How to Make the Perfect Cheese Board, According to Someone Who Does It for a Living
Thomas J. Story
Useful tips and tricks for arranging your cheese, charcuterie, and fruit
Building a dinner party-worthy cheese board can be an overwhelming task. Narrowing cheese selections down to a few favorites, choosing local charcuteries that double as conversation starters, and making it look presentable—it’s a lot of pressure for an appetizer. But according to Sophie Speer, “gathering board” expert and owner of Ripen Co. in Oakland, following a few key rules can transform your board from mediocre to stunning. Here are her tips for getting it right.
Choose Your Cheese Wisely
When it comes to cheese, Speer suggests incorporating a range of milks (at least one non-cow’s milk), textures (crumbly, hard), and tastes (savory, sweet). She also recommends a minimum of four cheeses for a large board, so mix and match your selections strategically.
When in Doubt, Ask Your Local Cheesemonger
If you’re overwhelmed by the market’s big wall of cheese staring back at you, head to the store’s cheese counter and ask an expert for recommendations. They know what they’re doing and can lead you in the right direction. If you’re working with a tighter budget, try the selection at Trader Joe’s. “There’s no shame in buying cheese from there,” Speer says. “It’s cheap and pretty delicious.”
Add Fruits of Different Shapes
Aim for two to three types of fruit with different shapes. Think grapes, one or two round fruits like sliced apples or citrus, and small berries like raspberries or blueberries to fill in the gaps. This will make your board look rustic (in a good way) and non-repetitive.
Soak Fruit in Salt Water to Prevent Browning
Keep sliced fruit like apples from browning by dunking them in a bowl of lightly salted water before arranging them. Speer uses 2 teaspoons of salt per quart of water.
Don’t Slice Fruit into Wedges
Chunky slices are the best way to cut apples when you’re dunking them in peanut butter, not when you’re displaying them on a gathering board. Instead, cut fruit into thin slices that can fan out or cut it into rounds. It will kick your presentation up a notch but still be convenient for sharing.
Place the Biggest Items on the Board First
First, add any large items like rounds of cheese and jars of jam to your board, then frame them with non-slippery foods like sliced meats or small triangle slices of cheese. Then, fill in gaps on the board with small fruit (berries, figs), edible flowers, olives, or nuts.
Use One Ingredient in Two Different Sections
Ingredients like crackers, meat, or fruit can make more than one appearance on your board. Create two different spots for crackers, sprinkle loose olives throughout, and split up charcuterie by lining both the top and bottom edges of the board. The arrangement will look prettier, plus no one wants to reach across the table for a piece of prosciutto.
Check Out Some of Our Favorite Cheese Board Ingredients:
- Formagella by Nicasio Valley Cheese Company
- Liwa by Tomales Farmstead Creamery
- Briar Rose Creamery Butterbloom
- Stepladder Creamery Ragged Point
- Cascadia Creamery Glacier Blue
- Haystack Mountain Cheese Gold Hill
- MouCo Cheese Company Ashley
- Cassava Crackers by Cult Crackers
- Rustic Bakery Apricot Pistachio and Brandy Artisan Chips
- La Panzanella Artisanal Food Co. Rosemary Croccantini
- Hayden Flour Mills Heritage Grain Crackers
- New Beat Foods Cranberry Chorus Quinoa Crackers
- Journeyman Meat Co. Sonoma Rosso
- P. Balistreri Prosciutto
- Olympia Provisions Saucisson Sec
- Andreoli Italian Grocery Soppressata
- Elevation Meat Co. Sour Ale Salami
- Salumi Cured Meats Mole Salami with Cocoa, Cinnamon, and Chipotle
- Plum & Get It by Jamnation
- McEvoy Ranch Artichoke Almond Tapenade
- Albina City Nuts Toasted Corn
- Sisters Fruit Company Premium Dried Northwest Fruit Blend
- Heidi’s Raspberry Farm Raspberry Jam
- Streamers Coffeehouse Green Chili Jam
Fresh Produce and Ingredients
- Nuts (We love walnuts or pistachios)
- Pomegranate seeds