January 24, 2021
Cheese boards are simply irresistible! First of all, they are so versatile. They can be the centerpiece of a formal or informal gathering, an appetizer to the main course, or even the answer to an easy meal when you just don’t feel like cooking.
The key to an unforgettable cheese board? VARIETY!
The good news is, there really is no right or wrong way to assemble a cheese board. There are unlimited options! It’s really a matter of personal taste. However, with so many options it can be overwhelming trying to decide what to put on your cheese board. This guide for assembling a cheese board is meant to provide some inspiration to get started.
Tips For Assembling Your Cheese Board
A variety of textures, flavors, cheeses, and charcuterie are what make a cheese board so fun and enjoyable to eat. Here are some ideas to make a balanced cheese board full of variety.
The best part of a cheese board is sampling new meats, cheeses, and condiments, so have fun using speciality products to make it extraordinary!
- Nuts: salted or candied
- Crackers: grissini (long, thin, crispy breadsticks from Turin, Italy), crostini, crackers, crunchy baguette
- Spreads: honey, jam, ‘nduja (a spicy, spreadable pork-based paste from Calabria, Italy)
- Creamy cheeses (goat cheese, brie, etc.)
- Salty cheeses like Roquefort or feta
- Salted nuts
Spicy is optional, since it’s not for everyone!
- Hot pepper jelly
I highly suggest checking out cheese.com for some inspiration. Now is not the time for American cheddar or Monterey jack! Have fun trying out different types of cheeses beyond the norm to create a special experience.
- Aged Asiago
- Aged Gouda
- Pecorino Romano
- Parmigiano Reggiano
- Grana Padano
- Aged cheddar (try cheddar from the UK and it will change what you think about cheddar forever!)
- Humboldt Fog
- Gorgonzola dolce
- Marinated goat cheese
- Goat cheese
- Bay Blue or Original Blue from Point Reyes Cheese
Italians are masters of salumi (pork-based cured meats). Here are a few that are generally available either at Italian delis or through specialty online shops. These specialty meats can elevate your cheese board beyond the typical American cold cuts!
- Prosciutto di Parma
- Prosciutto San Daniele
- Speck Alto Adige
- Calabrese Salami (spicy)
- Bresaola (the only one on this list that is beef rather than pork)
Assembling the Cheese Board
Determine the serving size
First, determine the following:
- How many people will the cheese board feed?
- Is the cheese board an appetizer or the meal?
The general serving size for cheese is as follows:
Appetizer: 1-3 ounces per person
Meal: 7-8 ounces per person
Where to get ingredients
The availability of specialty cheeses and charcuterie can really depend on your location. These stores are available across the country and have a decent selection of European cheeses:
- Trader Joe’s
- Whole Foods
- Costco (Costco even sometimes has this great package with a variety of cheeses, all ready to go for your cheese board!)
- Your local Italian deli or specialty foods shop
With a little bit of planning, there are many specialty cheeses available online. I’ve ordered from both D’Italia and Caputos, and my products have arrived within 3-4 days, packed in ice and still cold upon arrival.
Choose a serving tray or platter
Cheese boards can be simple or extravagant. Whether you pack your serving tray full, or leave some breathing room, everyone will enjoy the contents all the same!
You could choose a serving vessel of slate, wood, or marble, depending on the desired aesthetic. Some options include;
- A serving tray
- A cutting board
- Cover a table with butcher paper for a larger cheese board
- Plates for each guest
- Toothpicks or tongs for picking up cheese
- A cheese knife if any cheeses need to be cut
Placing the ingredients
- Start with the cheese
- Place the charcuterie
- Add any condiments (honey, jam, spreads, etc.)
- Add the fruit
- Add nuts, olives, etc. to fill in spaces
- Add herbs for garnish if desired
Tips for serving the cheese
It’s best to serve cheese at room temperature. It will take about 20-30 minutes for the cheese to come to room temperature (consider this as part of the 2 hour window for food safety).
How to cut cheese
The technique for cutting and serving the cheese depends on the type of cheese and whether it is aged or semi-soft.
Here is an excellent video that demonstrates the proper way to cut cheese depending on the type so that it looks presentable for your cheese board:
Food safety – how long to leave cheese unrefrigerated
It’s important to follow proper food safety. Two hours is the general safety window in which perishable items can remain safe to eat unrefrigerated, although other sources say 4 hours is acceptable.
However, it’s important to note that after this two hour window, you won’t want to save all of your cheeses.
Discard soft cheeses (such as brie) after two hours.
Conserve any aged or hard cheeses.
How to store cheese
Storing cheese properly is essential to prevent unwanted moisture and mold growth so that it stays fresh longer.
Most of the time you’ll want to avoid wrapping the cheese directly in plastic, as that is how moisture accumulates.
For hard and semi-soft cheeses, wrap them like a present with cheese paper or parchment paper.
For soft cheeses, wrap them in aluminum foil instead. If you aren’t going to eat your cheese right away, it might be a good idea to change out the foil if moisture is accumulating.
Once your cheese is wrapped, then you can place it in a plastic bag or airtight container and store it in the cheese drawer in your fridge.
What are your favorite cheeses and must-have accompaniments for a cheese board? Share your tips with us below!