If you walk into a party and see people clustered together at the food table, it's likely they're hovering over a cheese platter. Cheese platters are an easy way to make hungry guests happy and also encourage conversation - everyone likes to talk about how much they love cheese.
Cheese platters can be simple or elaborate, depending on what type of party you're throwing and how much money you want to spend. Either way, the cheese platter should be the least stressful part of planning your party. Buy a few interesting cheeses, arrange them with tasty garnishes like fruit, nuts, cracker and cured meat and you can't go wrong.
Do you want to serve inexpensive but crowd-friendly cheese, high-end artisanal cheese or maybe a combination of the two? Whatever you decide, keep in mind these basic tips:
- A selection of 3 to 6 different types of cheese offers a nice selection without being overwhelming
- Select cheeses that have different flavors and textures
- As a general guideline, each person will eat 2 ounces of each cheese. If you're serving lots of other food or serving the cheese at the end of a meal, it's usually safe to assume people will eat only 1 - 1 1/2 ounces of each cheese.
- Read more about how much cheese to buy for a cheese platter
- Specific cheese suggestions for platters
Cheese can be served on anything from a dinner plate to a serving platter, to a plastic tray, to a wooden cutting board, to a cheese dome, or a slab of marble. Be creative!
Unless you're serving the cheese cubed or already sliced, cheese knives should accompany the platter so guests can serve themselves. If you don't own decorative cheese knives, simply use steak knives (or a cheese plane) for hard cheese and butter knives for soft cheese. Ideally, each cheese has its own knife, but similar types of cheese can share the same knife if necessary. For example, Gouda and Cheddar can share a knife but you don't want vastly different cheese flavors co-mingling, such as blue cheese and Manchego.
Guests always appreciate it when each cheese is identified with a cheese marker. Plus, it relieves you of the responsibility of having to tell guests over and over again what type of cheese is on the platter.
- Place the cheese on the platter first, then fill in the open space with garnishes. On a circular or square platter, fill the middle of the platter with a garnish (like fruit) and place the cheese around the perimeter. On a rectangular platter, set the cheese in a row with a few inches of space between each cheese (you can fill the space in with a garnish)
- If you're serving a wedge of cheese that has rind on three sides, cut the rind off two sides so guests can easily cut a piece of cheese to eat. If you're serving a small wheel of cheese (like Camembert or Mt. Tam) cut out a small wedge so guests know how the cheese should be cut.
- If you're serving more than three types of cheese, all of the cheese doesn't have to be displayed on one platter.
- If you're serving individual cheese plates to each person, then you'll want to arrange the cheese mildest to strongest. If you're serving one large platter of cheese, don't worry about it.
- Throughout the party, check the platter to make sure it isn't in total disarray.
- Watch a short video about arranging a cheese platter
Meat and Cheese Platter
Cured meat can turn a cheese platter into a meal or very hearty snack. Salami, prosciutto and deli meats like ham and turkey are the most popular choices. Other types of cured meat that pair really well with cheese are canadian bacon, culatello, serrano ham and bresaola.
Serve the meat in thin slices or rolled up, either on the same platter as the cheese or on a platter next to the cheese.
Bread and crackers are the most obvious garnishes for a cheese plate. They give people something to set or spread the cheese on and also fill people up so they don't devour the entire platter. You can't go wrong with a thinly sliced baguette - it goes with every type of cheese. Bread that has nuts or dried fruit baked into it, like walnut bread or apricot bread, also pair really well with cheese.
A simple, plain cracker won't get in the way of tasting the real flavor of the cheese, however, there's nothing wrong with offering a larger selection. Many cheese shops offer all sorts of gourmet crackers. Don't stress over which ones will go best with the cheese - just buy what sounds good to you.
Make your own crackers! Lavash Flatbread is thin, crispy and perfect with cheese
More Cheese Platter Accompaniments
- Cheese & Chardonnay
- Cheese & Pinot Noir
- Cheese & Syrah
- Cheese & Sparkling Wine
- Cheese and Dessert Wines
- Cheese & Beer
Less traditional Pairings: