As an appetizer at the beginning of a party or as dessert to wind things down, a cheese plate is a beautiful and creative way to feed your guests. Putting together a great cheese plate is both an art and a science, but it’s not hard to pull off once you learn a few tricks. Here’s everything you need to know to do it right:
- Serving Sizes: Plan on roughly 1-2 ounces of cheese per guest.
- Variety: Select cheeses that are a variety of different textures (aged, firm, soft, semi-soft, blue) and made from different milks (cow, sheep, goat).
- How Many: No need to go overboard. Three to five cheeses are plenty for a great platter. Too many options can get overwhelming.
- Serving Temperature: Room temperature provides the best flavor and texture of each cheese. If you make your platter ahead of time, allow 45 minutes to an hour before serving.
- Use Labels: Mark each cheese with its name and a simple one or two word description.
- Knives: Have one knife per cheese.
- Ask an Expert: If you’re not a cheese connoisseur yourself, no problem! Ask the advice of your local deli manager when putting together your cheese platter. He or she will likely have a lot of great recommendations. Let them know your budget and then allow them to offer advice.
- Always Have Honey: A drizzle of honey balances and tames the flavor of sharp cheeses that some guests might not enjoy on their own.
- Use Plain Bread and Crackers: Avoid herb-infused or flavored breads and crackers, which can fight flavors and take away from the experience.
- Don’t Crowd the Platter: Leave a 1-2 inch gap between items on the platter to avoid getting fingers and knuckles where they don’t belong (and possibly cut!).
- Fruit and Nuts Are a Must: Break things up with fresh fruit like grapes, figs, apricots and dates as well as small handfuls of your favorite nuts.
- Sweet and Savory Sides: Jams, chutneys, olives, and thinly sliced salty meats like prosciutto are also great additions to your platter.
- Platter vs. Individual Plates: If guests are walking around, opt for a large platter from which everyone can serve themselves. If it’s a formal sit-down meal, use an individual plate for each guest.
Do you have a favorite cheese or platter tip? Share your ideas!
Image via Williams Sonoma