Abby Hocking

All the supplies you need, from boards and spreaders to knives and ramekins, to make this dinner party essential come to life. 

Elisabeth Sherman
October 11, 2017

As the holiday season approaches, chances are you’ve probably got family visiting out of town, an annual Friendsgiving party that it’s finally your turn to host, and a calendar filled with dinner and cocktail parties that at this point might seem more overwhelming than exciting. Don’t worry, we’re here to help.

One of the crucial elements of a party is the cheese plate. It greets visitors when they enter your home, laid out invitingly on the dinner table alongside a bottle of wine, and is the first sign that your party is going to be a success. If the cheese board is a hit, your status as a certified host or hostess will be solidified in the party pantheon, alongside Jackie Onassis and Perle Mesta. No pressure right?

To help you navigate the innumerable cheeseboards, knives, and other accessories out there that compliment a cheese plate, Food & Wine has gathered our picks (some of which we use in our test kitchen) for the supplies you need make this must-have dinner party appetizer a smash.

Boards:

“We usually use wood or slate boards,” Kesley Youngman, Test Kitchen Manager for Food & Wine explains. “Marble looks great and keeps a nice cool temperature, but is sensitive to acid (which will etch the marble) and can more easily stain. Wood is porous, too, but well-cleaned and oiled boards will work great.”

This is the beautiful acacia, dark wood cheese board our team uses in the test kitchen:

Courtesy of Williams Sonoma

End-Grain Cutting Board, Acacia, $100, williams-sonoma.com

This round version features sections for the different items on your cheese board, from the cheeses themselves to meats, nuts, and jams, and a pull out drawer for your knives:

Courtesy of Amazon

Picnic at Ascot Vienna Transforming Bamboo Cheese Board, $63, amazon.com

If you like the look of slate better, this is Youngman’s pick. You can also write the evening’s cheese selection directly on the board.

Courtesy of Williams Sonoma

Slate Cheese Serving Board, $45, williams-sonoma.com

Youngman says that in the test kitchen, they use this wood oil to polish the cheese boards:

Courtesy of Amazon

John Boos MYSB Mystery Butcher Block Oil, $16, amazon.com

As for what type of cheese you should decorate your board with? Youngman has the answer.

We like to balance a board with no more than four cheeses: one aged, one soft rind, and a bleu or chèvre at least. We try to use a mix of sheep, goat, and cow’s milk, too.”

Knives:

Here’s a pro-tip from Youngman about how to arrange your cheeseboard before you set it out for guests: “Never cut cheese on your presentation cheese board. Prepare your cheese then place it on your board to prevent scratching and staining it. For hard cheeses, we like to cut into slices on a cutting board, and then arrange the slices with a smaller wedge of the cheese, making it easier for folks to eat. For soft cheese (bleu, chèvre, brie, for instance), you can cut a wedge or two out for the board, or crumble a small amount [onto the board].”

Youngman says that if you have it, a dependable chef’s knife and paring knife is the perfect companion for your cheese plate. However, if you prefer to use specialty knives that work for different types of cheese, here are the best options.

For semi-soft cheese:

Courtesy of Amazon

Swissmar Lux Micarta Soft Cheese Knife, 9.5", Stainless Steel, $20, amazon.com

For hard cheese:

Courtesy of Amazon

Swissmar Lux Micarta Cheese Plane, 8.9", Stainless Steel, $20, amazon.com

Courtesy of Williams Sonoma

Wüsthof Classic 4 3/4" Hard Cheese Knife, $95, williams-sonoma.com

Spreaders:                      

Courtesy of Amazon

BlizeTec Multipurpose Cheese and Butter Spreader Knife, $19, amazon.com

Courtesy of Amazon

Wüsthof Gourmet Spreader, $16, williams-sonoma.com

Courtesy of ABC Carpet & Home

This elegant version from ABC Carpet and Home would be an eye-catching addition to your presentation.

Set of four sea shell spreaders, $45, abchome.com

Ramekins:

Use these simple containers to hold the cheese plates companion snacks: “These are great for jams, chutneys, quince paste, raw honey, olives, pickles, nuts, dried fruit,” Youngman says. “They can also be scattered over a board for a more free-form look. Don’t go overboard with cheeses or accompaniments. One great jam is excellent, no need for four.”

Courtesy of Amazon

Fine White Porcelain Souffle Ramekins, $16, amazon.com

Courtesy of Crate and Barrel

Pinch & Dash Mini Double Ramekin, $2, crateandbarrel.com

Accessories:

Are any of these extras totally necessary to your cheese board presentation? No. But they add extra flair to your party, your own personal stamp on the set up that could start a conversation or make the perfect Instagram photo that could end up making your party legendary.

Courtesy of Williams Sonoma

Chalkboard Cheese Markers, Set of 4, $20, williams-sonoma.com

Courtesy of Williams Sonoma

Monogrammed Glass Cheese Server, $50, williams-sonoma.com