Arranged cheese platter with crackers, charcuterie, fruit and cheeses on wooden board
How to Put Together an Outstanding Cheese Platter

Cheese boards are the ultimate all-purpose appetizer: Minimal effort, big on flavor, and always a crowd-pleaser.

Sure, anyone can toss a few hunks of cheese on a plate and call it a day… but to make it pretty, balanced and delicious, that takes skill. With these tips, your next cheese platter will be fantastic.

1. Selecting Cheese

Choose 3 cheeses – 4 tops – depending on the number of people you are serving. Mix it up selecting a variety of ages, milks, and textures. A soft-ripened cheese, such as brie or camembert, a hard aged cheese such as an aged Gouda, pecorino, or Parmigiano, and a soft goat cheese or a blue cheese, all are great options.

2. Crackers

Serve two or three different crackers. Often, I will buy a box of assorted crackers for ease, or pick individual favorites that I think will go well with the different cheeses. As a general rule, sturdier crackers pair well with soft, spreadable cheese – and where brittle or delicate crackers work better with harder cheeses.

3. Fruit

Choose whatever is in season. Grapes are a great choice in the fall, wedges of apples or pears perfect for wintertime, cherries in late spring, and you can’t beat fresh figs in the summer. Dried fruit works well on a cheese board, as well. Dried apricots, figs or prunes are good options; I don’t love using raisins or cranberries, which I find get lost on the board.

4. Nuts

You can’t go wrong with candied nuts, that sweet / salty combo with cheese is just plain delicious. If sweet isn’t your thing, a toasted and salted nut like Marcona almonds, a meaty Brazil nut or pistachios work great.

Blue cheese, cured meat, seeded crackers, almonds and fruit on a wooden cutting board

5. Jam

Choose a jam to go with the cheese, one that is nuanced and not too sweet. Fig jam is always a crowd-pleaser; hot pepper jelly goes particularly well with young goat cheese. Stay away from sugar bombs, such as strawberry, grape or raspberry, that pair better with peanut butter.

6. Olives & Pickled Things

Hit up the olive bar at the grocery store and grab a variety of olives, or other pickled things that catch your fancy, such as cornichons and peppadew peppers. Against the richness of cheese, your palate will welcome a contrast delivered by way of briny acidity.

7. Veggies

Adding a few cut veggies, such as celery, carrots, or fennel, lightens the board and adds a welcome crunch. Cherry tomatoes deliver a bold hit of color and are available year round, as well.

8. Charcuterie

If you like, you can add cured meat or smoked fish to the platter. Thinly sliced salami or prosciutto is a nice addition, as is smoked salmon.

Wooden serving paddle with brie, Monterey Jack cheese, pretzel crackers, round toasts, grapes and pistachios served on a concrete counter top

9. Assemble

Now you’re ready to assemble. The key is to make the platter feel ample. Of course the actual size of your board will depend upon the number of guests you are serving, but in every case, it’s crucial that the board feel abundant. It may seem as though you are overcrowding, but not only will this be more visually appealing than a sparse cheese platter, as people begin to dig in, it will hold appearances more successfully.

Start by spacing the cheese around the board or platter. I often use a large, wood cutting board, one that you can cut right on. Pair the crackers next to their intended cheese. Ditto for any jams or spreads. Olives or other pickled things that may release a bit of brine should be placed in low bowls so as not to run. Scatter the nuts, place the fruit artfully, and fill in any holes with veggies or sliced meats.

Finally, while preparing, think about your utensils. Cheese knives, spoons for the jams, toothpicks for olives, and napkins should be at the ready.

Cheese is best when served near room temperature. Compose your board and let the chill come off for a few minutes before guests arrive.

Cheers and enjoy!

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