Fall has always been the true gateway to the holiday season! With gatherings starting to pick up a bit more and more, it felt like the right time to share some tips and tricks for constructing the ultimate grazing board. Grazing boards aren’t exactly charcuterie boards since the latter tends to be a bit more on the savory side and always include meats. However, you get a little more liberty with a grazing board, something you can customize to fit your gathering. Here’s how!
What is a grazing board?
Before we go into further detail about making a grazing board, let’s first define what a grazing board actually is! Grazing boards are the more casual cousin of a charcuterie board. Grazing Boards make it easier to theme towards a particular event with the flexibility to incorporate more casual elements (candies, chips, Nutella, etc). While a charcuterie board is more commonly focused on a simplified spread of savory cheeses and meat, a grazing board offers a more robust spread, with a particular focus on decorating and styling. In many ways, a grazing board is much better for a larger group or a group with varied tastes and dietary requests.
How to Create the Ultimate Fall Inspired Grazing Board
While your board should look effortless and approachable, it is always best to start with a plan. Here’s a rundown of my best tips and tricks:
There are plenty of overpriced pieces of wood you can construct your grazing spread on — but absolutely none of them will enhance the experience. Use what you have around already! This includes cutting boards, marble slabs for pastry work, baking trays, parchment paper, or a combination (my personal favorite).
Here’s another tip for selecting the surface of your grazing board: consider what you’re serving and who will be eating. For example, a hard cheese needs a firm cut, so make sure you have a suitable, sturdy surface underneath. Dietary restrictions are also another reason I love to mix and match my surfaces. It’s easy to separate meats, cheeses, sweets, and glutinous items, ensuring an easy-to-navigate spread that accommodates everyone effortlessly.
Here are a few amazing boards and slabs to consider:
While a grazing board isn’t exactly a cheese platter, I’d venture to say cheese will have a staring role in your spread. The trick of how much is pretty easy to solve, by the way. For more intimate gatherings of about 5-8 people (book clubs, girls’ nights, etc), three cheese options are sensible. For larger parties, I recommend up to five variations. While it can be tempting, try not to offer more than five cheeses. It just gets a little too cheese forward, as if there is such a thing.
Additionally, there are three main staples that every basic grazing board needs.
- A fresh cheese – burrata, mozzarella, chèvre or something spreadable, and if you’re doing a smaller board, approachable.
- A soft-rind cheese, like Brie – I recommend something not aged too long (12 months or less) with a soft, edible rind.
- Hard cheese – This option is more flexible and should be chosen wisely if you’re only doing three kinds of cheese. If your group is a little less adventurous, I suggest a cheddar. You can also serve a blue cheese or a harder cheese like parmesan or pecorino.
I shared even more suggestions and paring options further down this post in the recipe. Don’t be afraid to chat with your local cheesemonger and see what’s new and in season, too!
Now that you’ve got the cheese situated, you will need a vessel equally fitting to eat it with. When choosing your bread, crackers, or crisps, variety is key. This is my usual rule of thumb:
- An option with a subtle flavor to accompany bolder flavors
- Something herbaceous, like a rosemary cracker
- And something sweet, like a cranberry rye cracker
Gluten-free guests? No problem- rice crackers are some of my favorite options, and most are gluten-free! So shop adventurously, and keep in mind those essential flavor tips!
Spreads, savories, & sweets:
The supporting characters on your grazing board are next to consider. I like to include a range of sweet and savory flavors. Everyone is a little different, and variety is the spice of life. A good rule of thumb is:
- One fancy spread
- 1-2 different nut options
- 2 fresh fruit items
- 2-3 cured meats
- And an elevated sweet treat, like orange or dark chocolate
The amount of these items you include will, of course, reflect your guest count. Don’t be afraid to buy more and have a supply to replenish!
Styling and construction tips and tricks:
Styling a grazing board is just as important as what you put on it. Boards that are “too pretty to eat” are a little annoying IMHO. I prefer a bit more personality and casualness. Here are a few grazing board arrangement tips:
- Help guide your guests by displaying cheeses how it should be cut into or chipped from
- Rather than tidy slices of bread, tear chunks of baguette along with orderly displays of your other crackers to add visual interest
- I suggest starting one side off with sweets, following fresh fruits, nuts, olives, or whichever savories you choose, Meat, and bread/crackers.
- Once these items are arranged, place the cheeses by the items they are best paired with
- It’s always a good idea to use little ramekins or bowls for items like olives or items in oil
- Make sure meats are kept on their own plate; if you’re serving a vegan or vegetarian, it’s always nice to keep things separate for them.
- Once your main items are down, punctuate the blank spaces with sprigs of fresh herbs and nuts. Don’t be afraid to let things get off your board a little!
Having a nice assortment of toothpicks, napkins, and small plates, and a well-placed rubbish bin is essential to keeping things moving along. The less our guests are touching, the better. Place cheese knives in a way that they can exist without mingling too much with the food items. Try using reusable items when you can or opting for bamboo rather than plastics so everything can be compostable rather than heading to a landfill.
Here are a few cheese knives to consider:
In the oh-so-rare event of leftover cheese, proper storage is key. Wrapping cheese in parchment and then plastic wrap or beeswax wrap will help extend the life of your cheese and keep it from getting moldy.
The biggest piece of advice here is to have fun and try new things while putting together your next grazing board!
The Ultimate Fall Grazing Board
- 1 Aged, firm cheese (Sharp Cheddar, Parmesan, Mimolette)
- 1 Soft Rind (Brie, Limburger, Munster)
- 1 Fresh Cheese (Chevre, Mozzarella, Feta)
- Marcona Almonds
- Olives (Kalamata, Castelvetrano, Nicoise)
- Artichoke Hearts
- Chocolate (dark, orange, chili)
- Candied oranges
- Spreads (fig, orange, berry)
- Sesame Crackers (GF)
- Rosemary Thins
- Apple slices
- Pear slices
- Genoa Salami
- About an hour before, allow the cheese to sit out and come to room temperature.
- Tear bread into small chunks, organize crackers.
- Portion items in marinades, oil, or jams into small bowls or ramekins.
- Working in sections, place your items in order from sweet to savory, making sure to keep GF and meat items separate for guests that are avoiding them.
- Place various cheese on the board, making sure to slice, chip, or carve pieces to encourage guests to dig in.
- Once most items are places, fill in the blank spots with sliced fruits and nuts.
- Replenish as needed
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