It seems that meat and grazing platters are often the centre attraction of finger food at most events, arranged in a stunning array that is both instagram perfect and tasty. There are many different formulas for putting together such a platter, and it doesn’t need to come with a large price tag.
What does a meat platter consist of?
Usually very simple deli style foods or fruits that can be picked up with fingers or a toothpick. The main aim is for the food to be presented in small portions or slices, to enable sampling of each of the different options without being too filling.
Here is a list of suitable items:
- Cured deli meats, including salami, cabana, prosciutto, or spanish chorizo
- Soft and hard cheeses like brie, blue-veined cheese and cheddar
- Crackers, artisan savoury biscuits or fresh, crusty bread
- Quince, fig or plum paste
- Dried fruits, including figs, apricots and cranberries
- Preserved or pickled fruits and vegetables, such as olives, sun dried tomatoes, grill eggplant and capsicum
- Fresh fruits, especially strawberries, grapes or cherry tomatoes
- Roasted nuts
What meats are best for grazing platter?
Italian deli meat that is defined by its strong meaty and salty flavour, with a silky texture. It is best when sliced incredibly thin, and either served rolled up or wrapped around soft mozzarella. It makes a beautiful addition to a platter, with burgundy bands of meat, boarded by thin, stark white strips of fat.
A salami with a high fat content and a coarse texture, usually served in thicker slices. This italian cured meat originated in Calabria, Vicenza and Tuscany, and has a distinct sweet flavour, with strong hits of pepper, garlic and often chilly as well.
Similar to prosciutto in taste and texture, but with a coarse marbled effect between the dark meat and white fat, this tasty option is great for a budget platter. The meat is sold in small, circular slices, opposed to the classic, large long slices of prosciutto, which means the same mass would produce more serving on a platter.
Always a party favourite, this hard salami is flavoured with spicy paprika and garlic and is served in thick slices. It has a strong flavour, and can be consumed on its own, or on a cracker with dip or with mild soft cheeses like goat’s or cream cheese. It is not to be confused with the Mexican pork chorizo, a soft sausage.
This sweet and smoky cured meat might not be the fanciest item to put on a meat platter, but it will be devoured and appreciated by party guests. It is a fantastic cheap option, and is usually served in 1 cm thick disks.
This list is not exhaustive, and there are many more cured meat options for a grazing platter.
What cheese is best for grazing board?
There are many types of brie cheese, including double and triple cream, as well as different textures and levels of firmness, where some seem to melt on the plate, while others completely retain their shape. All brie has a distinctive buttery flavour that is usually very mild. It is a natural popular selection for a grazing platter, as it can be paired with many other flavours. Brie comes with a wide variety of price tags, but can be quite affordable.
A safe and tasty selection, this semi-hard cheese can please most crowds with its sweet, caramelised flavour and firm but springy texture.
Blue cheese is typically strong and bitey in flavour and scent, and gorgonzola is one of the more mild and all round pleasers of its category. This soft cheese is crumbly, with a stark contrast in colours between the pale cheese and navy blue mould that makes it beautiful on any platter.
There is an immense range of cheddar cheeses, inducing aged, smoked, vintage or flavoured. It can suit any need of a grazing board, whether to balance other strong flavours, for the corners to be filled in with cubes of it or for truffle flavoured cheddar to be the star of the show. This cheese also comes with a very reasonable price tag.
Often flavoured with fruits, nuts, honey, chives, spring onions or chives, cream cheese is not only appetising, it is also a stunning addition to a meat platter.
When it comes to cheeses on a savoury meat and grazing platter, there are limitless options.
How do you make a grazing platter on a budget?
There are many ways to cut costs when preparing a grazing platter, and none need to compromise its quality or beauty.
These are a few ideas:
- Not every item on the charcuterie board needs to be an expensive delicacy. Select a statement piece or two, and use cheaper items to fill out the platter. An example could be a centrepiece of blue veined cheese, edged with long slices of rolled prosciutto, accompanied by water crackers, olives and a hummus dip.
- Buy a cheap brie and bake it with nuts, herbs, honey or spices. There are an abundance of recipes available, and a baked brie can be as impressive as their expensive counterparts.
- Make a cream cheese log. These are dazzling additions to any board. They bring colour and flavour, often encased in cranberries, dried apricots or nuts, all of which can be purchased by scoop and weight.
- Make your own quince or plum paste.
- How do you make a grazing platter look nice?
It is important to have contrasting colours, textures and shapes. A round wheel of bright, white brie might be boarded by an arc of green olives on one side and rolled, burgundy salami on the other. Large shapes can be offset by smaller ones, dull colours by pops of vibrancy. Every space should be brimming with something interesting, this could include handfuls of dried fruit or nuts to fill in any gaps.