I’m here to tell you why cured meat and cheese boards are the most underrated college meal. Typically, cheese and meat boards have a reputation of being made from unpronounceable ingredients strategically arranged on a rustic wooden slab. And with price points reaching $35-$40, it’s easy to let the ones you see on menus or the explore page of your Instagram intimidate you.
In the following guide, I hope to debunk charcuterie and cheese boards’ overly bougie rep and prove to college students that putting one together can be as easy and (almost as) affordable as boxed mac and cheese.
The beauty of charcuterie and cheese platters is that they are completely customizable for party size, taste buds, and budget.
Also, shout out to dorm dwellers and Greeks—even without a kitchen, you can get in on this too. All it takes is a trip to the grocery store and some creativity, and you will have put together a meal that can be leisurely enjoyed with friends after a long day. If you are of age, throw in a bottle of wine to the mix and you're golden.
Here's how to make sure your charcuterie and cheese board is as bougie and budget-friendly as possible.
1. Make your cheese selection the dairy best.
If you’re feelin’ spendy, check out a local cheese shop where they will give you advice on bomb cheese combinations and let you sample.
#SpoonTip: Cheese shops are always happy to cut you any sized wedge you’d like. This is great if you have a smaller group or want a wider array of cheeses on your platter.
The trick to picking a diverse selection of cheese is to keep texture in mind. For instance, a safe bet would be to choose a hard cheese (like Grana Padano), a semi-hard cheese (like Manchego), and a soft, creamy cheese (like Brie or Chèvre goat cheese).
But don’t underestimate the cheap and cheerful brands either—Tillamook, Dubliner, and even Laughing Cow are accessible and delicious.
2. Pile on the char(cute)rie.
As for the meats, they can be omitted if you’re a vegetarian. But if you’re a proud carnivore like I am, I advise you to take this next step seriously (I may or may not be kidding).
#SpoonTip: For meats like salami, it’s a lot cheaper to buy it whole and slice it yourself rather than buying pre-sliced packages.
But if you’re in the mood for something simpler, pick up some pepperoni and sliced ham... who said sandwich meat can’t be classy too?
3. Ciabatta believe I didn't forget about the bread.
When it comes to picking a carb to pile charcuterie and cheese on top of, crackers, baguette or French bread are all affordable and traditional options. I’ve realized people enjoy having both a crunchy option like a cracker and a softer choice like French bread. But at the end of the day, bread is bread, so you really can’t go wrong with whatever you choose.
4. Follow this last step and you'll be jammin'.
Now, you’re welcome to stop here because you’ve covered all your basics of cheese, meat, and bread (aka my idea of the three major food groups), but if you’re feeling like stepping it up a notch, keep reading.
Traditionally, these boards include “accoutrements,” or foods to enhance the flavors of the meat and cheese. For example, nuts, pickles, olives, dried fruits and jams are all popular. These accoutrements help to create texture diversity, are great to snack on in between bites and can add a little bit of sweetness to a sharp or salty cheese.
So next time you’re planning on having dinner with friends, consider making a charcuterie and cheese board. Not only are they decadent and a far from average college meal, cheese and meat boards require little to no preparation, cleanup, or fussing with kitchen appliances.
Most importantly, it means you are given more time to hang with friends rather than making a mess in the kitchen.#SpoonTip: Save your leftover cheese and meats to make a killer omelette or grilled cheese the next day.