Five things to consider when building a charcuterie board

Picnic, grazing charcuterie boards are set to be a huge trend for 2021 – particularly now that the weather is warmer and up to six people are able to meet outdoors.

Gorgeous boards packed with colour and fancy presentations have already been spotted on Instagram, with the hashtag #charcuterieboard nearing 1,000,000 posts. Google search trends have also seen a rise in people looking for inspiration for their pretty platters.

Pottery brand Denby have been taking a look at the Pinterest perfect trend, and how to master the anatomy of a charcuterie board. I’ve included some of my own thoughts, too, based on recent brunch board builds and picnic platters.

Here are five things to consider when building a charcuterie board.

The Theme

Charcuterie should have a diverse range of textures and flavours. A traditional board is usually made up of something sliced, like cured meats, something to slice such as bread or cheese, something spreadable, for example chutney and hummus and accents which are commonly olives and crudités. By keeping this formula in mind, you can devise hundreds of unique platter ideas.

You can get really creative with your theme – from Mexican to Brunch – having a theme in mind before heading to the shop to buy ingredients will help you save money, and build a strong board. The theme could alternatively be a colour palette, such as pinks!

I recently put together a brunch board for a socially distanced picnic. I opted for fresh pastries, fruit, cheese, cakes and snacks.

Amount and servings 

You’ll want to think about your board’s ‘main event’ and build around it. You’ll also need to consider the amount of people you’ll be feeding. For three people for a ‘main meal’, it’s recommended that there are five pieces of each component – but this number will vary.

On my brunch board, I added five pastries, five types of cheese, three stacks of crackers, three Cherry Bakewells, six mini cakes, and a generous amount of fruit and pretzels. I found it was pretty much the perfect amount, with very little waste. One thing I would do next time, though, is add more crackers, as they seemed to go quite quickly.

Denby added: “Don’t be afraid to mix and match sweet and savoury on the same board, traditionally this is encouraged. The board should be packed with flavour.”

Accompaniments and pairings

Traditionally, wine is a key part of a charcuterie board. Denby said: “Red wine is usually recommended as the acidity helps to cut through salty flavours like cured meats and spiced crackers. A fruity red is also the perfect addition to a vegetarian charcuterie board, specifically Pinot Noir as its mellow tannins are the perfect companion to a creamy cheese.”

But in 2021, you can really have some fun with your choice of drink to go with your board. On my pink brunch board, I added three miniature bottles of pink gin, and brought along a bottle of pink raspberry lemonade.

Denby added: “Choosing a cocktail to go alongside your board is unconventional but refreshing. A simple Aperol Spritz helps to enhance savoury flavours and cleanse the palate. Your drinks don’t need to be alcoholic though, creating a breakfast board lends itself to a delicious fruit smoothie to start the day.”

Dietary requirements and logistics

When choosing a theme for my grazing board, I remembered that both of my friends were vegetarians. Instead of doing a traditional mix of cured meats and cheeses, it made sense to alter my theme to meet their dietary preferences. We all love cheese and pastries – so brunch seemed the perfect option to keep everyone happy!

Some people may have allergies, like gluten or nuts – and in which case, Denby recommend making several smaller boards.

The pottery brand said: “Traditionally a charcuterie board is square, to allow for the different elements to lie in all four corners of the board, this works for both vegetarian and original boards. However, if crudités are a major part of your offering, or the components are supposed to be eaten at the same time, a round serving tray could be a much more convenient alternative.”

Presentation and styling

For my brunch board, I served my food on a wooden tea tray. This was both in keeping with the brunch theme, but also meant that we could elevate the food from the ground if picnicking on the floor.

Your presentation and styling may depend on the theme of your board. Denby said: “Honey may be a key element to your breakfast board, try using the jar as a centre piece, with sweet waffles and crepes surrounding it. To add an extra element of quirk, use a traditional honey dipper for serving.

“If the gathering is a more luxurious event, think about colour scheme – a slate board and arranging the food in order of colour and size creates a sophisticated, photo worthy look. Charcuterie isn’t just for adults either, it can be a simple but effective children’s party snack. Use cookie cutters to theme your food, such as star shaped sandwiches or decorate the board using edible confetti and glitter. There is plenty of inspiration on Pinterest for you to choose from.”

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