How to build a great charcuterie board, according to an expert (and a budget hack)

Chandler Gibson


Professionally-made charcuterie board comprising cured meats, soft and hard cheeses, crackers, fruit and more! Image courtesy of Lexi’s Clean Kitchen.

Probably the only thing more Millennial than rosé and brunch, is the combination of those things with a charcuterie board, also called a grazing spread or a meat and cheese spread. An expansive spread can get costly, despite how simple or complex they might appear.

“Go to your local cheese shop or cheese counter and tell the cheesemonger that you’ve got $15 to spend and want to make a cheese board for 3 folks. The expert will guide you. We’d much rather keep people to their budget - and have them come back - than unexpectedly blow their budget and never see them again,” Kendall Antonelli said.

Antonelli’s Cheese Shop in Austin, Texas, run by husband and wife duo John and Kendall Antonelli, is an expert in what makes a great spread.

“We are both Certified Cheese Professionals,” Kendall Antonelli said in an email. “Additionally, John is Chair and Past President of the American Cheese Society and I serve on the board of the American Cheese Education Foundation. We have both judged cheese competitions.”

According to Kendall Antonelli, they decided on their honeymoon to go into the cheese business, and they’ve never looked back.

“We are coming up on our 10th anniversary,” Antonelli said. “When we opened in 2010, there were no other cut-to-order cheese shops. Providing cut-to-order service means that you’re getting cheese at its best, you get to taste it before you buy it, and you only get what you need (ensuring no good cheese goes to die in your fridge!).”

This commitment to quality, Antonelli argues, should carry over into any meat and cheese spreads you use.

“Depending on how many guests you have, we recommend 3-5 cheeses max. While variety is good, if you have too many options, you just confuse your guests, your palate, and you’ll forget what you love,” Antonelli said. “Get a variety of styles and milk types, for instance, a soft fresh goat milk cheese, a hard pecorino or sheep milk cheese, and a blue cow milk cheese. Our cheese case is laid out in that progression, ensuring that if you get 3 cheeses from different parts of the case, there won’t be duplication. For the meat eaters, I’d get 2-3 cured meats. Again, diversity ensures everyone likes something. Opt for a whole muscle like prosciutto, a course/ground large format or small format salami, and a terrine/pate/or rillettes. While most cured meats are pork, you can also vary the meat. We’ve got pork, duck, beef, elk, and boar all represented in our case. From there, the world is your oyster. I also like something sweet, salty, crunchy, and acidic. So my plates will have a variety of fresh and dried fruits and veg, pickled goods, and preserves or honey.”

A shorthand rule Antonelli also suggested was the same one used by brides: Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue. Translation: an aged cheese, a young cheese, something that you have never heard of and a bleu-style cheese.

If budget is a primary concern (as it usually is), here’s a hack. Go to the Swoop-N-Go and, using your meal plan, buy several of the Hillshire Farms Charcuterie Trio packs (the grown-up Lunchables), and put them on a plate with some fresh fruit and some local honey.

“I always see the cheese boards and stuff on Instagram, but I never thought about making one, you know?” UT Tyler Pharmacy student Julissa Gonzalez said. “Also, I’m lactose intolerant, so whenever I see them I’m like ‘yes!’ but my stomach is like ‘no, you idiot!’”

Gonzalez loves cheese, and tries to focus more on the charcuterie part of the charcuterie board (the cured meats, so to speak). She goes on to say that she sees the premade party platters with the cheese cubes and the pepperoni in the grocery stores, so if Walmart can do it, she can probably do it better.

Meat and cheese spreads, whether you own a cheese shop in Austin or resist the temptation in Tyler, are economical, beautiful and an easy way to class up your night. You can use things from around the house, from water crackers and brie to guacamole and salsa--you base what you use on what you have.

Sit around inside your dorm, nosh on cheese and fresh fruit and watch everyone on Snapchat totally not social distance and put our health and college opportunities in jeopardy.

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