The best meat and cheese trays balance a variety of textures and tastes. That means your charcuterie board shopping list should include various meats, including cured sausages like salami, forcemeats like pate, and whole-muscle cuts like prosciutto. For cheese, you'll want an array of textures from soft cheese to hard cheese, plus a blue cheese like gorgonzola. You'll also want to add ingredients for complementary flavors and textures – olives, nuts, crackers and bread, fruit and dried fruit, mustard, and jams, spreads, and dips.
You can build a small charcuterie board several hours ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator, wrapped in cellophane. You'll want to set it out at least 30 minutes before guests arrive to allow the cheese to come to room temperature. For larger boards, when your beautiful and delicate arrangement might be jeopardized by moving it, you can start to build your charcuterie board in place 30 to 60 minutes ahead of time.