If you enjoy entertaining, you've probably noticed that charcuterie boards are everywhere these days. You've seen them in magazines, on Instagram and at your best friend's last party. And it's easy to see why: charcuterie boards are a win for everyone involved.

With all store-bought ingredients, they're a quick and stress-free way for hosts to entertain. And guests love them, too. Everyone loves picking and choosing what they want on a charcuterie board - plus they're pretty and fun!

But what is charcuterie, exactly?

Charcuterie is the French word for "cured meats." Originally, a charcuterie board just contained 2-3 meats, a couple of cheeses and a few cornichon pickles. But today's charcuterie has taken on a life of its own. Just search on Pinterest and you'll see what I mean.

What You Need to Make a Charcuterie Board

If you're going to serve charcuterie at your next get-together, there are a few things you're going to need.

    A board.

    To serve charcuterie, you need something to arrange it on. You can find beautiful wood or slate charcuterie boards on Amazon or Etsy, but you can also just use a baking sheet, a pizza pan or even your counter (just put down some parchment paper first).

    Two-three meats.

    You should definitely include some salami, and then choose a couple of other meats like ham, pepperoni or copocollo.

    Two-three cheeses.

    . Choose a good variety of cheeses. Include one soft cheese (like Brie or Camembert), one hard or semi-hard cheese (like Cheddar, Gouda or Pecorino Romano) and something unique (like Roquefort or a flavored goat cheese).

    One-two spreads or jams.

    Dijon mustard and fig jam are a couple of traditional choices for a charcuterie board, but you can choose any kind of spread or jam. Use your imagination and think about what would taste good with the cheeses you've selected.

    One ingredient with a brine.

    It's good to include a sour ingredient on your board because it helps break up the heaviness of the meat and cheese. Include your favorite olives, pickles or pickled vegetables.

    Crackers and breads.

    Try to incorporate at least two different types of crackers or breads. Some ideas are water crackers, pita chips, crostini, crispy breadsticks or baguette slices.

    One-two extras.

    If you have a few empty spaces on your board, you can fill them with some "extras" like grapes, apple slices, nuts, chocolate or greenery to add some color and pizazz to your board.

How to Build a Charcuterie Board

When it comes to arranging your charcuterie board, there's no right or wrong way. But if you need some guidance, here are some suggestions:
  1. Start with your cheeses. They're the biggest ingredient and need the most space.

  2. Next, add any bowls or jars. Your spreads, jams and pickles or olives need a little space, too.

  3. Next, add your meats. You can fold them into half circles, roll them or make them into flower shapes. Fit them into the spaces between your bowls and cheeses.

  4. Add your crackers and breads. If you don't have enough room, you can put them in a bowl or on another small board next to your charcuterie board. Otherwise, spread them into the nooks and crannies that are left.

  5. Fill in spaces with your extras. A handful of nuts or a few grapes here and there help add color and texture to your board.

Trust your artistic instincts when putting together your charcuterie board. If you're struggling, though, Google a few pictures and try to copy what you see. Don't stress about it. The most important thing is that you have fun.

Whether you use your charcuterie board as an appetizer or a main dish, it's sure to be a hit at your next party or get-together. So, invite some friends over, break out the meat and cheese and enjoy a fun evening together charcuterie-ing!


Sandi Haustein is a mom of four and blogs at thewelcomingtable.com. She loves connecting with friends over good food.