While there really isn’t a wrong way for how to make a meat and cheese tray, there definitely is a right way! 😉 Check out some of my tips before your next party!
A charcuterie board is a thing of beauty. I mean, dude. Look at that gloriousness.
But in its infancy, it’s merely a cutting board. I mean, cutting boards are things of beauty in and of themselves.
But filled with meat and cheese and fruit… oh my!
So today, I’m going to take you through the steps I use to not only arrive at this finished party board, but to also show you how to photograph it! Because who isn’t obsessed with Instagram and all those perfect photos??
So hang tight, because I’m spilling my secrets today and you’ll want to jot down notes. Or just pin this post. That works for me too.
How to Build a Meat & Cheese Tray- Step 1
Choose your cutting board.
I know. Ground-breaking information here.
But you want to take a look at how much food you have and pick your cutting board accordingly. You don’t want to choose such a large cutting board that your food looks small.
You also don’t want to pick such a small cutting board that your food is falling off the edges and your guests have no room to cut the cheese.
Leave some space around the edges to let that wood shine through. The wood tones complement the colors in the food so well!
I chose a round cutting board for my meat and cheese tray for a couple reasons:
- I like the little ledge at the top of it. I knew I wanted a place to let the honey sticks sit, and that was the perfect spot.
- I liked the moat around the edge to catch any run-away blueberries or grapes.
- It was the perfect size for the amount of food I had.
How to Build a Meat & Cheese Tray- Step 2
If you are planning on having any mustards, olives or other ingredients that need to be contained… find those containers now.
I fill them off the cutting board and then place them where I’d like them to sit. I used mine for stone ground mustard, a jalapeno cranberry jam and marinated artichoke hearts.
How to Build a Meat & Cheese Tray- Step 3
Now it’s time to add your cheese!
Next too the ceramic ramekins for your sauces, the cheese is the ingredient that’s the least pliable.
Meaning, it really needs to be one of the first things placed on your meat and cheese platter, because it can’t really change its shape! It needs as much space as it looks like when it comes out of the package.
I tried to place my triangular shaped cheese away from each other. The same goes for the goat cheese and mozzarella slices since they both are log-shaped.
Try to mix up your shapes and colors throughout your board.
How to Build a Meat & Cheese Tray- Step 4
Now you can fill in all the spaces with the meats and fruit!
I placed the prosciutto wrapped mozzarella sticks first since they were a very distinct shape. I filled the salami slices in wherever they fit.
Then I loosely rolled the prosciutto to resemble rose buds and tucked them into some gaps. This gave some of the items a little height to match the heights of the ramekins.
Next, I used a sharp paring knife to vertically slice a pear. Then I fanned them out and used the side of a ramekin to hold them up. I knew I wanted the pear towards the middle of the board so it could take center stage.
Fill in with the grapes, blueberries and cherry tomatoes. Then garnish with some mixed nuts.
I added honey sticks to my meat and cheese tray, but you could also just fill a ramekin with honey. Just don’t forget the honey. It’s magical.
How to Build a Meat & Cheese Tray- Step 5
Everyone likes a buddy and my meat and cheese tray is no exception. I sliced up some french bread, fanned it out on a small cutting board and added some garlic olive oil.
How to Build a Meat & Cheese Tray- Step 6
You thought you were done, right?
You’re like “What is this step 6 nonsense?? We’re ready to eat!”
I know, I hear you. But you didn’t just go to all that work to not get a gorgeous shot of it! I mean come on, people. Think of the Instagram world, will ya?? We need pictures!
It stinks, though, when you live in a cave. Well, my kitchen isn’t a cave exactly. But it is dark.
Our deck is right outside the kitchen windows and has an awning over it, which means the deck is so enjoyable during the hot summer. But the kitchen is dark.
The key to my photos is these umbrella lights.
They are a life-saver on the days where:
- It’s raining. And it rained the day before and they’re calling for rain tomorrow.
- I’m running from appointment to game to schools to appointment and I don’t actually make my recipe until 9 p.m. when the sun is long gone.
- When I want to use a wall as a backdrop, but that wall happens to be in the middle of my house with no natural light.
I also use them to take pictures of my kids or dogs too! They might roll their eyes (even the dog), but the pictures always turn out better!
I usually put one light on either side of what I’m photographing. This helps eliminates shadows from both sides.
You’ll have to fiddle with yours in terms of height and angle to get the least amount of glare. On these counters, I get quite a bit of glare, so I try not to point the lights straight at them, but rather have them skim over the ingredients.
Speaking of counters, can you spot the difference between the last two photos?
Or maybe you spotted the difference in backgrounds in all the photos of the meat and cheese trays?
Our countertop is a mottled brown laminate that really isn’t my favorite. I think it’s very distracting in the food photos I take, and there pretty much is never an instance where I want to countertop to be the focal point!
So I bought a $1 piece of foam core board at the dollar store and covered it with marble contact paper! You can see in the last picture how I use it! (Yes, the chair to stand on is also crucial!).
All the above pictures where the background is marble, is really just contact paper! My total cost for this board was about $5 and it stores so easily! I just slide it behind a bookshelf!
How to Build a Meat & Cheese Tray- Step 7
Once you have your pictures (on your fake countertop, using your fake lights), now it’s time to edit them!
I usually start my editing in Lightroom and then will finish up in PicMonkey.
If you’re just doing this for fun, PicMonkey will have more than enough tools for you to play with to improve your photos. My favorite is the curve tool. Love that little brightening magic!
How to Build a Meat & Cheese Tray- Step 8
And fiiiinally. FINALLY.
Inhale and enjoy. Aaaand then share it over on Instagram using #cutthecheese2017