With countless options for customization and an effortless air of sophistication, meat and cheese boards are a great thing to whip out at dinner parties, weekend brunches, and even as a late night snack. While you may think that making a meat and cheese board is simple (and you’d be partly right), there are actually a few crucial things you can’t forget if you want to make something show-stopping. So, follow these 10 key steps and you'll be a meat and cheese board expert in no time.

1. Include both soft and hard cheeses.

A good meat and cheese board plays with flavors and textures, so feel free to experiment with your cheese choices. When it comes to soft cheeses you could go for cream cheese or mozzarella for a milder flavor profile or head towards brie and camembert if you want something a bit funkier. When it comes to hard cheeses I usually go for a nutty manchego, but a sharp Parmesan can add some saltiness you might be missing on your board. For something in the middle both flavor and texture-wise you could try halloumi or feta. 

2. Experiment with different cured meats.

The types of cured meats (or "charcuterie") you include on your meat and cheese board can make a world of difference. Spanish chorizo is slightly spicy while Italian prosciutto has an addictive saltiness. Try different styles of cured meats to find out what you do and don't like. 

3. Add fresh fruit for sweetness.

Eating a lot of cheese can get a bit tiring for your palate, so make sure to mix things up with some fresh fruit. Slices of crisp apples and ripe grapes pair well with almost any cheese while melon works great with cured meats. Pitted fruits like cherries or peaches also work well and they look great too!

4. Don't forget the jams & jellies.

Jams have the sweetness of fresh fruit without the texture, this makes them perfect on whatever bread you may be serving with your meat and cheese board. Fig jam is one of the more common options but you could also try a bacon and onion jam or a spiced mango chutney. Don't shy away from the jarred stuff you find at the grocery store, some can be really tasty. 

5. Savory spreads are a great addition.

Here's where you can really get crazy with your meat and cheese board. Love guacamole? Don't be afraid to add a tub of it. Feeling fancy? Try a paté or whole grain mustard. Like jams, savory spreads can help elevate the bread at your table and there are infinite options. 

6. The bread makes a difference.

I'm begging you, please don't use a loaf of bland, square-shaped, white bread for this. A French baguette is a safe option that you can't go wrong with but you could also pick up some sturdy crackers or pita if you're more daring. If you can get your bread fresh from a local bakery that'd be awesome but sometimes we've got to make do with what we can find at our local grocery store.

7. Pickled veggies are a great palate cleanser.

With the same effect as the fresh fruit, pickled veggies add some crunch to the board while also giving some much-needed tartness. Cornichons are a classic addition but you could also give pickled peppers or onions a shot. 

8. Dried fruits and nuts add fun texture.

Similarly to fresh fruit and pickled veggies, dried fruits and roasted nuts are a bit of a palate cleanser for the meats and cheeses. Dried cranberries are one of my favs along with cashews, but again, feel free to experiment as you wish! 

9. Variety is important.

If you decide to omit some of these steps, don't worry (not every board needs a mango chutney). Go with what feels right to you and seems like the best fit for you or your guests. It doesn't need to be huge, just make sure you do give some variety, after all, it isn't a party if everyone is sharing a single block of cheese... Or is it?

10. If all else fails add wine.

Besides pairing wonderfully with both cheese and cured meats, wine also has this miraculous ability to make everything better. So if you're board somehow still didn't wind up the way you wanted it to, don't worry, pop open a bottle and get drinking. I recommend a dry white, but honestly grab what you like!

There's no better time than the present to make your own meat and cheese board, so go and put your new skills to the test. Good luck!