Updated November 5th, 2018 – Cheese boards are the perfect entertaining dish for the busy party host. With the right know-how, it takes just minutes to throw together an attractive board. They can actually be fairly inexpensive! All it takes is some delicious crackers, your favorite cheeses, and some sweet accents.
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It’s very easy to overthink your cheese board as you’re making it, but with these tips and tricks, it can be the most hassle-free element of your party planning process. Read on to find out the best ways to make your cheese board look attractive.
First and foremost, you’ll, of course, need a board to build the rest of the dish on. Any regular cutting board you have around the house will most likely do the trick, but consider how many people you’re entertaining. If you’re making a cheese board for a huge party, you may want to invest in a much larger cutting board or even a slate board. These are usually black, which gives a nice contrast to your slices of cheese.
This slate board from Amazon comes with chalk so you can write the names next to the cheeses — a very cool touch!
Another option is to make multiple boards! Take two or three cutting boards and make individual arrangements on each, then place them in different rooms where people are mingling for your party.
I like this set of bamboo cutting boards for cheese trays. They’ve got an easy, simple look and the price is definitely right!
Obviously, this is the most important element of your cheese board! Try to get a good mix of flavors, textures, colors, and shapes. Most service delis will let you sample the cheeses before buying them to make sure you’re getting a wide variety of flavor. Keep in mind that your guests may not have the same taste buds as you do. Don’t be afraid to get something you don’t particularly like. Someone will probably love it!
If you don’t know a ton about cheese, picking up a simple cheese book will give you a crash course. It’s also a fun thing to set out at your party next to your cheese board. Talk about a conversation starter. I like this book about cheese plates. Super helpful!
If you’re feeling fancy and really want to impress your guests, head to a local shop and grab some of the most extravagant varieties of cheese available. Otherwise, your local grocery shop’s cheese counter will have all the variety you’ll need. Some even have bargain deals, which is great for cheese boards – especially for flavors that you may not personally like and most likely won’t want for leftovers.
You can usually find all kinds of crackers for your cheese board in the cracker aisle, and it doesn’t hurt to get a variety! Give your crackers just as much variation as your cheeses. Let your guests try them all and find their favorite combo. You can even add some breadsticks for extra selections.
This cheese board has a slide-out tray that holds 4 different cheese knives and has a rim for crackers. It’s pretty deluxe!
Sweet and Salty Accents
Make sure to throw some sweet and salty accents onto your cheeseboard. This adds color and flavor, and even more textures than your guests get with the cheeses. These elements also give the board a very dynamic and balanced look.
For salty ingredients, try some small cold cuts, or salted/flavored nuts. For sweet treats, grapes are always a favorite on cheese boards, since their round, shiny shape is visually appealing as it gives a stark contrast to the sharp edges of the cheese and crackers. You can also add small jars of jam or sauces that guests can use on crackers if you want an added element of flavor.
There are so many ways to go about the arrangement and presentation of your cheese board once you have all of your ingredients and the board ready to go. To keep things simple, start with the cheese. Decide whether you want to slice it up and fan out the slices like a deli platter, or leave the cheese blocks the way they are.
Both are very visually appealing, but leaving the cheese blocks as they are and sticking cheese knives into them saves you time and work, and also allows your guests to individually customize how much cheese they want. I like this set of cheese knives, they’ve got beautiful handles and look great on a board.
In terms of the crackers, keep crackers of the same variety together, and depending on how much space you have, you can either stack them vertically or fan them out horizontally. Keep them near the cheese chunks so that it’s easy for your guests to grab and pair them.
For the rest of the ingredients, simply fill up any blank spaces! You can even try to balance the board by thinking about putting even amounts of colors, shapes, and textures on each side of the board. Symmetry is always very visually appealing, but just a general balance (or no pattern at all!) can turn out to be very beautiful since all of the ingredients themselves are so varied and visually interesting. When you have the right board, the presentation becomes easy. This wood and slate board basically decorates itself!
The slate is hand cut and easy to write on with chalk, so you can easily label the cheese selections. It is hand wash only, but it’s easy enough to wipe down with soap and water and let dry, the same goes for the three stainless steel cheese knives it comes with!
Frequently Asked Questions
Are cheese boards dishwasher safe?
When in doubt, handwash!
All of these cheese boards and knives should really be hand washed, no matter what the manuals say.
Some reviews claim the bamboo boards do fine in the dishwasher, but the heat and moisture they retain can damage them over time.
The slate boards should never go in the dishwasher and are easy enough to clean with a little soap and hot water. Little bits of slate may break off and ruin other things in the dishwasher.
Can I cut the cheese directly on the cheese board?
Slate is a fairly fragile stone and the cheese should not be cut, nor should anything else, on the slate boards. The knives will scratch or chip the serving platter and ruin the presentation. A nice tip from the reviews is to rub mineral oil on the board to hide any scratches, though I don’t think this would work as well for chips in the board.
With the bamboo, the same rules apply. It is a softwood and could be damaged by the blade.
For best results, don’t cut the cheese on the cheese boards, that’s what cutting boards are for!
Which cheese knife do I use?
Each knife has a purpose and the names of the knives can make things very simple indeed, such as the spreader and the serving fork that come with the set of cheese knives mentioned above.
The spreader knife is used to spread things, like cream cheese other toppings you place on the cheese board.
The serving fork is used to serve cheese to guests.
The heart knife is easy to remember once you know its purpose. It is used as a universal cheese knife, it loves (or cuts) all cheeses.
The Chisel knife is also easy if you know what a chisel is, it’s used to chisel away at, or simply break pieces off of, crumbly cheeses.
Others are not so simple. The thin knife and the pronged knife’s utilities aren’t as easy to identify.
The thin knife is used to cut semi-firm to soft cheese, and the pronged knife is versatile and meant to cut either soft or firm cheeses, and can be used for serving guests.
Really, if the knife cuts the cheese it’s the right knife, just make sure to hand wash them and keep them sharp!
How heavy/durable is a slate cheese board compared with a bamboo one?
Both of the slate boards are about 4.5 pounds and the bamboo board with the sliding drawer is close to the same weight. The plain bamboo boards are lighter, by nearly half.
While some may think that slate boards would be more durable than the bamboo boards, they are not. There are a few reviews stating the slate boards tend to chip, especially around the edges. Slate is not a very hard stone.
Bamboo is a soft wood, so it is also a bit fragile. There have been some comments that the boards which come in a set of three are thin and easy to break if you aren’t careful. The other board, with the drawer, is apparently a bit finicky. There are reports that the drawer is almost impossible to get back in if you take it out for cleaning.
So, the slate boards are prone to chipping, if you’re not careful, and the bamboo boards will break if you’re not careful. Just be careful with them!
Is it heat resistant?
The slate boards are a little more heat resistant than the bamboo, but that isn’t the point of them. Remember it is best to use things in the kitchen for their intended purpose.
The thin bamboo boards, the ones that come in a set of three, are thin. Thin wood is prone to warping when exposed to high temperatures. This means your boards could be warped if you used them as a hot pad or something. It also means the high temperatures in the dishwasher could lead to more damage.
The slate boards are made of stone, so it should be as much of a problem. Make sure you look at the bottom of the boards though as the rubber feet may melt if exposed to too high a temperature.
Don’t Sweat It!
Even with all of these different tips, techniques, and tricks, there’s no one “right” way to create a cheese board. It’s actually very hard to mess up. Even if all of your ingredients are just kind of scattered across the board, it’ll most likely still look very presentable with a rustic, smorgasbord type of feel.
The bottom line here is that almost everyone likes cheese, and will be excited by any type of cheese board you put out. Of course, it’s a great feeling to impress your guests with a fancy, perfectly laid out cheese board. But the reality is, that design will likely be destroyed once one or more people get their hands on it!
Spend as much time as you have or want on your cheese board, but if you’re a busy party planner like most hosts, don’t sweat it if you only have time to throw it together.