Have you caught the charcuterie bug? If you're into pretty tables and beautiful meal presentation, you need one of these boards.
A few years ago I became enamored with this decorative food tray. In fact, I requested one for Christmas. I don't make many gift requests, but my father-in-law has a wood shop, and my husband is pretty handy in his own right - that charcuterie board was sure to be mine!
There are a few considerations in making a charcuterie board. If you're considering a DIY charcuterie board project AKA "homemade", you need to know what kind of wood is best to use, how big to make it (things to consider before building), and how to seal the wood. Read on on how make your own wooden charcuterie board!
If you're new to charcuterie, check out Charcuterie Board Hacks for fun tips on using your board!
If you're looking for charcuterie board plans and patterns, I have located some sources below.
Best kind of wood types for charcuterie boards
Hard woods like oak, hickory, red elm, ash, are the best woods for charcuterie boards. Avoid materials like cherry and walnut; although pretty, food will stain them easier, but more important they will ding up easier and be marked by any utensils that come in contact with it. Also consider staying away from soft woods like pine, cedar, or poplar wood.
It's not the worst thing in the world to use walnut, for example. A few dings give the wood character. Traditionally, hard wood species (walnut and cherry are considered hard woods, but with softer characteristics) are the woods to use on these types of projects. Just know that going in, to expect more surface damage due to the soft nature of some woods.
Wood selection in concern to food safety is critical when it comes to wood cutting boards. The Bob Vila site says that "open-grained woods (pores visible) such as oak and ash are a poor choice because they soak up moisture like a sponge and quickly become a breeding ground for bacteria."
Wood cutting boards and charcuterie boards have two different purposes. Wood selection for food safety is very important for cutting boards where the wood is continuously being beat up, opening the wood pores for bacteria to enter into, and being in contact with raw meat and juices.
The charcuterie board usually holds cold food. This can mean cold cuts of meat directly in contact with the board, but it's just on the surface. I place decorative bowls on mine and the food in the bowls; it's rare that food touches the surface, except for a few strewn nuts and candies. Always be sure to follow best food handling practices, don't leave the food out too long, and wash the board thoroughly afterwards.
Preparing the wood for the charcuterie board
My husband used a red elm, it was just a scrap that happened to be laying around. The wood was not kiln dried. For anyone out there who does not know about kiln drying wood, it removes moisture from the wood but also kills any bugs living in the wood. These bugs can bore holes in the wood.
Inspect wood for signs of insects
It's very important to inspect the wood prior to use to make sure there are not sign of bugs living in the wood. The wood we selected was on type of a pile in an old shed. I do recall that someone wanted a scrap for a fireplace mantel that was in the dirt at the bottom of the pile. We gave it to the friend, I think he had it kiln dried, and there were still bugs in it afterwards.
For everyone's peace of mind, there are no signs of bugs in my charcuterie board that is now a few years old.
Plane the wood and remove bark
Rough boards have to be planed down to removed wood fibers for a smooth surface. "Planing" is a method that scrapes away the high peaks on the wood, smoothing it down to one thickness. A planer is a machine that smooths out the wood nicely, although hand planing can get the job done as well.
Charcuterie board thickness
We guessed at how thick the board should be. Ours is about 3/4" thick. I like it, it feels and looks right on that size of board (5' x 10"). When determining the thickness of your board, keep the size relationship in perspective. A thinner board may look odd at this size of board, a small, pizza-size board might appear overly-thick. Note the thickness of the board in the featured article at the top of this page - it appears a bit chunky, but probably more than 3/4" inch.
A few people have asked if they can leave the bark on a charcuterie board. The bark on a charcuterie board will come off in the planing process. Even if you desired the bark to remain, it would naturally fall off with use. In addition, the bark is not the most sanitary edge to serve food on or easy to keep clean.
Charcuterie board shape
This article just covers a very simple and rustic, long and narrow charcuterie board. Just be aware that charcuterie board shapes are only limited by the imagination. Craftsman have made round, fish-shaped, a butcher-block style board, tree-shaped, long-handled charcuterie boards
Determining the size of a charcuterie board
The charm of charcuterie boards is often the beauty of the natural edges and knots in the wood. You can choose to leave and enjoy this rustic look, or make uniform, manufactured sides with any choice of decorative, routered edge.
If you're making your own charcuterie board woodworking project, here's your chance to make a large, long board, or extra-long to your liking. A big charcuterie board can make quite a design statement on your holiday or party table!
Choice of charcuterie board length and width
There are some important measurements to consider when determining length and width of your charcuterie board. If you expect guests to be seated at the far ends of a rectangle-shaped dining table, there must be room for them to eat.
When my harvest table is fully extended, it is just over 9' in length. My father-in-law made my charcuterie board 5' long. This only leaves 18" of space on each end for a place service with tableware with two table leaves in, or 25" of space with all three boards in (I have a big harvest table). I think 4' would have been a better guess (see why below). The board only works with my harvest table is fully extended. That's OK, because our charcuterie board is intended for big family events.
If you have a smaller table, or a fixed length table, then shop for (or make) a charcuterie board that is 36" shorter than the table. This will leave enough space for the people sitting at the end of the table to enjoy dinner in their space. Custom large charcuterie boards for sale can extend to large sizes; most for sale are 3' or under to accommodate smaller tables.
The width of the board will be determined by the natural width of the wood. If you're going for the rustic, uneven edge look, it's the width you are left with after planing. My charcuterie turned out to be about 10" wide. This is a nice width that leave plenty of eating space on either side of it. My dining table is 41 1/2" wide, leaving about 15" of space for each dinner place setting.
Keep the widths in the charcuterie in mind if you are making pre-determined, uniform sizes.
Honestly, I would put a test board down with a place setting and see how you feel about the space. I raise my charcuterie board up on cans, and then have other food on the "lower" level of the table. If you're going to do this, realize that all of a sudden, the end of the charcuterie board will kind of feel like it is sticking in the person's face it it's too close.
One last thing, you might be interested in adding a lip to your charcuterie board, mine does not have one. I have a cutting board with a deep lip, and it is a joy to use when cutting juicy meat or a juicy watermelon! It really depends on how you plan to user your charcuterie board.
Charcuterie board plans and patterns
As far as charcuterie board plans or patterns go, I can't offer you any. It's easy to see that this was a pretty simple project. However, check out Ted's Woodworking - that guy has a a staggering 16,000 woodworking plans! If you're into woodworking, it is an absolute playground for any woodworker.
I did locate Wood Work 101. The guy's name is Rich, and he is so darn personable in his videos. He had a really unusual charcuterie board and he's also into butcher blocks and cutting boards and all sorts of other things for the home. I almost missed the charcuterie board, scroll down the page to "Unique Home Items" and you will see a photo collage with the board in it. The first video on the page he's showing a little side table with a secret door, it was cool.
This would apply to either one of these woodworking sites, but one of the testimonials was a woman saying she purchased the woodworking system as a gift for her husband. I seriously would have never thought of that. My husband made a set of side tables and matching desk many years ago and was inspired because the plans were simple enough (although he never made anything before). Ted and Rich are basically saying that anyone can do this. It's not a personal endorsement, but their (impressive) products are geared for beginners.
Other charcuterie board size options
You can always go the route of having an assorted size of charcuterie boards to fit your table. Different shapes add interest to the table landscape and don't limit you to using one large board because of the size of the table.
Sealing the charcuterie board wood
The last step in finishing a charcuterie board is sealing it. Sealing reduces staining of the wood from food; therefore, charcuterie boards should be sealed. I want to point out that the wood is left in its natural state before sealing (do not even think about applying stain to color the wood - you can't do this if food is placed on the wood).
Some people refer to the practice of sealing wood as "finishing" "protecting" "oiling" or "seasoning" or "conditioning" "waxing" "coating" or "treating" the wood. All of these terms simply mean to wipe on with a cloth a protective finish that will soak into the wood and offer some protection.
To seal a charcuterie board, use mineral oil. Mineral oil is considered food grade and safe for serving food on. If you've ever seen wood salad bowls or wood cutting boards, mineral oil would be the choice of sealer on those products as well, which makes sense.
Butcher block sealer or food-grade mineral oil can be purchased off of Amazon. I haven't seen any official "charcuterie board sealer." If you find any, it's probably just mineral oil!
The charcuterie board should be periodically resealed with mineral oil when the finish seems to be thin, or not protecting the board as it should.
Sealers to avoid on a charcuterie board
These sealers are considered toxic and should not be used to seal a charcuterie board: avoid varnish, polyurethane, linseed oil, and some epoxy resin brands. NONE OF THESE SEALERS ARE FOOD GRADE SAFE.
There are some food grade epoxy resin brands that have been approved as food safe. According to Art Resin, "resin is only considered safe for food contact once it has fully cured." Of course, read labels carefully. Art Resin also points out that the resin must be FDA compliant in the United States - each country has its own set of regulations.
Do not use natural products to seal the charcutier board, such as vegetable oil or olive oil, as natural products can become rancid.
Adding finishing touches to the charcuterie board
You might want to consider adding non slip buttons on the bottom to keep the charcuterie board still on the dining table or countertop. Mine does not have that feature. I usually use tablecloths - those add enough friction to stop anything from moving around, but I can see where it would be a problem.
Handles are a nice addition. Imagine how difficult it would be trying to move a slab of wood around with food on! As I said before, I place my board on an already decorated table, and then place the food on that. There is no way I am moving a board that size around packed with food. To get an idea of the type of food and layout on these boards from popular charcuterie board books.
Finally, if you own a wood burner, you can burn your name into the wood that you made it OR burn something into the wood signifying it as gift. You could also take the board and have someone laser a special message on to it for a nice, finishing touch.
Cost of making a charcuterie board
The benefits of making your own board is that you can get a authentic, rustic look. "Live edge" or "natural edge" is a desired finish that incorporates the natural edge of the wood into the design. If you're looking for a large, extra-large, or even giant charcuterie board, making it yourself may be your only option.
If you're on a budget, making your own charcuterie board is not that hard and can save you money. My board was free from lumber on our farm. If you're handy in the woodshop and have a local source, you can either buy a raw board or barter with a friend to obtain one. Charcuterie boards can get expensive pretty fast, especially when built so beautifully that they are works of art. Crafted charcuterie boards range in price from $40 to over $100, dependent on complexity and size.
I must say, overly-large charcuterie boards can be a topic of conversation - they are quite the novelty! In addition, you can buy very fancy boards that may be be comprised of individual boards joined together, especially for "cheese boards."
If you don't have the skills, you can buy a charcuterie board from a local craftsperson near you, or online from places like Etsy.com. There are a wide arrange of styles and shapes to choose from! Charcuterie boards have become so popular that you can find them at grocery stores, next to the meats and delicacies to go with them.
Making your own charcuterie board is a great do-it-yourself project, or a gift for others. My charcuterie board has already provided great memories of family meals spent together. In addition, it means a great deal to me because my husband made it.
Good luck with your own charcuterie board project! Don't forget to check out Charcuterie Board Hacks for fun tips on using your board!