Cheese pretty much goes with anything. Few sandwiches seem complete without cheese; macaroni is best with a coating of cheese; even apple pie comes topped with a slice of cheese in many places. Because of this versatility, making a cheese platter for an event just seems logical. It is sure to be a hit!
Cheese plates can offer refreshment as an appetizer, a dessert, or even a dinner. However, knowing what to put on a cheese plate can seem daunting. There are a few tips and tricks that can help you to create a dish that is impressive as well as delightful for yourself and your guests.
Of course, everyone you ask will have a different rule on how many cheeses to put on the cheese plate, and which ones. Most recommend 3-5, with French tradition saying to use odd numbers, but some recommend exactly four. They all recommend one of each of different types, but each uses a different list of types. The types of cheese include soft, hard, firm, crumbly, blue, aged, mild, and stinky. Very few actually recommend including a stinky cheese on your cheese plate, but if you are fond of this type of cheese, there is no reason to leave it off.
It is also recommended to use cheese from a variety of milk sources, including cow, goat, sheep, and buffalo. Each has its own undertones, which means each one has its own flavor profile and can add something different to the plate.
Generally, one should plan for 2-3 ounces of each type of cheese per person and include 3-6 varieties, although an impressive cheese plate can be made with one cheese of excellent quality and flavor.
Mix up textures to add interest to the plate – and to the palate. Choose items from several categories, including crunchy, salty, sweet, and tangy.
Every cheese plate needs some sort of vehicle. This means something to spread the cheese on, for soft cheeses, or to carry it, for harder cheeses. Some ideas for this include crackers (butter, multigrain, other fancy crackers), crusty bread, cheese straws, panforte, or similar items. Most recommend including 4-6 types.
Most cheese plates include some kind of meat. Again, it is good to mix up textures and colors. The most commonly used meats are prosciutto, hard salami, chorizo, soppressata, or maybe pate. Large plates can easily include 3 to 5 kinds of meat.
Fruit adds a fresh, sweet note to the plate. When using fresh fruit, consider using ramekins or plate them on the side, to keep any juices from running into the other items. Good fruits to use fresh are berries of all types, grapes, cherries, figs, and apples, while it is better to use dried apricots. Dried apples and bananas may also go well. Other options include lightly grilled peaches, raisins, and homemade fruit leather.
Nuts add some additional textures that go well with cheese. Bitter nuts such as almonds and walnuts go well with sweet cheeses, while sweeter nuts like pecans and peanuts go well with sharper cheeses. These can either be plain, roasted, candied, or spiced. Consider including 2-3 types.
Additional condiments and flavoring options may also be added for more interest. Seasonings like black pepper, mustard, olive oil, and honey (with the comb, for visual interest) can be set out, along with small containers of jam, pickles, olives, dips, or spreads.
Begin by choosing the plate or platter you intend to use. Suitable items can be made of glass, wood, slate (use chalk to label the items), or metal. They can be a board, a tray, or a simple sheet pan.
Set your cheese first. Position them evenly spaced from each other as much as possible. For hard cheeses or larger blocks, slice before plating, to make it easier for your guests. Then add meat to the plate. If you have as many varieties of meat as you have cheese, add one meat next to each cheese, but away from the other meats. Fill in the rest with the other items. Separate the colors to allow each to pop on its own.
When adding utensils, be sure to lay out a separate knife for each cheese. This keeps the cheeses from getting mixed.
Decorate the tray and around it with things like fresh flowers (edible flowers are even better), herbs such as rosemary sprigs, basil leaves, or parsley. Be creative with the layout and make it fun!
Not sure where to start – or how to finish? Consider some of these items to create a beautiful cheese plate.
This board is square, with divisions to allow for a variety of items. The wood does not absorb food odors, and therefore does not release smells into other foods, making this a very versatile cheese board.
This set includes 4 stainless steel knives and a holder to keep them handy.
A convenient hidden slide-out utensil tray allows you to use them or not, and gives the utensils their own section so you can fill the board with edible treats.
Made of all-natural acacia wood, this board is 34 inches long and just over 8 inches wide. It can be hung as a decoration on the wall when not being used to serve delicious cheeses and accompaniments.
Six 6×8.75-inch rectangles of slate can be used separately or combined to create a beautiful layout. The included three pieces of chalk can be used to label the items.
This 14×20 inch slice of slate is the perfect way to plate slices of cheese! Label the flavors with the included soapstone chalk and set it on any surface – the rubber pads on the bottom will prevent scratching.
A stylish hexagon of natural slate offers an attractive alternative to the standard rectangles. Brushed gold handles add a pop of color to the black background, resulting in an elegant serving dish.
This beautiful 12” diameter round plate is decorated with a band of gold inlay and is accompanied by a set of three brass cheese knives.
An elegant marble plate, 12” in diameter, comes in six beautiful options, of which one is this off-white plate. It is hand-crafted and made to last.
16” x 8” piece of olive wood is a beautiful way to serve a cheese plate. This natural wood piece has uneven edges, making it an interesting background.
This round acacia wood set includes a center marble inset and a drawer that holds three utensils for cutting and handling the cheese.
100% acacia wood serving tray contains internal magnets to hold the stainless steel cutlery in place during storage. Perfect for a small gathering.
This 12-inch board has a middle row of wood bordered by marble. Sturdy and beautiful, this board is a great starter board for small gatherings.
This unique board is a slice of agate with gold-plated edges.
Kraft paper flags on toothpicks are perfect for labeling your cheeses, jams, dips, and spreads on your cheese plate!
Tiny speech-bubble chalkboards allow you to easily mark your items (with the included chalk) in a way that will be noticeable and whimsical.
Bright green grease resistant paper leaves add a bit of color to the cheese plate while it protects the plate and the food from each other.