Charcuterie Board Hacks

Are you jumping on the charcuterie board bandwagon? Never has there been such a hot social gathering event as a party that includes a charcuterie board. As a newbie (or wannabee) charcuterie board owner, a few questions will arise.

Find topics covered below for care and cleaning of your charcuterie board, hacks for board presentation, unusual board sizes, and fun facts about charcuterie boards!

How to pronounce “charcuterie”

I’ve been tripping over that word since I first heard it (and spelling it, too). Now, it’s all over the place! It is pronounced “shaar koo tr ee.”

What is a charcuterie board used for?

Charcuterie is intended as a meat board, more specifically, fancy meat. The term goes as far back as 15th century France, translated it means “products of a fancy pork butcher.” Charcuterie boards are intended to enjoy cuts of meat, often that is cooked perfectly. Small samples allow participants to really experience the flavors without distraction of other foods.

Why have charcuterie boards gained in popularity?

Thank you very much Instagram and social media to the burst in charcuterie popularity. Charcuterie boards are very visual – perfect fodder for the Instagram playing ground. Fancy food presentation is not new, sharing it with snaps on smart phones is.

Charcuterie boards (or the close cousin “grazing boards”) offer an outlet for creativity. The arranging of the food on the boards is a work of art. I can’t help but appreciate the love and enjoyment that went into creating everything for eye appeal. Beautiful food presentation is an experience by itself!

During the holidays I get my kids to crank out just a few special hors d’oeuvres for the table – “fun food” I call it. In these busy times, it’s a non-tech way to spend quality time with friends and family.

narrow Christmas charcuterie board
Elevated Christmas charcuterie board.

What is the difference between a cheese board and a charcuterie board?

Good question! The lines are a bit blurred. Although charcuterie is intended for preserved meats, it can be any meat. Some charcuterie boards blur lines and serve the meat side-by-side with other hors d’oeuvres, fresh fruit, or vegetables… and cheeses.

The poor cheese tray has gotten bumped down a bit in the shadow of the charcuterie board craze. Cheese trays have been a party staple, often featuring a variety of popular cheeses, or paired with preserved meat such as summer sausage, making it a “meat and cheese tray.”

The charcuterie board could be considered the much, much fancier of the two. However, there are some charcuterie boards that lean to very simple few food offerings. Maybe it depends on the crowd – throwing out the word “charcuterie” board can be a nod to a more upscale, more posh event.

What is the difference between a grazing platter and a charcuterie board?

The grazing platter is filled (almost packed) with meats, cheeses, vegetables, and fruits. The charcuterie board is supposed to only be for meat. My husband had attended a fancy steakhouse  (without me!) and enjoyed a meat-centered charcuterie board. 

Think of meat as the star of the show, cooked to perfection, with everyone slowly savoring it. There is usually a small dipping sauce offered to compliment the meat. If you are a connoisseur of cooked-to-perfection meat, you will appreciate a true charcuterie board.

If you look at charcuterie board books on Amazon, you will find names used such as “boards” “snack trays” “cheese trays” etc. all featuring the intermingling of food groups. Yes, there will be purists out there. They will insist that the meat remains the focal point of a charcuterie board. I highly suspect that in real life, the charcuterie board doubles as a grazing platter for most people.

What can I use instead of a board for charcuterie?

Charcuterie boards can be expensive, unless you make your own charcuterie board. Enthusiasts no matter the budget can grab charcuterie board substitutes. Basically, any tray can be used as a charcuterie board fill in.

Optional charcuterie board trays:

Make the makeshift charcuterie board as pretty as you can, and you’re in business!

Does a charcuterie board have to be wood?

No, a charcuterie board does not have to be wood. The wood is just popular because of the crazy popular farmhouse rustic decor in the last decade. Marble makes an excellent charcuterie board, as the coolness of the material is idea for safer food temperature.

Does a charcuterie board have to be large?

A charcuterie board can be any size you want it to be. The large ones just happen to make a great visual statement, especially for large parties needing a wow factor. If you like the idea of charcuterie, welcome to the world of mini charcuterie.

Your charcuterie board can even be a tray for one! Or think of a date night with your sweetie where you can enjoy a small, but beautiful food presentation. Heck, it can even to geared to kids – they love a fun food presentation any day. Ever hear of bento boxes? Charcuterie boards don’t have to be for special events only. Fancy food presentation can make even every day packed lunches a little escape from the daily grind.

Buffet risers and tiered food displays on a buffet table – perfect for lifting a charcuterie board.

Protecting charcuterie board from candle wax

I love to use little tea candles dotted around my overly-large charcuterie board. I do put the tea candles directly on the board itself (the candles come in little metal cups). If you have a traditional stick candle in a candle holder, put some foil underneath or put on top of its own plate. It’s no fun having to clean candle was off of your charcuterie board!

If you still want the candlelight effect, but are worried of a fire hazard, opt for battery operated tea candles instead. This also makes the buffet table or dinner table safer for kids.

Do I have to put food directly on the charcuterie board?

I don’t, for the most part, put food directly on my charcuterie board, but some people do. That’s actually the expected way to present the food. I use mine more as a decoration. You can add a miscellaneous collection of small bowls and plates scattered over the board. This works well if you have a jumbo board like I have. 

Scattering wrapped chocolates or fancy nuts on the board adds visual appeal to the presenation.

How to clean a charcuterie board

If you place food directly on the charcuterie board, the wood will have to be washed (or any material used for the charcuterie board). Gently wash with water and dish soap. If the board is made of wood, avoid soaking for prolonged periods in water. This can warp the wood, erode the sealer, and raise the wood grain (undesired).

Refer to how to seal a charcuterie board for information on re-sealing your board. Basically, you will use food-grade mineral oil or butcher block sealer to seal the board. This should be done periodically, or when the seal coating seems to have worn off.

How do you elevate a charcuterie board (or cheese board)?

You can easily add a design interest to a holiday or party table by elevating, raising, lifting your charcuterie and cheese boards. The different heights of platters on a table can really bring some “oohs and ahhs.” Use any hostess trick for this:   

  • Buy buffet risers just like pros use
  • Use large food cans to stabilize the tray; toss over decorative napkins to mask.
  • Use a cake stand with pedestal to elevate a smaller charcuterie/cheese board
  • Invert a bowl with a wide flat base to use as a pedestal
  • Use a tiered display stand to begin with
  • Grab a small plant stand as a pedestal
  • Use a plastic container or bin that can be turned upside down as base
  • Keep the rustic theme and saw some log stands to any height needed or check out these decorative log slabs on Amazon

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