If you want to make a genuinely memorable charcuterie board, you need to choose your meats wisely. Many different types of food can be used for this purpose, but not all of them will result in the same flavor or experience.
As someone devoted to the carnivore lifestyle, I have tried almost every type of meat there is. And I have used that experience to describe my favorite items for charcuterie boards.
- More than just a cheese board, a charcuterie board is an appetizer that includes meats, cheeses, and other accompaniments.
- The best charcuterie meats have interesting or bold flavors.
- Choose cheeses with flavors that complement the meat and other items.
- Additional items you can include on this board are crackers, bread, fruit, nuts, and jams.
What is a Charcuterie Board?
Charcuterie board is an assembly of various cured meats and meat products placed on a wooden cutting board or platter. It is often served with bread, crackers, cheeses, and other accompaniments.
The origins of charcuterie can be traced back to the French word for fancy pork products .
It originally was a meal for peasants as it used lower-cost and less-desirable cuts of meat. They prepared charcuterie meats and meat byproducts with preservatives to extend their shelf-life.
Though born in France, today’s charcuterie boards have many Italian-cured meats and Spanish items. Smoked sausages, Italian sausage, and uncured salami are common staples to be served with whole-grain crackers and aged cheeses.
"If there is no charcuterie on the board…. …then it's not a charcuterie board"
- Chef Brigette Joseph
The charcuterie board is also known by other names. In Italy, it is called antipasto, while in Britain, it is known as a ploughman's lunch. In Germany, the term wurstplatte is used and is frequently called a meat-and-cheese board in America.
12 Types of Meat for Your Board
Without further ado, here are my favorite items for charcuterie board meats:
One of the best Italian meats, bresaola is a cured beef. It has a deep red color and a slightly sweet flavor. It is an air-dried, salted meat with a firm but not tough texture, making it perfect for slicing thinly.
2. Spanish Chorizo
Spanish chorizo is a type of pork sausage that is popular in Latin cuisine. It is made from coarsely ground pork, paprika, and other spices and has a firm texture.
The sausage is then cured or smoked. You can eat chorizo fresh or cooked.
3. Jamón Ibérico
Ibérico ham is a type of cured meat that originates from Spain. It is made from the Iberian pig, a cross between a wild boar and a domesticated pig.
The meat is cured for 12-36 months and has a distinctively yet mild flavor.
4. Prosciutto di Parma
Prosciutto is an Italian dry-cured ham made from a pig's or wild boar's hind leg. It undergoes a 12-month curing process and has a salty, slightly sweet flavor.
The texture is tender and delicate, making it perfect for thinly sliced presentations.
5. Calabrese Salami
Calabrese salami is a dry salami from southern Italy made from coarsely ground pork seasoned with garlic, red wine, and paprika. It is cured for around three months and has a slightly spicy flavor.
6. Genoa Salami
Genoa salami is a type of Italian dry salami made from finely ground veal and pork and seasoned with garlic, white wine, peppercorns, and salt.
It is cured for around four months and has a milder flavor than Calabrese salami.
Soppressata is a cured Italian salami made from lean pork and lard. It has a variety of added seasonings that can be sweet, salty, or spiced with black pepper, depending on its area of origin.
Mortadella is an Italian cold cut made from ground pork, pistachios, white pork fat, myrtle berries, and spices.
Known as the bologna of Italy, it is cooked until it forms a thick paste, which is then chilled and sliced. The flavor is mild, and the texture is smooth.
Meat pâté is a French spread made from ground meat, liver, and fat. This meat paste can be smooth or coarse in texture and flavored with spices, herbs, or wine.
Pancetta is an Italian type of bacon created from pork belly that is cured without smoking. Instead, it is cured with salt, pepper, and spices. It can be eaten raw, cooked, or used as a flavoring agent.
11. Jamon Serrano
This is a type of Spanish dry-cured ham that is made from the hind leg of a pig. Its texture is firm, and the meat has a deeper flavor than many hams.
Found in the local grocery store, pepperoni is an American type of salami. Pepperoni is made from pork and beef seasoned with paprika, garlic, and other spices. It comes in multiple levels of spiciness, so you should find the perfect pepperoni for your charcuterie plate.
Other meat options include summer sausage, any Italian deli meat, pork shoulder, organ meats, or uncured sopressata.
10 Top Cheeses for Pairing
Although you can make a charcuterie board with no cheese, I think that a variety of meats and cheeses can elevate the experience.
I aim to vary the hardness, flavor, and texture of the best cheeses I can find. I also want one that pairs well with the best meats on the board.
Brie is a type of French cheese that is made from cow's milk. It has a creamy texture and a mild, slightly sweet flavor.
Cheddar is a type of hard cheese that originated in England. Cheddar cheese is made from cow's milk and has a range of flavors, from mild to sharp.
The flavor also depends on the age of the cheese, with older cheddars being hard cheeses and hearty in taste.
Camembert is another French cheese. It is a soft cheese with a creamy texture and a mildly earthy flavor.
4. Goat Cheese
Goat cheese is a type of cheese that is made from goat's milk. It has a robust and tangy flavor and a range of textures, from soft to crumbly.
Roquefort is a type of French blue cheese that is made from sheep's milk. It has a sharp and salty flavor with a crumbly texture.
Colby is a type of American cheese found in many grocery stores made from cow's milk. It has a mild, slightly sweet flavor and a smooth texture.
Gouda is a type of Dutch cheese that is made from cow's milk. It has a mild, nutty flavor and a soft texture.
Parmesan is an Italian cheese that is made from cow's milk. It has a sharp, salty flavor and a hard, crumbly texture.
Swiss cheese is a type of cheese that is made from cow's milk. It has a distinctive flavor and a classic texture with large holes throughout.
Havarti is a type of Danish cheese that is made from cow's milk. It has a mild, buttery flavor and a smooth texture.
Other cheeses you can consider for your next charcuterie board include Monterey jack, pecorino romano, parmigiano reggiano, or cream cheese.
As you can see, there are a variety of cheeses to choose from when making your board. I suggest choosing 3-5 different types to create a well-rounded board.
Other Items for the Charcuterie Ensemble
Although a charcuterie board typically consists of meat alone or meats and cheeses, there are a few other items that you can include to make it more interesting.
Here are a few ideas:
- Nuts: Almonds, pistachios, cashews, candied nuts, etc.
- Fresh fruit: grapes, berries, dried fruit, etc.
- Jam or honey
- Roasted red peppers
- Marinated olives or green olives
- Dill pickles
- Olive oil-packed vegetables
- Breadsticks or crackers
As you can see, there are a variety of other items you can include on your board. I suggest choosing a mix of sweet and savory things that will delight everyone's palate.
How Much Meat Do You Need for a Charcuterie?
You need 3 oz of meat per person for a charcuterie you serve as an appetizer. If you make a main dish out of it, I recommend 6 oz per person.
Can You Make a Charcuterie Board Ahead of Time?
Yes, you can make a charcuterie board ahead of time. If you serve it within a couple of hours, charcuterie should be stored in a cool, dry place. If you are holding it for longer, I recommend wrapping it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and placing it in the refrigerator.
Can You Freeze Charcuterie?
Yes, you can freeze charcuterie. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap before freezing. When you are ready to eat it, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight.
Should Charcuterie Be Served Cold?
Yes, charcuterie should be served cold or lightly chilled . The colder temperature will help to maintain the flavor and texture of the cured charcuterie meats and soft cheeses.
Meat and Charcuterie Boards
As you can see, there are a million ways to create a delicious and appealing charcuterie board. Have fun experimenting with different meats, cheeses, and other goodies to create a board perfect for your next party or gathering.
Of course, good charcuterie starts with high-quality meat products. The good news is that meat delivery services will send you everything you need to make the perfect charcuterie board straight to your door. If you're looking for the best meat delivery service, check out our roundup of the best options here.