Party On! Charcuterie Board Planning Tips

Shana Gardner, MAS, Operations

It's all but impossible to look up party planning ideas without tripping over charcuterie board suggestions—for good reason! Charcuterie boards offer an attractive way to present finger food that's perfect for an appetizer or a snack. Think of it as the traditional North American meat and cheese platter's big brother, the one that took a gap year to backpack around France and came home with Ideas.

Truly, "charcuterie" is a French term referring to cold cooked meats (primarily pork) that has come to encompass so much more. Meat and cheese varieties are staples of charcuterie boards, but they can also feature bread and crackers, fruits and vegetables, and condiments, among other things—the limit is only your imagination!

That being said, there are a few things to take into consideration when putting together your next charcuterie board:

Plan Ahead

  • Decide which board and/or dishes you're using and make sure that your food will not only fit on (or in) them but also that you have enough. Nothing is worse than mostly-putting together the perfect charcuterie board only to discover that you don't have a bowl for your mustard or room to squeeze in that beautiful wedge of cheese.
  • Don't be afraid to sketch out your idea. It doesn't have to be exact, but a visual reference can help you decide what to add or take away or how to best arrange the color, shape, and texture variety. Whether it's on your phone, tablet, or computer or good old-fashioned pencil and paper, it's a great way to help envision the final spread.
  • Make a list. Sometimes winging it is OK, but it can make putting together a charcuterie board difficult. Jot down alternatives in case you can’t find a component.
  • Shop early. While some common items are readily available, some specialty items may require more work. Don't plan on running out to buy everything the day of your event! Not only will you save time and stress, but it'll help you plan alternatives in case your shop is out of your favorite cheese.

Leave Yourself Plenty of Time to Assemble Your Board

  • You can't rush a good charcuterie board! The artful arrangement is almost as much of the appeal as the delicious foods in it. This is where your sketch comes into play; it can be a definite time-saver, instead of trying to remember what your vision was when you're in the middle of putting it together.
  • Plan how you're going to transport it. Whether it's across the room or across town, make sure you've got some way to make sure it arrives in perfect condition. Cling wrap is your best friend for longer distances (as is ice, if you’ve got anything you want to keep chilled), while steady hands should be fine for shorter ones—just make sure that you've left yourself a way to pick it up and set it down. Alternatively, if there’s prep space, you can just assemble it at its final destination!
  • Don't worry if it's not perfect. Especially if you're a charcuterie board first-timer, there may be some parts you wish you'd been able to do differently. Time and practice will help with this; the more you create, the better they'll become. You'll learn what works for you (and your guests) and what doesn't, and be able to adjust your components and designs more easily.

Don't Limit Yourself

  • Charcuterie boards have come to be about expressing yourself, not just sticking to tradition. For example, do you need a vegetarian or vegan option? Don't be afraid to switch out the meats and cheeses for more fruits, vegetables, and breads. They may not be traditional "charcuterie", but they still make a delicious spread!
  • Flip the script and turn that appetizer into dessert. Dessert charcuterie boards are absolute delights that deserve some time in the limelight. Whether it's an assortment or a dedicated "chocuterie" board, they're just as delightful and fun to put together as a traditional charcuterie board.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help. Some butchers or delicatessens are able to assist you with putting together a charcuterie board. Having trouble coming up with ideas? Poll friends about what they'd like to see on the board or ask them for help assembling everything. It can be even more fun with helping hands!

Charcuterie boards—in whatever form they take—are a party staple and an excellent way to express yourself. Whatever you do with them, enjoy the creation process!

Maple Ridge Farms has a wide variety of great options for charcuterie boards, ready for assembly or as a starting point for you to express your creativity.

Have you put together a charcuterie board from a Maple Ridge Farms gift? Please share it with us on social media—we’d love to see the presentations everyone comes up with!


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