How to Make the Best Meat and Cheese Board — Learn my TIPS and tricks to create the BEST meat and cheese board!! From brie to prosciutto and everything in between, this board has it ALL! It’ll be a major hit at your next party!!
Don’t Know What to Put on a Cheese Board?
I can easily make a meal from a cheese board and am extremely happy and content. I’ve done it at least a few thousand times. The photos in this post showcase two different boards I made for different events.
There are a zillion ways to make a meat and cheese board, and the sky is practically the limit about what to include. There’s no rule book. What I’m sharing here are some my favorite items and my general arranging strategy.
I’m a cheese ‘expert’ only by tasting, eating a ton, and realizing what I love and what’s just so-so.
Everyone’s tastes are different and as with champagne or wine, experimentation and trying new cheeses is the only way you’ll find out what you like, don’t like as much, and you’ll end up finding hidden gems along the way.
I have put together extravagant-looking cheese boards with less than 10 minutes before party guests arrive. Point being, you don’t have to spend tons of time on it nor does it have to be super precise nor does it have to break the bank.
Go with what looks good to you and incorporate the ingredients you and your guests enjoy and that are within your budget.
Don’t forget the champagne (or wine or cocktails) to wash it all down with!
The Best Cheeses for a Cheese Board
If you have cheese you love, go for it. As a rule of thumb, I try to do two kinds of French brie, one semi-soft and/or goat cheese, and one or two different hard cheeses.
Here’s a breakdown of the types of cheeses I recommend including on a meat and cheese board:
I find that people gravitate toward brie at my parties. That may just be my friends and guests (major brie fiends), but I can have a myriad of other cheeses out and the brie is always the first to go. Because of this I always include two different kinds of French brie.
For this board I used a smooth, mellow, ultra-creamy triple-cream brie as well as St. Andre brie. The St. Andre has more of a ripe flavor and bite and isn’t as silky-creamy.
If I know I have guests who like goat cheese (soft), I will also include one even though there are already two kinds of brie (soft, soft). I like goat cheese that’s flavored with honey, merlot, or something a little more interesting than plain goat cheese.
You can slice goat cheese into rounds or break it apart, put it in a small dish, add honey and thyme or rosemary to it, and it’s wonderful. The honey neutralizes some of the tanginess, which I appreciate.
If you enjoy goat cheese with more of a funk, Humbolt Fog is a winner, although pricey at $26 a pound in my area.
Semi-Soft / Hard Cheeses
Port Salut is a semi-soft cheese that’s creamy, mild-flavored, the bright orange rind is edible and eye-catching, and people always seem to enjoy this cheese. If you have guests (or kids) who don’t like ‘strong cheeses,’ this is a good one to include.
I personally love aged Spanish Manchego and the longer it’s aged, the more I love it. It’s a great hard cheese that I always include because I’m partial to it. In general I love cheese that’s bold, forward, ripe, bitey, intensely flavored.
Trader Joe’s sells a cheese call Unexpected Cheddar for $3.99 per 8 ounces. It’s one of my personal favorites based on value, taste, and everyone seems to love it.
It reads along the lines of a Parmesan in terms of the saltiness and flavor but there are what I would call ‘salt crystals’ in the cheese and when you bite into these lovely texture bombs, it’s better than any Parmesan. Especially when it’s one-fifth the price of Parm.
Other favorite hard cheeses include Pecorino, Parmesan, and washed-rind cheeses such as Toscano varieties. These are cheeses with a ‘flavored’ rind such as black-pepper, espresso, merlot, syrah, or rum and are great options and nice conversation-piece cheeses.
I have a favorite gouda called Leydon Gouda that I can only buy at Whole Foods. I don’t love-love goudas in general unless it’s a Dutch gouda because those read saltier and sharper in flavor to me.
However, I love the Leydon gouda because it has flecks of cilantro running though it that you’d swear is actually anise. A really complex lovely flavor profile that I adore. It’s the cheese on the top right corner with flecks of green in it.
How to Arrange Cheese on a Cheese Board
I arrange my cheeses vertically down my platter before adding anything else. Space them out so they’re not crowded and obviously unwrap them.
I recommend saving the wrappers and stash them somewhere so that if someone asks what exactly is this cheese, you can show them the wrapper so they know what to look for at the store. Or, if you’ve had a few too many libations, you can remember the next day exactly what you served.
The Best Meats for a Meat and Cheese Board
Meat can never compare with cheese for me. The end.
Pick your favorite prosciutto, chorizo, salami, speck, pepperoni, salami, and the various cured meats that you love. Trader Joe’s has a diverse and very ample selection of reasonably-priced cured meats.
I usually grab about 2 to 3 packs of meat that looks interesting to me that day. I find that the more meat I buy, the more my guests will consume. If I buy $15 worth, it’s gone. If I buy $30 worth, gone. So I tend to set a budget and buy what I think is appropriate and be done.
How to Arrange Meat on a Meat and Cheese Board
I arrange the meat all in one corner of the board in case there are vegetarian guests who definitely don’t want the meat touching anything else.
In general, remember that cured meats are fragrant and the meaty scents and flavors will likely transfer to nearby items on the board so don’t put the meat next to some delicate raspberries.
Make sure to ‘fluff up’ the meat rather than adding it straight from the package because it likely will be sticking together from the vacuum seal so un-stick it rather than let your guests.
The Best Fruit for a Meat and Cheese Board
This is highly variable based on the season. However, I will always include grapes and depending on the season and price, I will use red, green, black, and/or a combination.
Because I love champagne with strawberries and blueberries in it, I will likely be buying those berries anyway and some will end up on the board.
Apple wedges and figs are great in the fall, pomegranate seeds in the winter, pears in the springs, stone fruit and berries in the summer. Go with what you love, what’s semi-seasonal, and affordable.
I could eat my weight in dried fruit. Dried apricots, raisins, craisins, sun-dried tomatoes, mango, you name it, I love it. Use your faves and if you already have lots of fresh fruit, skip the dried fruit if you think no one will miss it.
How to Arrange Fruit on a Meat and Cheese Board
I arrange the fresh and dried fruit strategically around the board depending on where I think each color looks nice.
Break your grapes into small bunches. You don’t need a bunch with 40 grapes on it. If someone tries to transfer that to a plate it’s awkward and if they leave it on the board, there’s a half-eaten stalk of grapes.
The Best Nuts for a Meat and Cheese Board
There is nothing better than a salty, savory nut mix. The more you eat, the more you want. On this board I added a trail mix with cashews, almonds, raisins, and craisins.
I love adding a bowl of rosemary-flavored Marcona almonds. If you’ve never had Marcona almonds they’re so much better to me than regular almonds. Sorry, regular almonds!
Marcona almonds don’t actually don’t taste that almond-ey to me. They’re softer (more like a cashew) rather than your traditional hard almond and when they’re coated with oil, salt, and rosemary (thank you Trader Joe’s or Amazon), I’m in heaven. They are pricey buggers and a splurge, but worth it.
Pistachios are always delish. I have a love-hate relationship with pistachios in the shell. They taste better (all that salt) but then you have the shells and it’s not as ‘lady-like’ to be shucking pistachio shells at a dinner party. For that reason sometimes I choose unshelled pistachios to put out.
More budget-friendly ideas include mixed nuts, honey-roasted peanuts, or sunflower seeds.
To arrange, I put the nuts in small bowls and add them to sparse areas of the board.
The Best Crackers for a Meat and Cheese Board
I am a cracker snob. I am annoying and I admit it. If you’re not as particular as I am, any ole assortment of ‘assorted crackers’ where there are 3 or 4 kinds in a box and they’re differently shaped, you’ll likely be just fine.
If you are like me and like different textures and flavors in your crackers, there is nothing like the Raisin Rosemary Crackers at Trader Joe’s. The Fig Olive version is also a standard year-round, but I prefer the Raisin Rosemary.
They also have seasonal versions including Pumpkin, Pomegranate, and Mango-Ginger and I literally buy all of them by the case, depending on the season, and hoard so they don’t ‘sell out’ before I’ve had my fill.
I like to offer a gluten-free option and my favorite is Mary’s Crackers, Original flavor (Black Pepper is the runner-up) because they’re extra crunchy and loaded with seeds and texture. They’re nowhere near as salty as many other gluten-free crackers I’ve tried.
I feel like some companies add salt to compensate for the lack of gluten or whatever it is, but many GF crackers are salt bombs, which you don’t need with cheese.
Tip: Keep the gluten-free crackers in their own area and separate from the gluten-containing crackers for obvious reasons.
I always include mini brioche toasts or mini French bread rounds. Whole Foods sells them in their bakery area, and they’re sometimes baked with garlic or other seasonings, and they’re very cheap. It’s the only thing you can get for two bucks at WF’s and get a big bag of. Kidding, not really. TJ’s or any grocery store also has them.
Baked pita chips are always a winner and they’re what you see spanning large sections of the photos. They’re fluffy and puffy and add nice height to the board.
How to Arrange Crackers on a Meat and Cheese Board
You always want to think high and fluffy rather than low and flat when you’re arranging food; or at least I do.
At the very least, you want the board to have different levels of heights and placing various types of crackers or toasts all over the board to fill in the final spaces is my strategy.
The Best Sauces and Spreads for a Meat and Cheese Board
Think: hot pepper jelly, mustards, caponata, your favorite honey, fig jam, or any kind of interesting jams or jellies that you love. Hot pepper jelly, smeared on a cracker, with melty brie on top, heaven. Meat is great with mustard on a brioche toast for many guests.
The juicy tomatoes shown above are great with cheese.
I am a major fan of honeycomb. It’s expensive and I order it on Amazon because it’s easier to justify that way. It’s a great conversation piece because usually no one has ever had it, it’s such a novel and rare item, and when you see the bee’s artwork with the intricate comb that holds the sweet honey, you can’t help but feel that nature is amazing.
And you can’t help but feel amazing that you’re sharing this with your guests!
All The Rest
There are so many other things you could include on a DIY cheese board, including hummus, olives, pate, and pretty much anything else that you think would be fun, fitting, and delicious for your board. Add to your heart’s content.
What Cheese Board Do You Recommend?
Use what you have, can afford, and is size and shape-appropriate for the event. For instance, I use cheaper old wood cutting boards that I line with parchment and then bring out to my backyard parties and save my fancy and ultra-heavy marble for indoor and fancier parties.
The board shown is an Etsy purchase from 5 years ago that worked out well for this party.
Tips for Making a Cheese Board
Line the cheese board with parchment paper: I have so many different sized boards and in different materials from slate to wood to marble.
Since I like to try to fill my boards up to the max with ingredients and leave as little ‘white space’ as possible, a cleanup tip is that I line the board with parchment paper before I add any ingredients, leaving just a bare margin around the edges so you can actually see the edges of the board.
The last thing I want to do at midnight or later is scrape dried-on brie off my expensive marble board so parchment is my friend.
Finding cutlery for cheese boards: Antique shops and thrift stores often have a great assortment of inexpensive, mismatched butter knives and small knives and they’re perfect for cheese boards.
Knives tend to disappear and get carted off on people’s plates at parties so I always have more knives on the plate than I think will actually be needed.
The knives shown are from Anthropologie and they weren’t cheap but they had a pretty factor that I couldn’t pass up.
Have at least one sharp knife out: Make sure there’s at least one semi-sharp or pointed knife for cutting hard cheese.
How much meat and cheese to buy: In terms of food quantity, you know your guests and it also depends on the rest of your menu. If this is all you’re serving and are just having people over for cheese and cocktails (I do that often), then size up.
If you’ve also got prime rib, mashed potatoes, two sides, and a chocolate soufflé waiting, then scale down. However, in my experience people tend to eat more cheese and meat than you think they will, at least my apparently very hungry friends and family members do.
Bring the cheese to room temperature: Cheese tastes better after it’s come to room temp so set out your cheese 15 to 30 minutes before serving if possible. But not too far in advance (hours and hours before), or if can dry out and cheese like brie can almost get too soft and runny if it’s warm outside.
Ready to Create Your Own Cheese Board Set-Up?
I know that this was a long post, but hopefully you now know what to put on a cheese board. Creating a meat and cheese board — or a regular cheese board, or a meat and cracker board, or any appetizer board at all! — is all about the arrangement.
Just start layering the various meats, cheeses, spreads, nuts, and fruit and enjoy the process!
If you have any further questions about how to make a cheese board or need help with your cheese board set up, leave me a comment below!
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Meat and Cheese Board
- cheeseboard and utensils
- anything else/optional ingredients
- Read blog post for my personal favorite items and arranging strategies.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
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More Cheese Boar Ideas:
Easy Spanish Cheese Board — Learn my TIPS and tricks to create the PERFECT cheese board! From prosciutto to manchego and everything in between, this board has ALL the goodies! It’ll be a major hit at your next party!
Girls Night Charcuterie Board – A SALTY-SWEET mix of meats, cheeses, fruit, chocolate almonds, crackers, and more for your next GIRLS-NIGHT-IN!! There’s something for everyone on this EASY-TO-ASSEMBLE board!!