Have you ever looked at photos of gorgeous cheese boards and thought, I want to learn how to do that? I got you! Here is your step-by-step tutorial to make swoon-worthy, epically awesome, crowd-pleasing cheese boards. The ideal grazing board for parties, holidays, and even lazy weekend dinners.
Humblebrag alert: I make a GREAT cheese board. Great news alert! You can too. This is a skill that can be learned, and as far as I'm concerned it is a skill that everyone should have and master.
Cheese boards are literally the best, whether you are hosting a dinner party, a holiday get-together or you just want a delicious bite, cheese boards are my go-to, my reliable, “little black dress” of entertaining.
Let's get to it!
WHAT YOU NEED TO MAKE AN EPIC CHEESE BOARD
STEP ONE: SELECT THE CHEESE
I recommend choosing at least 3 different varieties of cheese. If you are feeding a large group of people you can increase that to 4 or 5 varieties. Ideally, you want to choose cheese from different categories that offer a wide variety of taste and texture.
Quantities: I shoot for 2 ounces of cheese per person, or if the cheese board is the main event 4-6 ounces of cheese per person.
WHAT ARE THE BEST CHEESES TO INCLUDE ON A CHEESE BOARD?
Choose cheese from the different categories,
- Hard or Firm Cheese – Hard cheeses have the lowest moisture content of all the cheese. They tend to have complex flavor profile, and are truly some of my favorite cheeses. Parmesan, Pecorino, and Manchego are examples of hard or firm cheese.
- Semi-hard Cheese – Semi-hard cheeses have a slightly higher moisture content. Some of my favorites are Gouda, Edam, and Cheddar.
- Soft Cheese – Higher moisture content, these are creamy and luscious and oh so delicious. Brie, Camembert, Fromager D'Affinois, and goat are some of my favorites.
- Blue – Not for everyone but definitely for me! You can choose a mild blue like gorgonzola dulce
More Cheese Tips:
- Know the crowd – If you are hosting a party of adventurous eaters and true cheese lovers go adventurous! If you have a crowd of traditionalists make sure you have several “crowd-pleasing” types of cheese on your board; cheddar, mozzarella, and mild gouda are all good options.
- Abra's Favorite Cheese Picks – Here are a few of my current favorites, but I am an adventurer so I will often choose cheese that I have never had before. Lean on your cheesemonger, ask questions, tell them what you are making and how large your crowd is. Find a local cheese shop in your area and become a regular customer. Black Pepper Pecorino, Cypress Grove Humbolt Fog, Vermont Creamery Coupole, Meredith Dairy Marinated Feta, Cypress Grove Truffle Tremor, Jasper Hill Sherry Gray, Prima Donna, Neal's Yard Cheddar, Grubb Family Cashel Blue, Parmigiano Reggiano
- NYC best cheese shops – Murray's Cheese – Bleeker Street or Grand Central, Calandra's Cheese – Arthur Ave. Bronx, NY, Bedford Cheese, Lucy's Whey, and the cheese counter at Whole Foods (most of the time).
- Where should you buy cheese? If you aren't local to NYC find a local cheesemonger or a cheese shop in your area. For affordable good cheese try Trader Joe's or Aldi's. Most supermarkets have a decent selection and some world-class cheese shops ship nationwide!
STEP TWO: ADD CHARCUTERIE (CURED MEATS)
Choose a variety of meats, prosciutto sliced paper thin, hard salami, thinly sliced mortadella, and sopressata. I like to choose meats that are different shapes to fill out the board.
STEP THREE: ACCOUTERMENTS ARE KING!
This is the step where most people fail. Cheese boards need more than crackers. If you want to achieve epic status you must lean into the wonder of accouterments, all the little bips and bops, fruit, nuts, olives, pickles, spreads, and jams. Variety, variety, variety.
- SALTY – Olives (necessary), pickles, olive tapenade, pickled peppers, pepperoncini, peppadew peppers
- SWEET/ FRUITY – I always have a varitey of fruit, grapes, apples, pears, pomegranate, sliced oranges, berries, and fresh figs are my favorites. I also love dried fruit, dates, dried figs, dried apricots, dried cherries.
- NUTTY – Nuts and cheese are the perfect accompaniements – marcona almonds, pistachios, cashews, spiced roasted nuts, seeds, choose a variety
- MARINATED – Sun-dried peppers (not tomatoes or we can't be friends), marinated artichokes, roasted peppers, roasted and marinated tomatoes.
- JAMS/ SPREADS – It's lovely to have jams and spreads to pair with cheese. Fig jam, apricot mostarda (a cooked fruit jam spiced with mustard), honey, honeycomb, hot honey (I love honey), and lingonberry jam are all great options. Here are some epic pairings
- Pecorino + a drizzle of honey
- Manchego cheese + a drizzle of hot honey
- Gorgonzola Dolce + fig jam
- Triple Cream Brie + Ligonberry
- Goat Cheese + apricot mostarda
HOW TO ASSEMBLE A CHEESE BOARD
Watch my one minute video tutorial!
STEP ONE: Choose your board. I have made cheese boards on just about any flat surface I have found. Cutting boards work perfectly, slabs of slate or marble are lovely. I've even used large tile samples that Jordan had lying around. Do not feel like you have to go out and buy something special as your base, you can literally use anything.
STEP TWO: Place your cheese on the board. I like to “start” each cheese by cutting off a few pieces. Don't be too precious about this, it should look organic. Irregular shapes are great. I typically place one cheese in the center and the other cheeses fairly equidistant from the center.
STEP THREE: Create a prosciutto river down the center. Ok this part is optional, but I like to arrange the thinly sliced prosciutto down the center of the board in a “river” like fashion.
STEP FOUR: Line the sides of the board with the thicker heartier meats to create a border.
STEP FIVE: Pair complimentary accouterments with appropriate cheeses. i.e. create little tasting areas on the board that make sense – here are some suggestions:
- Blue cheese – Fruit, fruit spreads
- Parmesean – olives, pickled items, prosciutto, sun-dried peppers
- Cheddar – hot pepper jelly, nuts
- Goat Cheese – honey + marcona almonds
STEP SIX: When you think you are done, fill the board MORE! This is the most important step! A truly epic cheese board is overflowing with goodness. Fill in every nook and cranny with something exciting and delicious.
MORE EPIC CHEESE BOARD TIPS:
- Crackers + Baguette – Use a variety of crackers and a sliced baguette, sometimes this doesn't fit on the board and is perfectly acceptable to be placed in a nearby basket or board all on its own.
- Think of the build as an art project – This is my opportunity to truly get creative and I have improved dramatically through the years. Confession: this year my brother-in-law suggested we just “order a cheese tray from the market”, my heart sank! But I LOVE making the cheese board, I cried. I know he was being helpful and wanted to take something off of my plate, but I truly love the creative process of cheese board making. If you aren't creative, just follow my steps and your cheese board is sure to wow!
- Layer, layer, layer – Sprinkle a few pomegranate seeds on top of the goat or triple cream cheese. Drizzle honey on a cheese, adding layers of flavor and texture to create something wonderful to both look at and enjoy.
- Fresh herbs – Grab fresh rosemary, thyme, and fresh bay leaves to line your board. This year I was able to snip raspberry leaves from my raspberry bushes (OMG, BEST SENTENCE I'VE EVER BEEN ABLE TO WRITE!), and line the board.
- Think outside the box – My favorite part of cheese board making is perusing the produce aisle for new and exciting things to add. Oranges with leaves and stems, YES! Mini pears, small artichokes, persimmons, are all special items that you can scatter about for beauty.
- Bring cheese to room temperature – The cheese should not be served cold. Allow cheese to hang outside of the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes prior to serving.
- Veggies – Depending on the occasion I may add veggies and appropriate dips (as in photo above). For Thanksgiving I prefer to make a lighter cheese board with veggies and fall-inspired dips and just 1 or 2 cheese options.
Epic Cheese Board
- Hard cheese: Parmesan, Pecorino, Manchego
- Semi-hard cheese: Cheddar, Gouda, Havarti
- Soft cheese: Goat cheese, Brie, Camembert, Robiolo
- Blue cheese: Gorgonzola, Roquefort, or Stilton
- Fresh or dried fruit
- Honey or jam
- Olives, peppadew, pickles, or peppronicini
- Nuts and seeds
- Crackers and baguette
- Position your cheese on the board.
- Slice some of the cheese and chunk of pieces of the harder cheeses. You can leave some portions whole, just begin the process so it's easier for your guests to eat.
- Line the border of your board with harder meats and create swirls of thinly sliced meat around the board
- Fill in all of the other areas with nuts, fruit, spreads, and olives. Drizzle some honey on some cheese, scatter some pomegranate seeds on top of the cheese. Fill in areas with fresh herbs. Place cheese knives in cheese and serve!
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