Building a Charcuterie Board

A charcuterie board doesn’t follow a recipe, but is instead a lesson in composition. Put together the perfect charcuterie plate with diverse textures and flavors using this easy cheat sheet.

Pickled Vegetables
Pickled vegetables complement the rich and salty flavors of meats and cheeses. Pickled items like red peppers, carrots, olives, and red onions are a palate cleanser in between bites.

Mustards and Chutneys
Mustards, made with a variety of sweet and savory herbs and spices, add complex flavor to a board. Chutney, a spicy condiment that contains fruit, vinegar, sugar, and spices can range in texture from chunky to smooth, and in degrees of spiciness from mild to hot. The sweet and spicy flavors balance the richness of the cheeses and meats.

When pairing cheese with charcuterie, it is all about opposites. One element needs to contribute a sensation of tart, citrusy, mouth-watering brightness to cut the fat and protein of the other. Charcuterie board staple cheeses are soft creamy blue, a pungent washed-rind variety, a hard aged salty cheese, a tangy goat cheese, and something sharp.

As a textural contrast, serve crusty bread, plain crackers, plain breadsticks or plain crostini. Mellow tasting items allow the flavor profile of the cheese and charcuterie to be at the forefront.

Whole-Muscle Cuts
Whole-muscle cuts of meat are shaved into slices, usually paper-thin. Common examples are lomo de cerdo, a cured pork tenderloin often just referred to as lomo, and bresaola, beef tenderloin that’s been air-dried and salted. The more popular whole-muscle cuts of cured pork legs, such as prosciutto, speck, jamón serrano, and jamón ibérico are a balance of sweet and savory.

Something Sweet
Add a sweet component like an infused honey or jam to counterbalance the salty and fatty cheeses and meats. Dried fruits like apricots, cranberries or figs are also a nice complement to a charcuterie board.

Dry-cured Meat
When using dry-cured meat such as salami or mortadella on a charcuterie board, mix it up with complementary and contrasting flavors. For example, a chorizo with a strong garlic flavor or a spicy sopressata should be balanced by something with a sweeter flavor profile, like mild and buttery saucisson sec.

Pâté or Terrine
A pâté or terrine adds texture to the typical assortment of cheeses and cured meats. Pâté is not limited to just poultry. It can also be made from a mixture of seasoned ground seafood, pork or vegetables with a combination of base ingredients, such as cognac and herbs. The grind can be smooth and creamy or on the chunky side. Terrines are often made from a mixture of meats, vegetables, seafood or fruits cooked slowly over low heat in an earthenware dish.

Rillettes are a preparation of meat, commonly pork or duck, that is cubed or chopped, salted heavily and cooked slowly in fat until it is tender enough to be easily shredded. It’s then cooled until the fat forms a paste. Serve rillettes at room temperature for spreading on bread.