What is a Charcuterie Board, Exactly?

LEARN ALL ABOUT MEAT & CHEESE GRAZING BOARDS

Eli Zabar Charcuterie Board
Eli Zabar’s Charcuterie Board

If you’ve been to happy hour or a party, chances are you have admired and grazed on a charcuterie board. Charcuterie boards come in all shapes and sizes, from simple set-ups with salume to meat-and-cheese platters to elaborate spreads with fine and fancy meats, cheeses, and accompaniments.

Pronounced shar-KOO-tuh-ree, charcuterie is French for cured or preserved meats. The word may also refer to a deli or shop that sells meats that are cooked, processed, or cured. 
Charcuterie is the perfect palate pleaser and party starter. It can be packed for a picnic, eaten as an appetizer or snack, or even served as the main meal.

What is Traditionally on a Charcuterie Board?

Charcuterie boards traditionally are made of dried cured meats. These cold or room temperature sliced meats are arranged on a wooden board, but they can also be arranged on a platter or plate.

Even though the meat is uncooked, it is dry cured, so it is safe to eat. Dry cured means the meat has been salt cured and air dried. Italian antipasto is similar to French charcuterie but antipasto also includes cheese. Modern day charcuterie boards include meats, cheeses, and more.

Charcuterie boards can be as unique and creative as the person assembling them. Traditional charcuterie includes:

  • Bresaola
  • Capicola
  • Country ham
  • Iberico ham
  • Mortadella
  • Pâté
  • Prosciutto
  • Salami
  • Sausage
  • Serrano ham 

Modern charcuterie boards like the ones on social media often include more than meat. Other charcuterie board ingredients include:

  • Cheese like burrata, fontina, and Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Condiments and spreads, both sweet and savory, like chutney, honey, jam, jelly, mustard, and tapenade
  • Cornichons and other types of pickled vegetables
  • Dips
  • Dried fruits like apricots, cranberries, dates, and figs
  • Fresh fruits like blueberries, cherries, grapes, pears, and strawberries
  • Nuts
  • Olives
  • Roasted peppers
  • Vegetables

French baguette, crackers, and crostini are popular accompaniments for indulging in charcuterie treats.

Melissa's Produce Charcuterie Kit
Melissa’s Produce Charcuterie Kit
Fabrique Délices Apero Sampler Kit
Fabrique Délices Apero Sampler Kit

What is the 3-3-3-3 Rule for a Charcuterie Board?

The 3-3-3-3 Rule refers to the ratio and number of charcuterie ingredients on a charcuterie board. Based on this rule, there should be:

  • 3 meats in different varieties like dry-cured salami, cured ham (prosciutto), and pâté
  • 3 cheeses in different categories like soft (brie, camembert) and semi-firm or hard (gouda, manchego)
  • 3 starches like bread, crackers, crisps, crostini, flatbread, grissini (bread sticks), or Melba toast
  • 3 accompaniments like crudités, candy, dry or fresh fruits, nuts, and pickled vegetables

To make an aesthetically pleasing charcuterie board, include foods with contrasting colors and textures. Arrange the sliced meats and sliced, wedged, or cubed cheeses in neat piles, into rosettes, or fanned out. You can incorporate tiny bowls to hold items like candy, dried fruit, olives, or tapenade.

Make sure to choose a variety of tastes and textures so that you have a balanced board with foods that will please everyone. Foods should be rich tasting, not bland. Incorporate foods that are bitter, sour, spicy, and sweet. 

Make sure to include different textured ingredients, including foods that are:

  • Chewy like dried fruits
  • Creamy like cheeses and condiments
  • Crunchy like crackers and veggies
  • Moist like dips
  • Oily like olives
  • Savory like meats
  • Soft like cheeses
  • Sweet like candied pecans, chocolate, cookies, and honeycomb

If you’re pairing your charcuterie with wine, be mindful of the specific flavor profiles of your wine and your ingredients to ensure they are complimentary.

What Not to Put on a Charcuterie Board?

While you can get pretty creative with charcuterie boards, there are a few things you should avoid. You don’t want to include foods that are messy to eat or juicy foods that will mix with other foods.

Here’s what not to put on a charcuterie board:

  • Fruits that brown quickly like avocados and apples
  • Foods that are mushy like bananas, kiwis, mangos, and papaya
  • Foods that spoil quickly like deviled eggs
  • Foods that don’t pair well with wine like artichokes, broccoli, and asparagus
  • Juicy or liquid-packed foods like melons, pineapples, and zucchini
  • Messy foods
  • Smelly foods like stinky cheeses like Epoisses and Limburger

Most Iconic Charcuterie Boards

DIY-ing your own charcuterie board is fun, but why not let America’s top salumerias, chefs, and restaurants create craveworthy charcuterie boards for you?

Beauty & The Board Cheese & Charcuterie Board

Beauty & The Board

Eat pretty with Beauty & The Board. Since 2018, Elle Mawardi has been hand making the best grazing boards in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Each of Beauty & The Board’s clever and creative charcuterie boards begins with a foundation of sustainable birchwood. Then, each board is arranged with ingredients like:

  • Artisanal cheese
  • Candy
  • Charcuterie
  • Fresh produce
  • Snacks

CheeseBoarder

Get cheesy with CheeseBoarder‘s farm-to-table cheese boards. Founders Aaron and Julie Menitoff leverage their 20-plus years in hospitality to source the best cheese and charcuterie in the world. Every ingredient on their colorful, ready-to-eat boards is from the world’s best artisans, who expertly produce their meats and cheeses in small batches.

CheeseBoarder Terza Cheese & Charcuterie Board
Elegant Brie Charcuterie Tray

Elegant Brie’s Charcuterie Tray

Sisters Linda Olander and Leslie Bowers are known for their baked brie encased in puff pastry, but they also create the most amazing charcuterie trays too. Elegant Brie’s Charcuterie Tray features a beautiful charcuterie rose surrounded by artfully arranged ingredients like:

  • Cheeses like Port Wine Derby and Parmesan Belgioioso
  • Crackers
  • Dried fruits like apricots, figs, and tangerines
  • Honey and a honeycomb stick
  • Marinated artichoke hearts
  • Meats like hard salami and prosciutto
  • Mini pickles and capers
  • Nuts like rosemary almonds
  • Olives like Giant Red Cerignola and Greek Kalamata

Elegant Brie’s Charcuterie Tray includes everything you need for entertaining, including cocktail napkins, a wooden knife, wooden forks and picks, and ice-breaker questions. All you need is your appetite — and a few friends!

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Read More: Unique Charcuterie Board Ideas