How To Build Three Cheese and Charcuterie Boards, From Effortless to Extravagant

With the right preparation and a few elegant additions, this dinner party essential can be made even more impressive.

Wine and a charcuterie and cheese platter, with pears nuts and olives
Wine and a charcuterie and cheese platter, with pears nuts and olives. Photo:

Tracey Kusiewicz / Foodie Photography / Getty Images

You may think you know everything you need to build a beautiful cheese board, but this dinner party essential can be made even more spectacular with the proper methods, additions and intentional preparation.

Although "boards" has become a catch-all term to describe almost any collection of hors d'oeuvres on a platter, it’s worth honing in on the description. Cheese boards at their core, feature a few types of cheeses as well as other sidekicks like crackers or bread, jams, nuts, olives, pickled vegetables, cured meats (if you eat them), and dried fruit. 

You can add any other delightful little finger food your heart desires — it goes without saying that boards are made according to personal preferences. This flexibility and ease also applies to the time and effort that goes into making them. 

At the beloved New Orleans wine bar Bacchanal, cheese boards can be found on almost every table. Customers have their choice from a wide selection of cheese and charcuterie that arrive at the table displayed on beautiful platters with homemade accouterments. Since we can't get a ready-to-go board from the cheese professionals themselves, we’ve tapped the experts at Bacchanal to give us some tips on how to build three different levels of cheese and charcuterie boards, from effortless to extravagant. 

RELATED: How to Build a Beautiful Vegan Cheese Board

Start with an Effortless Board

Building a great cheese board isn't hard at all, and the folks at Bacchanal emphasize that you shouldn’t stress out about it. “It can get kind of overwhelming when you watch people meticulously move things around so it’s all covered, but it doesn’t have to be perfect,” notes managing partner Joaquin Rodas. 

Rodas adds that the most significant part of creating any board is determining your preferences. “Ultimately, the key to building any cheese board is that it consists of things you like,” he says. 

That said, there are some rules. Natalie Petty, general manager of Bacchanal, says at a minimum, the entire board must be covered and that there must be enough accouterments so your board offers different tastes, textures, and flavors. “The ultimate cheese plate is a mountain of goodness that must be taken down piece by piece, slice by slice, olive by olive,” she says. The charm of a cheese board is both its delightfulness and ease of preparation – don’t overthink it, if you like it, it will taste good. The more you have on the board the better. 

Boost Your Board With a Few Extras

It's easy to elevate your board a few notches for a dinner or cocktail party. The key to this medium level of board is amplifying your sides. “It’s fun to add seasonal elements that can really boost your board,” says Rodas. Consider also adding more extras like granola, fruit, pickled vegetables, fancy crackers, and dips. These intentional ingredients can really add a level of sophistication to your board.

The Bacchanal experts also recommend making your charcuteries pop by decoratively twisting pieces of proscuitto and including fresh toasted bread; just a few simple details like these can make a huge difference. 

RELATED: Your Holiday Cheese Board Isn't Complete Without This Festive Addition

Go All In On an Extravagant Board

Aside from amplifying your sides with quantity and variety, going all in can also include more personal, homemade touches that can make any board next-level. Consider extras like Toasted Pepita and Ancho Chile Peanut Brittle, Tamarind-Chile Jam, or Pickled Shallots.

But if you really want to dress your board to the nines, making an extravagant build is also about setting the mood and the tone for your board. Consider the best charcuterie boards in a variety of shapes, styles, and materials and even get elaborate by pairing wines with your cheeses.

You can also set the scene with music, seasonal candles, and other accessories  beside the board itself — don't be afraid to go all out. Explore different ways of setting the ambiance with table runners, festive shaped plates, cheese knives, and more tabletop decor. Adding elements such as these helps transform your ordinary cheeseboard into one that looks and feels extravagant.

RELATED: How to Make a Fancy Cheese Board with Stuff from the Grocery Store

When it comes down to it, the most important rule in board building is to have fun with it! Don't overthink whatever extras you add. As the cheese experts at Bacchanal say, as long as you enjoy the board, it will be spectacular.

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