Our Best Charcuterie Tips for Any Size Gathering

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Throwing a party and stumped about what to do for food? Build a charcuterie board and impress your guests with abundant savory nibbles without being stuck in the kitchen all night.

Charcuterie boards are easy to make and even easier to pass around. They are also the perfect option for gatherings of all sizes.

To create the charcuterie dream spread, you’ll need professional guidance – which we have!

From planning your spread to visual appeal charcuterie tips, here’s everything you need to know about mastering charcuterie boards and wowing your guests.

Planning the Spread: What to Consider Before Putting Your Spread Together

How many charcuterie boards will you need? How do you figure out ingredient amounts? What is the meal context?

Don’t stress! The first step to mastery is figuring out your headcount and the event needs.

Here’s how to do that.

Determine Guest Count

First up, determine how many guests you’re feeding. Are you hosting a small at-home gathering or is this for a big event with a couple dozen people? Are guests bringing plus ones to the event?

Determine a rough estimate of the headcount. It’s always a good idea to round up and prepare for a few extra people, just in case.

Meal Context

Charcuterie boards are savory snack platters consisting mostly of cheese, crackers, and prepared meats. But which of those you choose and how much you choose largely depends on the meal context.

Meal context refers to the role the charcuterie plays in the event meal plan. Are the charcuterie boards the entrée or appetizers? It also considers what charcuterie flavors you’re offering. You have a lot of options as you can pair fruit, veggies, olives, cheese, and more with your selection of meats.

The type you choose, and its main components, depend on your event, your budget, and, of course, personal taste. If you have an event theme, that could also influence your final product.

Keep your meal context in mind when deciding on ingredients, ingredient amounts, and visual focal points. It’ll offer much-needed guidance when faced with the dozens of food and placement options out there.

Calculate Ingredient Amounts

Once you know your headcount and the meal context, you can determine how much meat, cheese, crackers, bread, etc. you need to buy.

If served as a light appetizer, plan for guests to take around 3 ounces each of meat and cheese. Up those portions to a hearty 6 ounces per person if the charcuterie board is the focal point. There should be at least one cracker or piece of bread for every slice of meat on the board.

Pro tip: it’s better to have leftovers than run short, so grab extra of every item you’re offering.

Also, prepare a few extra vegetarian and vegan options. Fruits and vegetables are affordable, so having more for people with dietary restrictions won’t be a big budget biter.

The Rule of Three

If you’re still a little lost, remember the charcuterie rule of three. Your charcuterie spread should have at least three meats, three cheeses, three types of crackers or starch options, etc. on every board. This ensures enough variety without being overwhelming for a beginner charcuterie enthusiast.

5 Essential Charcuterie Components

Now for the fun part – hitting up cheese shops and gourmet grocery stores for tasty morsels. Don’t hesitate to take advantage of the samples!

Meats

Prepared meats are integral to charcuterie boards. They’re delicious and filling and are a striking visual component among the fruits and cheeses.

When shopping, seek out a diverse mix of cured meats and textures from smooth pâtés to dry salamis and flavors from mild prosciuttos to spicy chorizos. Look for meats that pair well with cheese and spreads.

Cheeses

Snag an assortment of cheeses such as aged goudas, soft goat cheeses, pungent blues, and nutty Swiss. Consider every palate.

Allow for 2-3 ounces per guest. Also, remember to provide cheese knives for slicing logs.

You can also prepare vegan cheese options for vegan guests. There are many delicious modern options to choose from, ones even your non-vegan guests will enjoy.

Spreads and Accents

Roll in sweet jams, zingy mustards, olive tapenades and other spreads to play up the charcuterie flavors. Nuts, fruits, cornichons and honeycomb make for nice textural contrasts too. 

Crackers and Breads

Offer an abundance of neutral crackers, toasts, and baguettes to transport all those tasty toppings.

Good crunch is key! The goal is to play with the cheeses, meats, and spread textures, and offer an immersive culinary experience that engages more than just the taste buds.

Boards and Serving Ware

As much as charcuterie is about the flavors, it’s also about the visual appeal. We eat with our eyes.

So, elevate your charcuterie presentation with decorative butcher paper or wood boards. You can also use smaller individual charcuterie boards that guests can grab and nosh from as they move around and chat.

Bonus if you have fancy spreader knives, ramekins, pretty toothpicks, and napkins. There are so many beautiful, eclectic charcuterie utensils out there – investing in a set or two is guaranteed to win your guests over.

How To Style and Arrange Your Grazing Table

A large reason charcuterie boards are so popular is because they look good. The colors, the textures, the utensils – it’s an adult food lover’s kryptonite!

To ensure your charcuterie board has the same captivating visual appeal, use these styling tips.

Placement Guidelines

Use these placement guidelines to nail that Instagram-worthy charcuterie board vibe: 

  • Go From Large To Small: When placing your ingredients around the charcuterie board, put down the large items first. Then the medium bites. Finish it off with the small food items. This ensures you have enough space for all the food bits on the board and the yummy items are easy to grab and go.  
  • Alternate The Savory Flavors: Alternate the meat and cheese placement to offer a variety of options on every charcuterie board and provide a feast of flavors.
  • Cluster The Accents: Cluster the jams and spreads in the middle of the charcuterie board. Or, if your board has a unique design, toward the edge. But keep the accents together.
  • Provide Separate Spreaders: To prevent flavors from mixing and practice good food hygiene, include a spreader for each spreadable component on the charcuterie board. Also, provide small tongs for attendees to pick up meats and cheeses without touching other foods on the board.

Visual Appeal Tips

For that extra elevated touch, consider these visual appeal tips when packing your charcuterie boards. 

  • Play With Shapes And Textures: Part of the visual appeal of charcuterie boards is how they engage the senses. To create a masterful board, play with the shapes and dimensions of the food. Vary the placement by playing with the shapes, colors, textures, and sizes of the food components. Get creative and don’t hesitate to experiment.
  • Use Open Space For Emphasis: Emphasize certain meats and cheese by leaving space open. Not sure how to do it? Look up charcuterie boards online and study how professionals place their boards and where they leave artfully placed open spaces.
  • Embrace Abundance: Humility is an important character trait, one we should all strive for. This applies everywhere except for charcuterie boards. Embrace your inner maximalist. Guests should think “wow!” when they see the charcuterie boards. That’s how you know you succeeded.

6 Charcuterie Tips for Serving Larger Groups

Charcuterie for larger groups can be a little tricky and requires extra forethought. Keep these tips in mind when planning your event.

1. Larger Boards and/or Multiple Boards

Scale up your base with multiple matching charcuterie boards lined up. Allow ample room for many hands sampling treats side-by-side. 

If the group is too large or your budget doesn’t support that many charcuterie boards, line a table with rustic butcher paper and place the charcuterie items on the table. Combine it with the next tip.

2. Easy Guest Access

Consider personal charcuterie boards or small plates for each guest alongside the main spread so they can easily assemble their own. It’ll prevent groups from clustering around the main charcuterie table and facilitate socializing around the event space.

3. Opt For Thicker Spreads

While variety is the spice of life, thinner spreads and jams tend to run and make a mess. In small groups, this isn’t a big issue. For big groups, a runny cracker can ruin the entire charcuterie spread. So, opt for thicker spreads that are easier to handle and not as messy.

4. Stock Up On Nuts

As delicious as fruits are, meat and cheese are the first items to go with charcuterie meetups. It makes sense. Meat and cheese are delicious. They’re also packed with protein, which satisfies appetites better and faster than carbs and fats

But stocking enough cheese and meat to satisfy a large group can overwhelm the charcuterie board balance and take a bite out of your budget. 

To maintain a balanced mix of food items and satisfy your guests, offer an assortment of delicious nuts, like pistachios, dark chocolate-covered almonds, and ginkgo nuts alongside the other charcuterie bits. 

Nuts are filled with protein, more satisfying than fruits, and your options (whether raw, coated, or caramelized) are endless.

5. Practice Good Food Safety

With so many people moving around the food, touching the food, and moving around the room, food safety is of utmost importance at charcuterie events!

Before the event, properly disinfect and season your charcuterie boards. You don’t need to sand down the board when seasoning it. Just wipe it thoroughly, remove any surface imperfections, and rub it down with oil or beeswax to prevent bacteria growth and facilitate smooth cutting. 

Next, provide a variety of tongs and spreaders to prevent any cross-contamination. 

Lastly, offer napkins and even wipes to ensure everyone stays clean while handling the food.

6. Provide Dietary Variety

With large groups, there’s guaranteed to be people with alternative lifestyles who need different charcuterie options. If you provide nuts, crackers, fruits, and cheese, then your vegetarian guests will be sorted. 

For vegan guests, you’ll have to go a step further. Luckily, vegan food options have increased drastically and improved in taste in recent years. Create a small section on your charcuterie table for vegan guests and provide an assortment of vegan options, like vegan cheese and vegan spreads.

Conclusion

The only thing better than a beautifully arranged charcuterie spread? Enjoying it with fabulous people like your nearest and dearest friends, of course! Dazzle the crowd with an abundance of meats, cheeses and all the fixings using these tips as your guide.

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