Charcuterie boards and food safety (2024)

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Charcuterie boards and food safety (1)

Jamie Pronschinske, RDN, CD


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Charcuterie boards and food safety (5)

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Charcuterie boards and food safety (6)

A meat-and-cheese platter paired with a basket of crackers is a go-to appetizer for many parties. Now, these basic platters have been elevated to the next level with the addition of pates, spreads, breads, fresh or dried fruits, and vegetables — both raw and pickled. Served on a wooden board or stone slab, they're a feast for the eye and the taste buds.

As you assemble your picture-perfect charcuterie board, remember to pay attention to food safety and health concerns.

Keep it clean

Prepping and assembling a charcuterie board requires a lot of handling of each item, so don't forget the basics:

  • Start by washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water before, during and after preparing food.
  • Always wash your hands after handling uncooked meat, chicken and other poultry, seafood, flour or eggs.
  • Wash your utensils, cutting boards and countertops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food.
  • Wash fresh fruits and vegetables before cutting.
  • Choose a slab or board for serving that you don't use for cutting or other food preparation. Wash it thoroughly.

Beware of bacteria

No party host wants their guests to take home a nasty bout of food poisoning. Selecting and handling your board's ingredients are key to preventing foodborne illnesses and protecting people at higher risk, which includes those who are younger than 5, older than 65, have a weakened immune system or are pregnant.

Pregnant people are more likely to get bacterial illnesses and 10 times more susceptible to a listeria infection. Deli meats, cold cuts and dry sausages can be contaminated with listeria when they're made or packaged. Although cooking, fermenting or drying kills germs, these meats can get contaminated afterward if they touch surfaces carrying listeria.

Listeria isn't the only concern. Salmonella also can contaminate foods and has been found in charcuterie meats, as well as raw and frozen, precooked shrimp.

Watch the clock

Bacteria that cause food poisoning multiply quickly at room temperature. Harmful germs can grow in perishable foods, including meat and cut fruit, if they're left out for more than two hours.

Pay attention to how long your charcuterie board has been sitting out. To avoid tossing the tidbits after two hours, consider making more than one board. Set out one and refrigerate the others until needed.

Check the cheese

Cheeses made with raw cow's, sheep or goat's milk can make you sick. These can include soft cheeses, such as brie and blue cheese. It's a good idea to check the labels of soft cheeses to ensure they're made from pasteurized milk. In the U.S., cheeses made with raw milk must be aged for at least 60 days. Aging, along with pasteurization, kills bacteria.

Scale back on the sodium

Many ingredients used in charcuterie boards are high in sodium, including deli meats, dry sausages, cheeses, salted nuts, pretzels and crackers. The recommendation for daily sodium intake for adults is 2,300 milligrams or less. To reduce the sodium load on your board, add more fresh or dried fruits and raw veggies. Choose unsalted nuts and low-sodium crackers and pretzels.

Serve it safely

Charcuterie boards are the epitome of finger food. That means lots of fingers touching the food throughout your party. No host wants to play hand-washing police, so give your guests multiple options for picking up their food selections. Have plenty of picks, tongs, spoons and forks at hand. Some foods can be threaded onto skewers or picks before being arranged on the board for easier handling.

For a creative option that's great for gatherings with more mingling than sitting, put together charcuterie cups. You can find recyclable and compostable cups in stores or online. Fill each cup with nuts and assorted mini skewers, such as one with a deli meat rosette and a cube of cheese; another with fresh and dried fruit; and one with a variety of olives. Add a couple of crackers, and you have an easy-to-hold, portable appetizer.

Jamie Pronschinske is a dietitian in Nutrition in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

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Charcuterie boards and food safety (2024)


Are charcuterie boards food safe? ›

Harmful germs can grow in perishable foods, including meat and cut fruit, if they're left out for more than two hours. Pay attention to how long your charcuterie board has been sitting out. To avoid tossing the tidbits after two hours, consider making more than one board.

What is the 3-3-3 rule for charcuterie board? ›

Creating Interest with the 3-3-3-3 Rule

Choose three cheeses, three meats, three starches, and three accompaniments for a perfect and balanced board, every time!

Are there rules for charcuterie boards? ›

Depending on the size of your board, you should have one each of cow, sheep, and goat options with soft rind, firm, and hard cheeses in the mix. Flavors should range between nutty and mild to funky and unique. Rule of thumb: 1 cow, 1 sheep, 1 goat; 1 soft, 1 firm, 1 hard.

How long can you keep a charcuterie board in the fridge? ›

It is always freshest on the day it is created, but within 24-48-hours is acceptable. We do not recommend beyond 2 days. Please note that all charcuterie boards & creations are perishable and require refrigeration.

How long should a charcuterie board sit out before serving? ›

A charcuterie platter can sit out for around 2 hours at room temperature. To maintain freshness and safety, ensure perishable items like meats and cheeses are kept chilled before serving. After 2 hours, it's advisable to refrigerate or consume the platter to prevent bacterial growth and maintain quality.

Can you put food directly on a charcuterie board? ›

Then put piles of food and arranged meats and cheeses right on the butcher paper! 2. Start with the cheese: I start with the cheese because it anchors the board. Work in odd numbers, so, depending on the size of your party, choose 3, 5, or 7 types of cheeses to place around the board.

What items don t need to be refrigerated for charcuterie board? ›

For this travel friendly platter I like to choose meats that are easy to slice and that don't need refrigeration right away. Smoked or Cured meats tend to be my favorite go to's like Salami, Peperoni, Summer Sausage, or Chorizo.

Is it OK to make a charcuterie board the night before? ›

*You can easily prep boards in advance. Prepare up to 24 hours in advance, cover, and store in the fridge until ready to serve.

What is the best meat for a charcuterie board? ›

Use a selection of 3-4 different cured meats for your charcuterie board. In the board pictured, I used a hard soppressata, bresaola, salami, and prosciutto. Use any variety you'd like and that works for you and your budget. If your budget permits you to splurge for Jamon Iberico or Prosciutto di Parma, go for it.

What is the disease in the charcuterie board? ›

Learn what else you can do to protect yourself from getting sick from Salmonella. Data showed that charcuterie meat products sold under many brand names made people in this outbreak sick. Of 68 people interviewed, 50 (74%) sick people reported eating a variety of charcuterie meats.

What is the safest wood for a charcuterie board? ›

To this extent, the best wood for charcuterie boards are usually non-porous hardwoods such as acacia wood, teak, rubberwood and hard maple. Acacia wood is often used to make wood bowls, cups, furniture, and flooring.

Can charcuterie boards be healthy? ›

The key to building a heart healthy charcuterie board is to fill it with lean protein foods, healthy fats, whole grains and lots of fruits and vegetables! Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind when making your shopping list for a healthier board…

What is the best food safe wood finish for charcuterie board? ›

Wood Wax. If you want to know how to seal a wood charcuterie board, the top option is Wood Wax by the Real Milk Paint Co. This food contact-safe wax has an all-natural formulation of walnut oil and carnauba wax, helping it penetrate deeply yet apply smoothly on your charcuterie board.

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