cheeses, nuts, dried or fresh fruit, crackers or bread, and jelly or jam.

Cured meats for the charcuterie

Cured meats are preferred for charcuterie boards because they can sit out for longer periods without worry of spoilage. “Curing” is a method of preserving meats, and the most common types of cured meats that are used for charcuterie boards:

  • Capocollo
  • French salami (saucisson sec)
  • Italian salami (finocchiona and soppressanta)
  • Pancetta
  • Pepperoni
  • Prosciutto
  • Salami
  • Spanish ham (jamon)

Within those types of cured meats, you’ll find varieties that vary depending on who makes it. Some are spicier than others.

Cheese for charcuteries

If you really want to offer an experience for your guests, opt for cheeses in the gourmet section of your grocery store, rather than the standards that you use in everyday cooking. There are literally hundreds of varieties of cheeses. We recommend choosing one fresh cheese, one soft cheese, one semi-soft, and one hard cheese.

  • Fresh cheese: Typically has a very soft texture, high moisture, and no rind because it doesn’t age, such as feta, mozzarella and ricotta. Serve with a cheese knife or spreader on bread or crackers.
  • Soft cheese: The rind on these cheeses is white and powdery, while inside the cheese is creamy and often sweet. You can serve them chilled or warmed and with torn bread or crackers. Types include brie and camembert. The rind is edible, but some people don’t enjoy the taste, which can be bitter. We like to pair our soft cheeses with fruits like berries and grapes.
  • Semi-soft cheese: Semi-soft cheeses such as gouda and edam are often sold with their waxy rinds in place. If the rind is manmade (as it often is with gouda), don’t eat it. Some semi-soft cheese rinds are edible; check the packaging. Serve with a cheese cutting knife on sturdy crackers.
  • Hard cheeses: Our favorite hard cheeses are parmesan, cheddar, gruyere, manchego and asiago. We recommend slicing or chunking these cheeses ahead of time, as harder cheese are harder to cut and slice (and therefore can make a bit of a mess). Hard cheeses are wonderful by themselves, and they also go well with crackers and fruit.

Accompaniments for charcuteries

In addition to the meats and cheeses, you might also choose from these other goodies that pair well with cured meats and artisan cheeses.

  • Nuts, especially almonds and cashews: Serve them whole, because these are finger foods that your guests will nibble.
  • Olives: Our local gourmet grocer has an olive bar that is to die for, but you can also find mixed olives in the condiments section of your local grocery store.
  • Jams and jellies: We prefer locally made jams and jellies that are made from farm-fresh fruits and vegetables, like apricot and fig. These aren’t too sweet and go well with charcuterie meats and cheeses.
  • Dried fruit: Figs, dates, apricots and raisins add color and flavor to your charcuterie board. We suggest getting the pitted varieties of dried fruit, so you don’t surprise your guests.
  • Fresh fruit: Grapes and berries are the best options for charcuterie boards because they aren’t juicy and don’t need to be sliced or chopped. Serve them whole.
  • Bread and crackers: Let your taste decide — choose whatever suits your fancy. Get some fresh bread from your local bakery and tear it into bite-size pieces. Line a basket with a linen napkin and fill it with your favorite sliced bread and crackers and let your guests choose.
  • Mustard: Some people enjoy a spicy brown mustard or a sweet honey mustard with their cured meats. You’ll find a good selection in the condiment section of your grocery, and also check the deli.

There are no rules for charcuterie boards. What you include is up to you and your guests’ preferences. The great thing about charcuterie boards is you can create an experience for almost any palate. Swap smoked fish for meat if your guests prefer seafood over meats. Or, replace cheese with hummus or other spreads if your guests don’t tolerate lactose. You can also go all vegan and look for a variety of soy-based and plant-based deli products (and remember, fruits and olives are vegan!).


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