Assembling a beautiful cheese board is easier than you may think. The rule is, there are no rules! Follow these easy instructions on putting together a breathtaking cheese board to share with friends. You will impress yourself and wow your guests.
I attended the NY Dairy Tour with the American Diary Association and we had the pleasure of having Clair, A Cheesemonger's Daughter, teach us how to assemble a cheese board. Did you read that!? She is the daughter of a Cheesemonger. Her father was the founding manager of Dean & Deluca in NYC. Yes, THAT Dean & Deluca. So you knew I sat took notes and listened to every word she had to say. I am sharing this knowledge with you!
What is a cheesemonger?
A cheesemonger is a person who sells cheese, butter and other dairy products, usually in an upscale grocery. They are responsible for being knowledgeable on all the cheese, giving suggestions, pairings and recipe suggestions to their customers. They are the sommelier of the cheese world.
Rules of putting together a cheese board
- Start with a wooden or slate board
- Go with an odd number of cheeses
- Have a board big enough to have room for the cheeses and the ramekins and accompaniments
I am using the word 'rules' very loosely. These rules are suggestions but sometimes you need a jumping off point to get yourself started.
How much cheese do I need per person?
This is the quid essential question when assembling a cheese board. My answer is..it depends. It depends if the cheese board is going to be served before the meal or after the meal. If the cheese board is going to be the focus of the event, paired with wine.
When I serve a cheese board as the focus of the event, such as a wine and cheese party, I like to serve 2 ounces of cheese per person with 3 types of cheese. If I expand my cheese offering to 5 or more cheeses, I serve 1 ½ ounces per person of each type of cheese.
When serving a cheese board after the meal, I go smaller and do 1 ounce of three types of cheese per person.
What type of cheese board should I use?
I love to use either a wooden or slate cheese board. There are so many beautiful shapes, sizes and types of cheese boards available. I love an olive wood cheese board for its beauty and its antimicrobial properties. Slate is wonderful because it cleans easily and does not hold flavors. The choice is up to you!
Easy cheese board assembly instructions:
Anchoring the Cheese Board.
Anchor the board with a wedge of cheeses. Cut a cheese in half, at an angle, stack it. Anchoring the board means to set the focal point of the cheese board. Often the board has the focal point in the center but I also like to have the anchor at the top. Depending on how the board will be displayed will depend on where it will be anchored. Enjoyed from all sides, center of the table? Anchor the board in the center. If the board will be served from one side, such as on a single sided buffet table, go with the anchor at the top or off to the side. Once again, these are just suggestions to get you started.
Introduce color and seasonality.
Put seasonal color and natural accents in the center to draw their eye to the center. Grapes are a great visual. Cut apples to fan them out on an angle. They lay flat this way. Small pumpkin gourds, pears, pomegranates are beautiful in the fall and winter. Fresh flowers and citrus are lovely in the spring and summer.
Add fresh herbs to a cheese board.
A lovely addition to any cheese board is fresh herbs. Sage leaves, thyme sprigs, fresh chives and bright basil leaves add an additional layer of flavor to a cheese board.
Make a flavor story on a cheese board.
Place items you want to have guests to enjoy together, near each other. Ex. Blu cheese with walnuts. Make a flavor story. Give your guests flavor pairing suggestions.
Add containers to the cheese board.
Feel free to add containers to the cheese board. Place wet accompaniments such as olives, fig preserves, juicy fruits in small containers. Set out an empty bowl for the pits of olives.
Fill in the cheese board.
Fill in the gaps with dried fruit and breads. Slice baguette on the bias to give added interest and dimension.
Bonus Cheese Board Tips:
- Think height. But not to high. Don't be afraid to go vertical with cheese and extras.
- Fresh herbs add flavor, texture and aroma to the board.
- Place the same accompaniment in different places for easy access.
- Show the guest how to slicer chip by starting the slice or chip with the knife.
Rules of putting together a cheese board:
- Cheese face should face outward to the people who are going to eat it.
- Use Room temperature cheese. ( ½ hour to an hour before you make the board)
Have a selection of cheese knives.
Each cheese should have its own knife. Don't let the knives mingle between cheeses.
What other accompaniments can be placed on a cheese board?
- Sliced baguette
- Assorted crackers
- Fig Jam
- Fruit and nut crisps
- Thin breadsticks
- Dried fruits
- Salted nuts
Should you include meat on a cheese board?
If you include meat on a cheese board, it is no longer a cheese board. It is now a meat and cheese board. This is not a bad thing! Meat and cheese pair well together. When placing meat on a meat and cheese board, be sure to cut the meat into bite sized pieces. Cheese should be whole, meats should be sliced or cut.
How to serve cheese
- Cheese should be served room temperature and not right out of the refrigerator. Allow the cheese to come to room temperature by allowing it to sit on the counter for a minimum of a half an hour but ideally, an hour is better.
- When serving a wedge of cheese, position the cut side of the cheese facing the guest. This encourages cheese to be cut from the side or center, not from the rind side.
- Don't pre-slice cheese. Allow the cheese to maintain its shape on the cheese board. If you would like, start the slicing or chipping off of cheese but don't disassemble the entire cheese.
- If the cheese is encased in a rind, don't slice it off to serve. Leave the rind in tact and don't scoop the cheese out. Rind is usually eatable.
- Serve a different cheese knife with each cheese. Each cheese has its unique taste and crossing knives between cheeses is not good for the flavor profile.