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If you accidentally fell into the TikTok trend like many have during the pandemic, you may have swiped into the charcuterie craze. I’ve put together several half-hearted cheese boards in my life, but the ones showing up on my “For You” page were elaborate and mindfully decorated, able to transform even the smallest get-together into a high-end soiree. After months of hunting for a board that could help me recreate these TikTok platters for my post-vaccine reunions, I got the CTFT cheese board as a gift — as it turns out, I found building a charcuterie board from scratch was definitely all it was hyped up to be.
It did take a bit of research to form my ideal spread: A combination of soft and semi-hard cheeses (Brie and Manchego are my favorites), cured meats like prosciutto, soppressata and Genoa salami, and a variety of garnishes and sides. I like to include fruits like grapes and apples, green olives in a side container and my favorite fig jam spread.
But the real appeal of the charcuterie board isn’t so much the contents of the board as it is the visual aspect — and my intricate, albeit amateur, design has made it a regular party staple among my friends and family. With CDC guidelines relaxing around social gatherings, I’ve used any excuse to show off my newfound pandemic-related talent, from family get-togethers to holidays like Mother’s Day, and plan to continue sporting it during larger summer events. And the creativity seemingly never stops: People have pulled off everything from breakfast and fruit platters to French fry boards and tiny meat houses.
The board itself is sleek, smooth and functional, complete with two ceramic bowls for sauces, nuts or olives and a groove around the edge for additional space or to catch overflowing juices. But what struck me the most was the hidden drawer that slid out to reveal multiple charcuterie accessories, including four small cheese knives, two pieces of chalk and two slate labels that can be written on. Getting creative with the label designs was typically an impressive touch for my guests and helped me keep track of the different cheeses on my platter.
The knives each serve different functions, from a spade knife used to cut hard cheeses into wedges to a narrow plane knife that can easily slice semi-hard and soft cheeses. I was pleasantly surprised by the sharpness of the knives — they were able to cut into harder cheeses like Parmesan and Pecorino Romano with little effort. It was also convenient to just reach into the drawer and grab what I needed, and became especially useful when visiting friends and family since the cutlery didn’t have to be transported separately.
The board is made from bamboo, which is harder and less porous than hardwood and absorbs very little moisture, making it more resistant to bacteria than other woods, according to the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service. However, it’s not maintenance free: The brand recommends applying a food-grade mineral oil that’s FDA approved (and sold separately) to season the board 24 hours before initial use, and continue to apply once a month to ensure the bamboo doesn’t dry out over time. Be sure not to use cooking oils like olive, vegetable and avocado oil since they’ll go rancid and the smell alone can ruin your party hosting reputation — not to mention your precious meats and cheeses.
The brand also suggests cleaning the board with a mild detergent and warm water after each use and drying completely before storing. The instruction manual notes to store the board in “a dry and cool place” since long exposure to water and excessive heat can damage it, leading to warping and cracking. Needless to say, the board isn’t dishwasher safe.
In my experience, the board can fit a lot of different foods but, at 13 inches by 13 inches, it isn’t as large as some of the popular ones seen online. I’ve found myself having to sacrifice some crackers or fruit slices to make room for more meats and cheeses which, frankly, adds to the creativity of it all. A full board can likely feed a group of around five, but you can always refill it when necessary.
More charcuterie and cheese board options
If you’re hoping to simply hop on the trend or impress your family and friends in a post-pandemic world, here are a few more options to help you get creative.
This round, multi-layered board features a swivel function that extends from a compact (and portable) shape. You can designate a specific charcuterie food to each level, which works especially well for those who don’t prefer their foods to touch. Like the CTFT board, this one comes with a slide-out drawer with cheese knives. You can choose between a 13-inch diameter size that features two cheese knives (an all-purpose, stainless steel cheese knife and a cheese fork) or a larger 17-inch size that includes an additional flat cheese knife.
If you want to really put emphasis on the visual appeal of a charcuterie board, this Agate Cheese Board is a unique option primarily consisting of chalcedony and quartz. It’s offered in a range of colors, including White Quartz, Dyed Blue, Rose Quartz, and all come with a gold-colored rim to add an elegant touch.
This bamboo board comes with a 7-piece stainless steel cutlery set — including three skewers, a 2-prong serving fork, soft cheese spreader, flat edge knife and a wedge knife — and features a magnetic wedge that holds the cutlery for easy access while serving guests. It also includes a small dish for dips and spreads. At 9 inches long and just over 12 inches wide, this option is slightly smaller than the CTFT board but still large enough to fit a variety of meats, cheeses and fruits.
These affordable mini boards come in a pack of six and are an option worth considering if you hope to create different types of charcuterie boards for larger gatherings or dinner parties. They’re made from slate — a durable natural rock — and can complement a sleek, dark-colored aesthetic. It also includes three pieces of chalk so you can easily label the contents or write the name of your guests for a more personalized board (and it can wash right off).
An elegant option for small get-togethers, this large, 15-inch-long board is made from sustainable and durable Acacia wood. It’s also relatively lightweight compared to other options on this list, weighing a little over 1 pound. According to the brand, the board can also serve multiple purposes, from a cheese and serving platter to a prep station and cutting board.