Pre-slice, cube, or quarter so each item is arranged for quick and easy serving. It might look cool to serve a wedge of cheese with a cute knife, but expecting guests to slice their own cheese on the board is cumbersome and requires too much work for party going.
Meat and cheese should be thinly sliced, 1/8-inch or so. TIP: Slice cheese in advance and refrigerate until 30 minutes before guests arrive; cheese should be cool, but not cold.
Fresh fruit sliced to about 1/4-inch, though I prefer to quarter figs. TIP: Prepare fruit closer to the time of serving and squirt lemon juice on apples and pears to prevent browning.
Berries, nuts, olives, and grapes remain whole. TIP: Remove fruit spreads and olives from the refrigerator an hour before serving to bring to room temperature for enhanced flavor.
Soft cheeses, pate, and rillettes should be served with a small knife. (We love this classic charcuterie knife set and this fun stainless steel set too.)
Select a Large Board or Platter
Select your serving board, platter, plate, or an assortment of plates and bowls. It's fine to just use a cutting board or plates. For this, I generally use one board with a few bowls or plates as needed.
Start by arranging the meats: For example, separate the individual pieces or slices of speck, salami, and chorizo sausage so they're not stuck together. I usually make small rolled "roses" or tube rolls of thinly sliced meats like speck or prosciutto and spread a long stack of chorizo sausage like a deck of cards. Arrange the meat in 3 separate places on the board for the best composition, though some folks like to put them all together, which is perfectly fine.
Arrange the cheeses alongside the meats to mirror the three-point composition. They are usually light/white in color and look beautiful next to the reds and browns of the meats. Any whole chunks of hard/semisoft cheeses like gouda and cheddar are in thin slices with each slice slightly offset, like a spread-out deck of cards. For soft cheeses like Boursin, ricotta, or goat cheese I like to serve about 4 ounces directly on the board with a small knife for serving/spreading. NOTE: If you're serving brie and want it warm, it is best placed on a separate (oven-safe) plate for warming/melting purposes and also to dress it. We like to put honey, candied pecans, and figs over and around the brie.
Fresh Fruits & Vegetables
Add the fruit and vegetables close to the cheese if the board is large enough. However, rather than overcrowd the board, it is perfectly fine to arrange the bulk of the fresh items on a separate tray or plate and simply dot the board with a few clusters of grapes.
Mustards, Jams, Chutneys
Tuck in the mustards, jams, or dips. Use small condiment cups or lay the whole spoon-full-of-mustard or jam on the board beside the items they pair with best. (A small dollop of honey right beside the blue cheese is always a hit!) I typically put the sweet dips next to the cheeses and the mustard near the meats since they tend to pair together, but they also pair well in reverse! Have a few extra serving spoons/knives available to limit cross-contamination.
Pickles, Olives, Nuts, Dried Fruits
Scatter pickles, olives, and nuts throughout the board or contain them in separate small bowls if they're prone to roll around too much. Springs of rosemary are also a nice addition for garnish.
Bread, Crackers, Crisps
Place the bread or crackers in a separate bowl or basket to keep the board neat and tidy. (I don't like crumbs on the board and don't want the crackers to get soggy if they get pushed into some jam or wet olives.) Of course, if there is plenty of room left on the board you can stack a few crackers beside the meat and cheese.
Position the board in the center of your serving area with any additional bowls of crackers or olives nested close to it. Additional small spoons, spreaders, and cocktail forks are always handy alongside the plates and napkins for serving. Now, pour some wine and dig in.
NOTE: Nutrition Facts are calculated based on all the items being consumed, which is rare, and is only an estimate. TIPS:
Slice cheese in advance and refrigerate until 30 minutes before guests arrive; cheese should be cool, but not cold.
Prepare fruit closer to the time of serving and squirt lemon juice on apples and pears to prevent browning.
Remove fruit spreads and olives from the refrigerator an hour before serving to bring to room temperature for enhanced flavor.