How to Create the Perfect Cheese Platter

What cheeses to buy―and how much―to create a delightful and delicious spread.

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Who doesn't want an excuse to sample new cheeses from a lovely cheese board? The part that takes some thought is figuring out which cheeses to pick. Obviously, you want to include the most delicious or intriguing cheeses you can find (goat cheese is always a great option) and to give your cheese platter variety. Including lactose-free cheese or the healthiest cheese may be important, too, depending on your guest list.

Whether you've never crafted a cheese platter, or you're a pro just looking for more ideas, this guide will teach you the best strategy for a perfect cheese platter. Here's how to create the most inviting cheese board possible.

Include a Variety of Textures and Flavors

Serve at least one familiar cheese like Gouda or Brie. Then choose at least one from each of the following categories:

  • Aged: Aged Cheddar, Comte, Goat cheese, and Gouda.
  • Soft: Constant Bliss, Camembert, and Brillat-Savarin.
  • Firm: Manchego, Mimolette, and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
  • Blue: Gorgonzola Dolce, Valdeón, and Stilton.

Another option is to select cheeses by the type of milk used (cow, goat, sheep). This will ensure a range of different flavors on the plate.

Make Sure You Have Enough

  • A good rule of thumb is 1 ounce of each cheese for every guest and about five types of cheese.
  • For a party in which cheese is the main event, plan on buying 3 pounds for eight people, 6 pounds for 16 people, or 9 pounds for 24 people. If cheese is one of many items being served, plan on buying 3 to 4 ounces per person.
  • If you know from experience that one type of cheese is always the most popular, purchase extra of that variety.

Add the Right Accompaniments

Here are three no-fail food pairings to add to your cheese board:

A Selection of Breads

Include sliced baguette, bread sticks, and crackers in different shapes and sizes. Vary taste and texture among the breads as well as the cheeses.

Jarred Condiments and Vegetables

Try sweet preserves or honey, tart chutneys, and spicy mustards. You might add artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, and caponata. If you have time, prepare caramelized onions, which complement most cheese plates.

Sweet and Salty Items

Try cured meats such as prosciutto and salami, or candied nuts and pistachios. Assorted seasonal and dried fruits can include figs, cherries, apples, and pears.

Arrange and Present Your Cheese Board

Spread Out Your Spread

If you want to serve a pungent, stinky-socks type of cheese, place it on a separate plate so it doesn't overpower the more delicate ones. Four or five choices are enough. Place the cheese platters and the other nibbles on several tables to avoid guest gridlock.

Set Out a Separate Knife for Each Cheese

Soft cheese spreads well with a butter knife; firm cheese might require a paring knife; and aged cheese often requires a cheese plane.

Bring Cheese to Room Temperature and Label

Remove the cheese from the refrigerator an hour before serving. (Cold mutes flavor.) Then affix a label to each cheese. You won't need to recite the names all evening, and you can jot down a few poetic adjectives describing their flavors.

Store Cheese Properly

If you shopped in advance, preserve the cheese's quality long after it leaves the store. If there are leftovers, store the cheese properly to enjoy again later.

  • Place cheese in the refrigerator's crisper drawer. Don't store it in the door, where the temperature is less stable.
  • Wrap cheese in plastic wrap or wax paper.
  • Cheese's expiration date depends on the type. Harder cheese tends to last longer than soft cheese.
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