Make the perfect easy Meat and Cheese Tray with this step-by-step guide to making a simple charcuterie board. Plus, hints, tips and suggestions, like the 'Rule of 3' to make a perfect appetizer for your guests, without the hassle.
Making a meat and cheese tray that doesn't scream "I just threw this together" takes a bit of finesse, but it doesn't have to be difficult at all.
Whether you're gearing up for a casual get-together, a family gathering, or trying to survive the holidays with your in-laws, nailing this appetizer is key.
We'll walk you through all the stages to make an easy meat and cheese board that tastes great, looks pretty, and isn't difficult to throw together.
My sister is a meat and cheese tray master. She seems to always have plenty of tasty ingredients to put together and it always looks elegant.
You can't just slap a block of marble cheese onto a cutting board and say, 'voila'! But it doesn't have to be difficult either.
Meat and cheese trays, also known as charcuterie platters, are a versatile and crowd-pleasing appetizer or snack option that can be enjoyed for any occasion, from casual gatherings and game day to elegant holiday parties or as a casual dinner for guests.
They offer a delightful combination of flavors and textures, and their presentation can be as simple or as elaborate as you like.
The first step in creating a meat and cheese tray is to select a suitable base. A cutting board, a platter, or even a slate tile can serve as your canvas.
Consider the size of your serving area and the number of guests you expect.
For larger gatherings, a large platter or even a lazy Susan can accommodate a variety of ingredients.
When selecting deli meats for your platter, consider a variety of flavors and textures.
Cured meats like prosciutto, salami, and soppressata offer a rich, savory taste, while smoked meats like pastrami and duck breast provide a smoky depth.
For a more delicate option, consider adding thinly sliced roast beef or turkey.
You can make it fancy with interesting and unusual meats. Or, make it super simple, go for classics that you may already have in the refrigerator, such as bologna, ham, chicken or turkey.
Cheese is the star of the show when it comes to meat and cheese trays. Choose a variety of textures and flavors to create a balanced and interesting selection.
Soft cheeses like brie and camembert offer a creamy indulgence, while firm cheeses like cheddar, gouda and manchego provide a sharp contrast.
For a bit of tang, consider adding goat cheese or blue cheese.
For a fancy touch, you can bake a camembert for an oozy fondue-like centrepiece.
You're going to need a vehicle for all those cheeses!
Lay out crackers in rows, add a pile of sliced baguette or put breadsticks into a small glass or container.
We also like adding rice crackers, crostini, sliced pita bread etc...
Beyond the meats and cheeses, a well-composed meat and cheese tray includes a variety of complementary ingredients that enhance the overall flavor profile and visual appeal.
Crackers and bread provide a base for the meats and cheeses. Fresh fruits like grapes, strawberries, and figs add sweetness and acidity.
Olives and pickles offer savory and tangy counterpoints, while nuts like almonds, walnuts, and pistachios provide a crunchy texture.
- Marinated olives and vegetables: olives, pickled onions, pickles, cornichons, etc.
- Fresh herbs: Rosemary, thyme, basil, parsley, etc.
- Sweets: Dark chocolate, fruit preserves, etc.
We love adding little bowls of dips, jams, chutneys and sauces to our meat and cheese tray for added interested and taste.
- Mustard Trio: Offer little bowls of grainy, Dijon, and honey mustards for a tangy kick.
- Fig and Balsamic Jam: Combine fig jam with a balsamic reduction for a sweet and tangy dip. Balsamic Fig Jam.
- Herb-Infused Cream Cheese: Blend cream cheese with a mix of fresh herbs like parsley, chives, and dill.
- Roasted Red Pepper Hummus: Provide classic hummus with added flair by mixing in chopped roasted red peppers.
- Aioli: Create a garlic-infused aioli with mayonnaise and a hint of lemon juice. Try flavors like Basil Aioli, Horseradish Aioli, Bacon Aioli, Dill Aioli, or Truffle Aioli.
- Cranberry Sauce: Embrace the holiday spirit with a dish of cranberry sauce.
- Spicy Sriracha Mayo: Add a spicy kick to your dips with a blend of sriracha sauce and mayonnaise, or add garlic for a Sriracha Aioli.
- Artichoke and Spinach Dip: Serve up a classic with cream cheese, chopped artichokes, spinach, and Parmesan. Spinach Artichoke Dip.
- Caramelized Onion Jam: Sweet and savory caramelized onions make for a perfect pairing with sharp cheeses.
- Pesto Perfection: Elevate the freshness with basil pesto and a sprinkle of pine nuts.
- Blue Cheese Dip: Go bold with a creamy blue cheese dip, complemented by a touch of sour cream and chives.
- Chutney: This fruity yet savory jam-style dip adds lots of flavor. Try this classic Apple Chutney.
The Easiest Way to Make a Simple Charcuterie Board
Feeling a little overwhelmed with the ingredients and choices? My sister, the charcuterie master, shared her simple method with me. And now I'd like to share it with you:
The Rule of 3
- 3 Meats
- 3 Cheeses
- 3 Carbs
- 3 Extras
There, now it doesn't seem quite so overwhelming! Scroll up for plenty of ideas in each category.
Feel free to add more of anything, but the 3 of each is a great starting point for a full and fabulous meat and cheese tray.
Arranging Your Masterpiece
The arrangement of your meat and cheese tray is just as important as the ingredients themselves.
Arrange the cheeses in a graphic design, such as rows or piles.
Then add the bulkier items, such as bowls of olives or pickles, on the platter.
Surround the cheeses with the meats, rolling or fanning the slices for easy access.
Fill in any gaps with crackers, bread, fruits, nuts, and any other items.
Meat and cheese trays are a perfect addition to holiday gatherings, and with a few simple tweaks, you can make them festive and appropriate for the occasion.
For Thanksgiving, incorporate seasonal ingredients like cranberries, apples, and pumpkin butter.
During the Christmas season, add festive touches with sprigs of rosemary, mini gingerbread cookies, and cranberry-studded brie.
Tips for Success
To ensure your meat and cheese tray is a culinary success, follow these simple tips:
- Choose high-quality ingredients that are fresh and flavorful.
- Slice meats and cheeses thinly for easy handling.
- Arrange ingredients in a visually appealing way, creating balance and contrast.
- Label cheeses with small cards or toothpicks to avoid confusion.
- Provide small plates and toothpicks for easy serving.
- Replenish popular items as needed.
- Fill in gaps in the board with nuts and fruit.
With these tips and a bit of creativity, you can easily create a meat and cheese tray that will impress your guests and make any occasion special.
- Cutting Board
- 6 ounces cheddar cheese sliced or diced, or other hard cheese
- 6 ounces brie sliced or diced, or other soft-rind cheese
- 6 ounces havarti sliced or diced, or other cheese
- 6 ounces salami
- 6 ounces ham
- 6 ounces pepperoni
- 2 cups grapes
- 2 figs quartered
- ½ cup nuts almonds, walnuts etc...
- 8 ounces crackers also add sliced baguette, breadsticks
- ¾ cup dip I used fig and apple chutney but try honey mustard, aioli, spinach dip etc...
- Place the cheese decoratively on the tray in a row.
- Add the bowl of sauce, and any other bowls of extras, to the board.
- Add the meats in rolls or rows.
- In the remaining spaces, add the extras: crackers, nuts, grapes and figs, cut into pieces.
- Serve with toothpicks, napkins and small plates.
- 3 Meats
- 3 Cheeses (I like to use one hard, one soft, one rind)
- 3 Carbs (bread, crackers, breadsticks etc...)
- 3 Extras (olives, nuts, fruit etc...)
The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary depending on several factors, so is not guaranteed to be accurate. Please see a registered dietician for special diet advice.