Besides its no-cook factor, it’s easy to see why charcuterie boards are a go-to pre-dinner treat for anyone who loves to entertain. And although the concept of putting together a platter of various meats and cheeses seems pretty simple (and deliciously hypnotizing), executing a beautiful and impressive charcuterie board goes beyond just that.
Jeremy Lago, founder of The Pantry Fine Cheese, says taking this traditional French creation to the next level really comes down to understanding the range of flavours and textures of what you’re serving up. “When pairing cheese and meats, a simple rule is to pair similar flavours,” Lago explains. For a jaw-dropping charcuterie board that is sure to impress all your guests, Lago walks us through the 10 fail-proof rules to follow.
Everyone eats with their eyes first
Obviously, an Insta-worthy charcuterie and cheese display is nothing without a luxurious base. Get your hands on a wooden or marble serving board, like this long half-marble, half-wood one from Indigo ($40), that’ll show off your creation beautifully.
You don’t want two of the same thing
Show off your palate with a board that offers three to four different kinds of meats and cheeses. When it comes to cheese, think soft, medium, hard, and/or blue. The same rule applies to meats of different preparation styles.
Leave your cheese out
Cheese is best served at room temperature. After taking it out of the fridge, cut and prepare the cheese at least one hour before serving. When it comes to cutting, a variety of sizes are preferred as they add texture and give off a rustic vibe (as opposed to looking too perfect).
Make sure there’s enough to go around
Each guest should have at least one taste of each cheese and meat. Lago suggests preparing 150 to 200 grams of each option per guest. It’s good to know your number of guests ahead of time.
Pair similar flavours
When it comes to selecting the different meats and cheeses for your board, know what flavours compliment what. According to Lago, here’s what you should be pairing:
- A soft cheese like Fromagerie Ile-Aux-Grues Le Riopelle (a triple cream brie), which has a rich, buttery flavour, goes well with a lighter style meat like prosciutto or cured ham.
- A delicate goat cheese like Nosey Goat by Upper Canada Cheese makes an excellent medium cheese option. When pairing goat cheese with meats, think salty like bresaola.
- The sweet caramel notes of a strong cheese like Mountain Oak 3 year premium Gouda pairs wonderfully with German Salami.
- Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co’s Truffalo is a firm water buffalo cheese that is flavoured with black truffles. Lago suggests pairing this with Tartufo Italian Salami (a mild dry-cured salami flavoured with black truffles).
Cut the meat yourself
Rather than pre-cut slices of meat, prepare and cut meat into smaller pieces or slices and place (or fold) them onto the serving board. Not only will your guest appreciate the bite-sized portions, but this way, your board won’t look overcrowded.
Bread is just as important
No charcuterie board is complete without bread and crackers. But when selecting bread and crackers, keep in mind that they should never overpower the flavours of the cheeses and meats. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with serving something as simple as a water cracker, toasted crostini or a classic French baguette. Lago also says you should always have a gluten-free option available.
You can never go wrong with honey
For a nice contrast of sweetness, tanginess, and bite, have two or three accompaniments like honey, an apricot spread, a red pepper jelly and olives available.
Don’t forget the fresh fruit
Brighten up your charcuterie board and fill up any gaps with seasonal fruits. Fresh grapes and figs will look lovely, but you can also incorporate dry fruits into your display.
Your wine doesn’t need to be powerful
During summertime, the perfect wine pairing is a nice crisp rosé. Although, Lago says you can also never go wrong with a light pinot grigio, chardonnay or pinot noir.
Now that you’ve got your cheeses and meats in check, go all out by adding a chocolate board to the mix: