If you’ve ever scrolled through social media, you’ve undoubtedly seen jaw-dropping photos of colorful, show-stopping cheeseboards.
Whether it’s wedges of Wisconsin Cheese nestled amongst nuts or slices and slivers mingling amongst stunning spreads, there’s no better way to up your hosting game and take any gathering to the next level.
But where is a cheese lover to begin? With a board, of course! For all the rest…read on.
Start with a plan
It is important to start by thinking about the main event: the variety of cheeses you want to serve. Take time to consider the scene, aesthetic and spirit of the event.
Think about the size and scope of your cheese party and table, and be sure to jot down any details that might help you prepare. How many people are you expecting? This will help determine how much cheese to get.
Generally, 0.5 to 1 ounces of each cheese per person is a good ratio to keep in mind when buying cheese for a crowd.
How will the gathering work, logistically? How will you utialize the space? Will guests serve themselves or will they be served in a more formal manner? If you are including all twelve of your coworkers, you may not have space for a seated cheese tasting. That is ok! Instead, you can plan for a more casual set-up.
Is anything else happening at the party? Will you serve full dinner or is cheese the main focus? If you are planning on serving a significant amount of other food, you may want to plan for closer to 0.5 ounces of each cheese per person.
What is the context? Is this a group of people you would like to impress? Are these old friends with whom you can get super creative and silly? Are there any known picky eaters in the group? Think about how adventurous you can be with your guests. A super-stinky cheese might be no big deal in a room full of old friends, but may not be the way to make a great impression on a first date.
Do a little cheese math
Now that you have a plan in place, you’ll need to know how much cheese to purchase.
How many cheeses should you serve? This is mostly up to you! Keep in mind any space or serving equipment constraints, but otherwise go with what feels right. Three to five cheeses is always a good place to start.
Make a match
Your choice of accompaniments should pair well with your cheese selections.
Pairing picks are a great way to enhance your experience, bring out different aspects of the cheese and create a richer cheese tasting experience.
What accompaniments should you include? Make sure your accompaniments cover the following bases: Crunchy, sweet, spicy, salty, pickled and fresh. For example, an assortment might include pistachios, cherry jam, hot honey, assorted olives, pickled beets and sliced radishes.
Don’t forget to throw in something unexpected! Examples on non-traditional cheese pairings include red miso, umeboshi plums, dark chocolate and roasted chickpeas. Challenging preconceived notions regarding what is “supposed” to go together makes for great conversation, which is another essential ingredient in any gathering.
You’ve got the goods, but how do you make a cheese board look good? Aesthetically, focus more on balance than on symmetry.
Think less about the shapes or overall design you are going to make and more about your cheeses and accoutrements in terms of color.
Make sure to alternate contrasting colors as you plate, rather than keeping all of those cheesy gold tones or rose-hued meats clumped together. Try using nuts, dried and fresh fruit and olives as borders and dividers to frame your cheeses and charcuterie.
Speaking of olives, go ahead and indulge in an upgrade or two if you want to take your board to the next level. Olives always look better and stay glossy if they’re given a quick toss in some olive oil; they taste even better if you warm them up a bit. The humble raisin gains juicy confidence from a 30-minute soak in sherry vinegar, chili flakes and a spoonful of whole-seed mustard. Dried figs, plums, apricots and dates can be soaked in whiskey, brandy or port and then baked at 375°F for 20-30 minutes for a decadent addition to your post-dinner cheese plate.
Create an Illusion of Bounty
You don’t have to have excessive quantities of food to create a lush landscape. Try using a space-stealing standby, such as a bunch of grapes, as a dual-purpose centerpiece and prop. An array of cheese triangles can stand up with its assistance, or a wedge of something soft and bloomy can lean casually against those cushiony orbs.
Fill in any gaps between your cheeses and charcuterie with tasty morsels to fill in any negative space and create the illusion of a cheese board smorgasbord.
Creating vertical vignettes, such as a stack of crackers or apple chips, also lends the platter some depth.
Still feeling stumped? We put together this handy how-to video to visually break down the board building process. It’s also the tastiest instructional video we’ve ever seen.
Now that you’ve learned the fundamentals of building the perfect cheese board, find some inspiration from one of our cheese board recipes, like this Fiesta Cheese Board, this Wisconsin Cheese and Charcuterie Board, or another spread that suits your style from our selection of over 300 handcrafted recipes featuring Wisconsin Cheese. Looking for more tips to help you craft the perfect, photo-worthy spread? Check out our blogs on how to cut cheese and pairing meat and cheese.
Ready to put your skills to the test? Share your creation with us on Instagram and Facebook and become part of the largest cheese community in the world.