Inspiration

Creating the Perfect Cheese Plate

March 18, 2021
Creating the Perfect Cheese Plate

A formula for the best result

Story Highlights

Building the perfect cheese plate is like completing a math equation. No, wait, stay with me! Once you learn the formula, you can replicate it again and again and again. And because there are endless variations of cheeses, crackers & accoutrements, a thoughtfully curated cheese plate never gets old. 

When I'm hosting friends or family, or just whipping up a casual offering for an at-home date night, I try to think through the aesthetic, the balance of flavors, and the quantity.

food tray used to transport a cheese platter, a bottle of wine and 2 wine glasses

The look

The saying really is true, we eat first with our eyes. Start with a food-safe platter or board. Think of something other than a plate. Though plates technically work fine, you're after some visually interesting colors, textures, and shapes. Many of the elements on the cheese plate are in the same color scheme (cream, cream, and more cream) and so the choice of the platter can enhance the appeal of the cheese board before you've even put anything on it.  I love slate, wood, and natural stone or clay pieces.

outdoor countertop decorated with a cheese board and glasses of wine

The cheese

First, pick your favorite cheeses. Just one or two is plenty (for six people or less, more on quantity later)! The cheese becomes the focal point of your cheese plate, both visually and gastronomically. If the cheese is aged and harder to slice, cut into it some on a cutting board and arrange some near the rest of the wedge. Tee up the cheese knife and get excited.

The balance of flavors

It's time for my favorite part: the accouterments. If the aesthetic is about visual interest, great-tasting food is about balancing flavors. Think about your favorite crave-able food combinations and why they work so perfectly: cheeseburgers with pickles, fried chicken with hot sauce, and doughnuts with coffee. A cheese plate works by the same principle. We appreciate the depth of flavor when that flavor is tamed and just slightly restrained. Unctuous needs an acidic component and sweet needs the bitter component for balance. Without the proper balance, any of these components can be overpowering.

Take this mentality to your cheese plate. Did you pick out a rich, triple-creme brie? Complement it with some tart-sweet preserved cherries. The salty and creamy Manchego is perfectly foiled by membrillo (quince jelly). When I pair blue cheese and apple mostarda I can practically hear Mariah Carey belting out "we belong together." So, pick something that balances the flavors in the cheese you bought and get ready for your cheese plate to be gobbled up.

choose crackers and olives to accompany your cheese board

The crackers et al.

Don't forget about the crackers and other complementary items. I tend to prefer plain and simple crackers that let the cheese and other nibbles shine. Add in whatever else you have on hand. Olives? Yes. Salumi? Yes. Literally anything pickled? Heck yes. Nuts? Also yes.

kitchen bar area filled with charcuterie board, plates and wine

How much cheese?

Of course, the total poundage of cheese should depend on the number of guests and the type of work you need the cheese plate to do. If standing in for a main meal, you'll need roughly four to six ounces of cheese per person. If it's simply meant to tide your guests over while you pull dinner off the grill, then I'd recommend just one to two ounces per person.

Have a wheel good time!

Cheese pun intended

To be honest, a great cheese plate is simply one that you and your guests enjoy. And sometimes it's really hard to know what cheeses will be a hit without taking risks. So don't hesitate to try new combinations! I hope you'll find some pairings that you love and you find that creating that perfect cheese plate is totally achievable!

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