How To Make a Charcuterie Board

by

Cheeses and a meat rose on an exotic piece of wood
Create a beautiful charcuterie board with color and variety © Jo Clark

I know you’ve seen great charcuterie boards. They’re photographed and posted all over the Internet. But how do you make one that is Insta-worthy? And how do you even pronounce “charcuterie”? I’m here to help—I know people! I’ll fill you in on shopping, creating, and caring for your charcuterie board!

How Is Charcuterie Pronounced

People wonder about this French word. Instead of embarrassing themselves by slaughtering it, they say “meat and cheese board” or “cheese and meat platter.” It’s actually pretty easy to say if you take it slow; it’s pronounced like a shard of glass – shar and cu like cute, then tuh like King Tut and ree like Ree Drummond! So put it together, and you have “shar-kyu-tuh-ree.”

Where Are Charcuterie Boards From

You may have guessed from my introduction the word charcuterie originated in France. Trust the French to pile meats on a slab of wood and call it the first course! Yes, charcuterie is simply assembling cured meats for an appetizer. 

But it has expanded (perhaps thanks to the American tradition of “super-sizing”). Today people seem to use the term charcuterie to refer to an assortment of meats and their various accompaniments, such as crackers, fruits, cheeses, and other little taste temptations.

How To Make a Charcuterie Board

I visited Nature’s Platter this summer on a trip to York, Pennsylvania. I was treated to their Once Upon A Platter Charcuterie Class. Let me tell you—it was FUN!

Of course, Nature’s Platter owner, Marie Fisher, made the class more fun by having all the components selected and ready for our use. With her suggestions and guidance, the afternoon of designing flew by, leaving too little time for gobbling up the meat of our assignment! *giggle*

Charcuterie board filled with a variety of meats, cheeses, nuts, and even flowers
Charcuterie board created in the Once Upon a Platter class © Jo Clark

Educated as an engineer, Marie says she “hung up my engineering hat to…work with live-edge wood.” She creates serving boards and other beautiful products from wood. Live-edge wood means that the edge was not touched by hand tools or woodworking machinery; the craftsperson utilizes the natural edge of the wood to enhance the design of the finished piece.

Marie describes herself as “a Pennsylvania country gal with a passion for cheese, chocolate, wine, and the simplicity of nature.” I think she has a lot of “teacher” in her, too. She is creative and patient, and her pride in her work shines through.

Marie seeks out the wood for her projects in several states and imports some pieces from other countries. I grew up the daughter of a furniture man, so sawdust is in my blood too, and I inhaled deeply while touring her shop. Using sanders and planers, Marie works to showcase each piece of wood, showing off its most glorious face.

Where to Buy a Charcuterie Board

Of course, you can purchase a board from Nature’s Platter. The charcuterie board shop is unique, and you will find stunning works of art made from local and exotic woods. These elegant, handcrafted wooden statement pieces are designed in York. Boards range from six inches to seven feet—and beyond, and have a variety of shapes—you may even find one that resembles an animal or your favorite state! Visiting the store and the shop is an adventure, and finding just the right piece is great fun. But, if a Pennsylvania road trip isn’t in your future, you can visit them virtually on their website or pop into their Etsy shop.

Full disclosure, yes, I came home with a little beauty—a lightning-struck black walnut board with a live edge and burned with the Nature’s Platter brand. It stands on my kitchen counter as a reminder of a fantastic trip.

Three women with writer Jo in the center, holding a black walnut charcuterie board
Flanked by Marie Fisher and Chrissy Casey Tobias, Jo (center) is the proud owner of a black walnut charcuterie board! © Jo Clark

Home Goods stores have a surprising selection of things to use, as do antique shops. Then, there is always Lowe’s or Home Depot. These stores will cut a piece of wood any size you’d like from the wood you find in the store. You can make your own using an old cutting board or piece of dried wood.

Even Amazon advertises charcuterie boards and accessories. Everyone wants in on the action! Most of the boards they offer are made from bamboo, making them lighter and more sustainable.

Marie, Nature's Platter owner, discussing charcuterie boards, with a large display of boards behind her
So many beautiful and exotic choices for your charcuterie board © Jo Clark

How to Assemble a Charcuterie Board

Charcuterie boards are unique, but they look intimidating to lay out. Trust me; they aren’t nearly as challenging to create as they look! Well, unless you make your own cheese! No, I’m not kidding. Near York, in a town called Spring Grove, I made mozzarella! If you can’t commit to this, you can still enjoy cheeses from Caputo Brothers Creamery (they ship!) Caputo Brothers has produced handcrafted, authentic Italian cheeses since 2011. But fresh, handmade mozzarella is something you will never forget—just sayin’!

Cheese under a glass dome, with cherry wood smoke being piped into the dome
Smoking cheese is a great idea © Jo Clark

And Marie will even teach you the secret to smoking cheese! What a fantastic way to add a layer of taste!

First, decide on the board. Then plan your menu and look online for pictures to inspire you. Next, make a list of ingredients that you will need. Go shopping and come home ready to assemble an impressive spread!

Insider Tip:  Hit up the deli for pre-sliced ingredients; it saves you tons of prep time!

Ingredients to Place on a Charcuterie Board

The choices are myriad and entirely up to you. But there are some standards, suggestions, and a few tips for making it easy. And, naturally, there are a few tips on arranging the foods to display nicely. One of Marie’s tips is to use cucumber slices to create a “river” down the board.

A curved line of cucumber slices down the length of the charcuterie board
Start your charcuterie board with a river of cucumbers or zucchini slices © Jo Clark

This gives the board movement and interest. Once you complete the river, you can fill in with all these goodies:

Hands creating a meat rose around a small glass, the charcuterie board and a cheese knife in background
The first row of meat slices creating a rose © Jo Clark

Add Features to Your Charcuterie Board Like a Pro

A champagne glass is a perfect size to make meat rosettes. And roses are a MUST if you want your guests to think you went all out and used a caterer! Use a slice of firm meat, like salami. Fold a slice over the edge of your glass. Then add another piece, overlapping the glass’s edge and the last slice’s seam. Continue around the glass, using 6-8 slices (or as many as fit). Turn the glass upside down onto the board and lift. Voilà! You have a beautiful rose.

How to start a meat rose © Jo Clark
A rose made from slices of meat to decorate the charcuterie board
A meat rose – adds that “professional” touch! © Jo Clark

Pick crackers of different flavors and shapes. Look for these in the cracker aisle and the deli section. Use the crackers and nuts to fill in spaces between the meats and cheeses.

You’ll need a few small bowls, little spoons, and spreading knives along with the board. Antique shops provide the perfect place to seek out unique pieces, allowing you to make the display your own. Use simple white or glass dishes with just a few pops of color. Use the dishes as a guide on the board of where things will go, and then fill in around the bowls with other items.

Allow two ounces per person for an appetizer. Still, if the charcuterie is for a cocktail party, you will need more than twice that amount. And don’t forget the bread! Another benefit of charcuterie? You can use your fingers! So fewer dishes to wash after the party! It’s a beautiful thing!

When to Serve a Charcuterie Board

Do you really need to ask? Any time I’m invited! *smile* It could be used as a traditional first course or as the only course at a cocktail party. The beauty of the charcuterie board is it allows people to serve themselves, freeing you to carry out last-minute preparations for the next course or to mingle with your guests.

Holidays are the perfect time for entertaining, and using a charcuterie board simplifies the entertainment process. For more ideas, read Betsi’s article on Easy Holiday Entertaining Ideas.

Charcuterie boards lend themselves to wine tastings too. Read this guide for the perfect wine and cheese pairings!

A charcuterie board makes a perfect make-ahead plan, too. You can prepare nearly everything ahead of time and add fresh fruit at the last minute. Just cover it with plastic wrap and store the entire board in the refrigerator a day ahead of time.

Are Charcuterie Boards Keto

Charcuterie boards are filled with meats and cheeses—of course, they’re Keto! You can even provide Keto crackers to keep dieting guests happy. Most of the boards will run about eight carbohydrates per serving.

How to Care for Your Charcuterie Board

After use, clean your board with a damp cloth and allow it to air dry. Remember that foods such as berries, yellow cheddar, or artificially colored foods will stain the wood. To keep your board unblemished, place those food items in decorative bowls, on waxed paper, or use a large leaf such as lettuce or grape.

Apply a bit of mineral oil to keep the board looking healthy. Every third use, or every-other month, apply another layer of protection with board butter. Board butter is a mixture of mineral oil and beeswax and should sit for at least 15 minutes, and then you may wipe off the excess with a cloth.

Nature’s Platter tips on board use and care can be found on their web page. And Marie has a shop on Etsy, so you won’t have to drive to Pennsylvania to pick up board butter.

A large charcuterie board, filled with meats, cheeses, fruits, and cookies
A completed charcuterie board – you can even add French Macarons (if you don’t eat them all!) © Jo Clark

Make a Meat-free Charcuterie Board

Think Breakfast—waffles, fruits, nuts, chocolate chips, and toppings! Or perhaps candy—I’d call that one “Candycuterie” (you’re welcome!) and make it with all candies, and perhaps ice cream toppings. You could even make a Mexican theme board to assemble mini tortillas.

What fun to come up with your own variety for the use of your board. Charcuterie boards are only limited by your imagination. There is no wrong way to charcuterie…so keep calm and charcuterie on!

14 Comments

  1. Rita Smith

    I saved some slices of my black walnut tree when I had to have it cut down. I intend to find someone to make a charcuterie board for me using the wood from my tree. I certainly think of my daddy who could make anything.

    Reply
    • Jo Clark

      That black walnut would make a gorgeous board! Check with Terry Mitchell (in the old Woolworth’s).

      Reply
  2. Gloria Shipp

    I enjoyed reading Jo’s article on Charcuterie. It was so well done and informative. Looking forward to making one for the next event.

    Reply
    • Jo Clark

      Thank you, Gloria! I’m sure everyone will love your charcuterie board! (Am I invited??)

      Reply
  3. JuJu

    Very timely, Jo. Thank you for the step by step process.

    Reply
    • Jo Clark

      Thank you, Julie! I know I’ll be making more – It is a great party-pleaser!

      Reply
  4. Annie

    I’d never thought of the board itself being as interesting as the food on it, but it looks like they could all tell a tale.

    Reply
    • Jo Clark

      Yes, they certainly do!! Each one is an individual work of art!

      Reply
  5. Linda Jane

    This looks fabulous & wouldn’t last long. Thanks so much for the tips

    Reply
    • Jo Clark

      Linda, they do take much longer to create than to eat! LOL!!

      Reply
  6. Jeanine

    Thank you so much for this I love charcuterie it’s a staple in our house for quick mid week meals. But I love to add detail when making for a crowd and those boards look amazing…

    Reply
    • Jo Clark

      Aaawwww…thank you Jeanine! They are so much fun to make.

      Reply
  7. Lorraine Caputo

    Beautiful spread! With the greenery, add sprigs of parsley. It helps to cleanse the palate so one can enjoy the subtleties of each item.

    (In many ways, it reminds me of an antipasto — a variation on a very, very delicious theme!)

    Reply
    • Jo Clark

      Thank you! Parsley is a GREAT suggestion, Lorraine!

      Reply

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