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EASY CHEESE AND CRACKER TRAY {How to make an Epic Charcuterie Board}

A Cheese Board is the perfect addition to any holiday party! Full of fruits, meats, cheeses, nuts, and olives, it is perfect for satisfying all your guests at the same time! Check out all these tips and tricks for making a crowd-pleasing platter for your next crowd!

Overhead shot of a cheese board

If you’d rather skip my essential cooking tips and tricks and get straight to this delicious recipe – simply scroll to the bottom of the page where you can find the printable recipe card.

A charcuterie cheese board is the perfect party food and let me explain why.

Your friend is having a party. You are obliged to ask “What can I bring?” even though you don’t have anything to bring, don’t want to cook, and whatever they say will require you to go to the store.

When you respond with “anything specific?” they just say “whatever” or “an appetizer.” That doesn’t help in any way shape or form. Like I tell my hubby, there isn’t a recipe for “whatever!”

A charcuterie board, also known as a cheese and cracker tray, solves this problem. But making one can seem daunting. But it doesn’t have to be!

Here are some great tips and tricks to make a stunning, Instagram worthy cheese board that will earn you the Best Guest Award!

CHEESE BOARD IDEAS

Don’t know what to put on your cheese tray? Don’t worry, I am here to help.

Just a few simple basics and you can customize it any way you want! 

Once you have the basics, you can tailor your cheese board to your needs, or the needs of the picky party guests that will be eating it. Here are some cheese board idea pictures!

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Side angle of meat and cheese trays

First things first in this cheese board tutorial…

WHAT CAN I USE FOR A CHARCUTERIE BOARD?

I have a long wooden board that I used in my Summer Antipasto Tapas Cheese Board that I absolutely love, but it wasn’t wide enough for the amount of food that I wanted to bring on this occasion.

I have also used my cutting board as an impromptu cheese plate in a pinch.

In this instance, I used two smaller serving trays that are similar in size and shape to make one large cheese board.

Assortment of items to use as boards

WHAT GOES ON A GOOD CHEESE BOARD?

You want to have a variety of cheeses to snack on. The few things that are always on my charcuterie boards are

  • cheese
  • meats
  • fruit
  • nuts
  • crackers
  • olives
  • jams/spreads

Cheese, of course! But how much? What kind of cheese? How many different types?

WHAT CHEESE DO I USE FOR A CHEESE BOARD?

On this particular board, I use 3 types of cheese: one hard, one semi-soft, and one spreadable. You can go with any combination of these types of cheese board cheeses, but most people like the spreadable cheese so I grabbed at least one of those.

Then I chose a hard and a semi-soft to round it out. You can always go with a semi-soft, a regular block cheese, and then a creamy one like blue cheese. Here are some great examples for each!

HARD CHEESES

  • aged provolone
  • gruyere
  • manchego
  • aged gouda
  • aged cheddar

SEMI-SOFT CHEESES

  • blue cheese
  • brie
  • camembert
  • mozzarella
  • burrata

SOFT CHEESES

  • stilton
  • ricotta
  • goat cheese
  • feta

I also include cheese spreads in this category as these are easy to find already prepared and usually sold in small containers that you can just pop on the board.

Don’t overthink it. Just grab three types of cheese that you like to eat. It doesn’t have to be super-fancy so just have fun with it! Once you have your cheeses, space them out on the board.

For more insider tips & tricks, and a candid behind the scenes look follow me on social media! Check use out on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter (yes, people still use Twitter, LOL!)

close up of pecans on a cheese board

I like to make sure I have plenty of space around them to add all the other goodies. In this picture, I used a Camembert, a garlic herb cheese spread (in the bowl), and a block of mild cheddar that I pre-sliced for easy eating.

WHAT MEATS ON A CHARCUTERIE BOARD?

When shopping for meats, choose ones that you can eat with or without a vehicle of some sort. I chose these meats for mine.

  1. sliced meats, cured sausage (good with a cracker or alone)
  2. small smoked beef sticks (to be eaten alone unless you want to get creative with your crackers)
  3. thin-sliced salami that can be eaten any way you like!

Pick meats that you like, and that your guests will like or think they will. If you want to use turkey, roast beef, grilled chicken, smoked salmon, etc., go for it!!

I am a sucker for cured Italian meats so you will always see salami and pepperoni type meats on my cheese boards.

Fill in gaps on the with fresh herbs

FILL IN THE GAPS WITH

  • Fruits (fresh or dried fruits)
  • Olives (Castelvetrano are my fave!)
  • Nuts/Seeds (toasted pecans, walnuts, etc.)
  • Condiments (spicy mustards, fruit spreads)
  • Crackers
  • Pickles
  • Fresh Herbs

I like to use seasonal fruits to add to my board but if you can’t find them, try dried ones. Here are a few of my favorites!

  1. Dried Apricots
  2. Fresh Grapes
  3. Pomegranate Arils (seeds)
  4. Cherries
  5. Blackberries
  6. Strawberries
Close up shot of meats and cheeses

WHAT TYPE OF CRACKERS DO I INCLUDE?

Time for the crackers, or food cars as I like to call them. Crackers are the vehicles to get the meats and cheeses into my mouth so they are super important! I chose 3 crackers that I like and will taste great with the three types of cheeses I have.  

Plan to get hearty or thick crackers for a cheese board because thin, dainty crackers will just not do. You can serve those waif-like sheets of grain at a party where people don’t like to eat. Those parties are thrown by people who are outside my circle of trust.

Crackers with seeds or nuts in them not only provide a great texture contrast but they bring out the flavors of the cheeses and meats. A plain cracker is a necessity for people at a party, so have at least one because there is always one plain person at each party.

If you can’t find that person at your next party, it’s probably you. Just saying…

Throwing in a cracker with a different shape or with herbs on it is always a good thing. You can think outside the box and use pita chips, bagel chips, pretzels, bread or crackers. People like the salt and the crunch of those, for sure!

Your crackers should be spaced out and around the existing cheeses, meats, and fruits. Grouping them close to the intended topping is a great way to introduce people to new combinations.  

Joe at the party might not think to put pomegranate arils on his garlic herb spread covered wheat cracker, but now he will! You might even get a thank you note from him for the introduction.

HOW TO ASSEMBLE A CHEESE BOARD STEP BY STEP

FIRST: Line your board with parchment paper if necessary. Start by placing your cheeses. Next add anything in bowls. These will be anchors on your board so be sure to space them out.

SECOND: Next add in the meats, and large items and fruits.

THIRD: Add in the crackers making sure to space out the different kinds and placing them close to the meats and cheeses that pair best with them

FOURTH: Fill in the gaps with nuts and fresh herbs as garnishes!

The garnishes I place on my cheese boards are more than just pretty, I tuck fresh herbs in the transition spaces for two reasons.

  1. To break up items that have similar colors or textures to make them stand out more. This is easy with the fruit and nuts.
  2. To keep wet pickles and olives away from my dry crackers. No one wants a soggy cracker using too many bowls on the tray makes it look like a condiment stand at the local fast food joint.
overhead picture of charcuterie platter with meat and cheese and nuts

TAPAS TIPS & TRICKS

  • If you are having cheese that needs to be sliced or chunked off a block make sure you have knives to do that and a little space for the slicing to take place.
  • If you don’t have a board big enough? Make it on two separate boards and just put them next to each other!
  • I lined my platters with parchment paper for sanitary and easy cleaning, but feel free to use plastic wrap or foil.
  • If you are doing a small cheese board, I would stick with one good one.
  • If you are assembling ahead of time and some things need to be kept cool before adding to the board, try adding placeholder items like empty bowls or glasses in the spaces where they will eventually go.
  • Just remove the empty vessel and add your bowl of mustard or cheese spread when ready to go.
  • Wash your fruits ahead of time and have them ready to add to the tray.
  • The pickles and other items that are not going in bowls you can store in small zip-top bags on the trays in their designated spots and then empty onto the tray when you are ready to chow down.
  • If you use two boards, they look great together or on their own in separate areas of the party. If the two separate trays look TOO thin, you can always combine the uneaten items onto one tray and “fluff” it up again as the party continues.
  • Rule of thumb is to use 4-5 pieces of meat and cheese per person per hour.
alternate setting for cheese board

TRAVEL TIPS

  1. Will the food slide off the sides when I carry it?
  2. Can I assemble it at the party or does the host not let people in their kitchen?
  3. Will the plastic wrap or foil you are covering it with actually stick to the board and not let crackers escape?
  4. Will this board actually fit in my car or will I have to strap it to the roof of my car?

In this instance, having it in two separate trays allows for easy carrying, easy covering (even though plastic wrap doesn’t stick to wood), and at the party, I can separate it and put them in two different locations in the room so we won’t have an appetizer traffic bottleneck.  

Use what you have and get creative. In the past, I have used a cookie sheet, a three-tiered cupcake stand, and even the bottom of a cardboard box. Nothing is off limits here!

*I usually cover my serving trays with parchment paper before I put food on them because they can be a little unsanitary after hanging out in my storage closet.*

If you love this recipe as much as I do, please write a five-star review in the comment section below (or on Pinterest with the “tried it” button – you can now add pictures into reviews, too!), and be sure to help me share on facebook!

collage of cheese boards

Now that I have armed you with some basics and a few tips in this cheese board tutorial, go forth and make a delicious cheese platter for your next party!

When you make one be sure to tag me on social media with @TakeTwoTapas #TakeTwoTapasCheeseBoard so I can see your creations and send you some virtual props:)

OTHER PARTY TUTORIALS

OTHER PARTY PLATTERS TO MAKE

@TakeTwoTapas.com. Content and photographs are copyright protected. Sharing of this recipe is both encouraged and appreciated. Copying and/or pasting full recipes to any social media is strictly prohibited.

Joyce

Thursday 1st of April 2021

LOVE Take Two Tapas! Bookmarked it for sure!

This site is filled with all sorts of much needed information, not only for the new entertainer, but also for those who have been entertaining for years, or for those who bring a "board" of any kind to a host's home. Whether you bring a tray or serve a tray at your home, you will be the bomb!

The "pandemic" is winding down - I hope, however buggy season with the no-see-ums is upon us so I'll be entertaining indoors - I found this site just in time.

Before I close, I have a question, the tray that you show - the one with the higher sides (so nothing falls off of or out of the tray)...where did you get it? I like it a lot!

Jennifer

Thursday 1st of April 2021

Thank you so much for reading! I love a great board and most nights that's what we eat for dinner. The green board? I got it at Home Goods a few years ago when I was looking for a tray with high sides. I was bringing food to neighbors and it kept sliding all over the car LOL.

Mica Moore

Wednesday 17th of February 2021

Awesome tips that everyone can follow through when creating a cheeseboard.

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