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What's a Charcuterie Board and How to Make the Perfect Board

If you've been able to go out recently, you may have noticed an uptick in restaurants adding Charcuterie to their menus. It may sound fancy, but rest assured they're a lot more common than you would think.

What is Charcuterie?

In the French tradition, charcuterie (pronounced "shahr-ku-tuh-ree") is the art of preparing and assembling cured meats and meat products. The word charcuterie originated in France, and it translates to "pork-butcher shop." While the original French translation refers to pork, many modern charcuterie boards include other types of food like pate, cheese, crackers, fruit, nuts, and dips.

In French, the cook who prepares the meat is called a Charcutier. The English pronunciation of charcuterie varies slightly from the original French. The correct French pronunciation of charcuterie is "shar-coo-tree."

How to Make a Charcuterie Board

There is no one way to make a Charcuterie Board. You have to take in consideration of your guest, allergies, and diet restrictions. So you can make your board fit your event type. Here are some things to take into consideration.

Shape - Rectangular boards are easy to work with and their shape makes a great canvas for laying out ingredients. Round boards are the next most popular shape, but they're a little more challenging when it comes to your portions. Once you've mastered a rectangular or round board, try experimenting with different shapes.

Size - For a standard size board that feeds 2 to 3 guests, go with something around 9" x 13". A larger board with a length over 20" is suitable for 4 or more people.

Material - Melamine breadboards are a convenient option because they are more lightweight than slate or wood boards, but they provide the same rustic look. Large boards with many ingredients tend to become very heavy. Break-resistant melamine is also safe for your patio or outdoor dining space.

After you gather materials the next step is to build your board.

Slice hard cheeses and meats in advance. Items that cannot be easily cut by your guests should be pre-cut into easy-to-grab pieces. Soft cheeses like brie can be served whole—just don’t forget the knife!

Think about how you slice. Different shapes on your board help to create visual variety. Small cubes of cheese will contrast well with triangles of another type. Hard meats like salami are best served thinly sliced for easy chewing.

Anchor the board with bigger objects first. Wheels of cheese or small bowls that hold condiments should be placed first. Start with your largest piece near the center and place all other vessels evenly around the board.

Place cheeses and meats down next. After placing your anchors, arrange sliced cheeses and meats in the spaces in between. Think about alternating colors and shapes.

Keep "like" items grouped together. To keep the board organized and make things easy for your guests to grab, keep cheeses and meats of the same type grouped together.

Add touches of freshness. Small bunches of grapes, sliced apples, a few berries, or sprigs of fresh herbs all add beautiful colors and bites of freshness to the board.

Serve a variety of crackers and sliced bread. If you still have space on the board, add thin slices of bread (like a thin baguette or French bread) or a variety of crackers with different shapes and textures. No more room? Divide the bread and crackers into two small bowls or baskets that can sit on either side of the board on your table so that guests coming in from all sides can grab and snack easily.

Don’t forget the serving tools. Forks arranged around the board can help guests grab items easily, but toothpicks are a good, disposable serving alternative, too.

Now, just sit back grab your favorite glass of wine and enjoy.

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