A well put together grazing board is a thing of beauty, like an overflowing harvest of little delicacies that all look so inviting you don't know what to try first!
A grazing board is all the fashion these days when it comes to entertaining it seems. Back in the day, we called it a cheese board or a cheese platter, or just dip and nibbles - showing my age! You got some cubes of cheddar, a few slices of cabanossi and crackers. Done.
For me, a grazing board is the same theory as a cheese platter - just a fresh, pimped up version! More than a cheese board, more than a charcuterie board, it's a lovely array of little bites that look so inviting, you don't know what to try first!
On to my tips for creating your own fabulous grazing board!
Tip 1 - No platter? No problem!
So you don't have a giant-wooden-cheese-board-especially-for-entertaining hidden in the back of the cupboard? Me neither.
Other board options:
- Breadboard/chopping board - use two side by size to get the right size if needed.
- Baking sheet/baking tray - that's what I used! Bonus - these have sides, see my pro tip below.
- Marble pastry board.
- If you are unsure of your surface, you can always line it with parchment/baking paper.
* Pro tip - a baking tray with sides makes the perfect grazing board for attending a party with your board pre-assembled. Just wrap it in plastic wrap and you're good to go.
Tip 2 - Bowls for dips and little things
It might look artistic to lay everything out on a board like it came out of a magazine article, but for me it's just not practical. Stuff gets messy. Some things just need bowls. I use ramekins, small baking moulds/tins, saucers, shot glasses - pretty much anything in my kitchen that's small! A halved and deseeded capsicum (bell pepper) also works well.
* Pro tip - if you are using store-bought dip, just scoop it into another bowl to give it that homemade look! And keep the plastic tub and lid in the fridge for leftovers if you need it.
Tip 3 - A little bit of prep goes a long way
It's a bit like Christmas, I like to make a list then I check it twice! With so many small ingredients to include, it can be easy to lose track when you're shopping. When you are making your shopping list, here are a few things to take into consideration.
- How many guests will there be?
- What size is your board/tray?
- Any food intolerances (or absolute LOVES, so you need to buy extra!)?
- What's in season?
Tip 4 - How much cheese do I need for my grazing board?
- For cheese - I like to go with 50g/2oz per person as a rule of thumb (as an appetizer). You may need to increase this if you know your crowd are cheese fiends!
- I like to do a selection of three varieties, maybe more if I am catering for more guests.
- If you think you may have over-catered, put out half of the cheese to begin, you can always replenish later if you need to.
Tip 5 - What else should I include on my grazing board platter?
Dips, relishes, fruit paste, fresh fruit or vegetable pieces, dried fruit, cured deli meats, olives etc. The possibilities are endless!
A few things to keep in mind though...
- Dips are easy to make at home, check out my recipes for Whipped Feta, Avocado Cilantro (Coriander) Dip or Hummus.
- Best to stick to things that are seedless (grapes, olives etc) that way no-one gets a nasty surprise. I was once somewhere and a guest bit into an olive that they thought was seedless...it was nearly a trip to the dentist!
- Bite-size is good, things like berries work well.
- Things like sliced apple and pear tend to go brown, a dip in some water and fresh lemon juice will keep them fresh.
- Keep grapes on the vine, cherries on the stem, cherry tomatoes on the vine - you get the picture. Keeps things looking natural, like mother nature made them!
*Pro tip - the more bright and colourful the better, people eat with their eyes!
Tip 6 - Crackers, biscuits, bread etc
Just like a selection of cheeses, a selection of different crackers is good too. Sliced baguettes or pita bread make a great addition as well.
Don't worry if you can't fit enough on the platter initially, you can always replenish as you go, or place the excess in bowls to serve alongside your platter masterpiece.
*Pro tip - keep in mind the job the crackers are going to be doing - if you have a dip on the grazing board that's fairly thick, you will need at least some robust crackers. Nothing worse than you cracker breaking off mid-dip!
Tip 7 - Fill 'er up!
Once you have your grazing board assembled with the large items, you will have some blank spots. These fillers are a great way to make your board look really full and inviting!
- Fresh herb sprigs
- Fresh rocket (arugula)
Tip 8 - Forgotten utensils
Not just cheese knives, but the little touches that make things less awkward for your guests. Toothpicks or disposable cocktail forks are great for picking up things that may be marinated in oil, so I like to have them on my grazing platters.
Napkins people! Serviettes! Whatever you call them, I have been to a lot of functions where there is nothing to wipe your hands (or face!) with! Total pet hate of mine, and I'm not alone!
That brings me to the next tip...
Tip 9 - Rubbish, we all have it...
Whether it's the green top from your fresh strawberry, or the toothpick you just used to spear a marinated olive...I like to supply a little bowl just to the side of my grazing board (usually on top of the stack of napkins to stop them blowing away!) for my guests to put their rubbish in.
Tip 10 - I've got everything for my grazing board, but where do I start?
- Once you have picked out your board/tray, place your cheese down first. I call this stage "put and look".
- Then place your bowls for dips and deli items like olives, marinated artichokes, stuffed mini peppers etc, moving them around until you are happy.
- When you are happy with your placement, fill the bowls and unwrap the cheese.
- Next, place large focal items like bunches of grapes or cherry tomatoes on the vine.
- Add your crackers/bread in groups around the board, then fill in the gaps with your chosen fresh fruit, nuts, dried fruit, cured meats or pretzels.
Feel free to follow your tastes and instincts when it comes to what goes onto your board, but if you would like a rundown of exactly what went on to my board in the photo, see my recipe card below for the full details.
The last grazing board I made was a grazing board birthday cake! The birthday girl just loves a good cheese platter, so when I made a grazing platter for her birthday function I put candles in the cheese. An absolute hit with the guests and the guest of honour!
Top 10 Tips For The Perfect Grazing Board Platter
- 3-4 varieties of cheese totalling 600g (1.3lb) I used brie, blue, truffled cheddar, and aged cheddar
- 3 varieties of dip
- 3 varieties of crackers or sliced baguette or pita
- seasonal fruit strawberries, blueberries, grapes
- seasonal vegetables green beans
- marinated deli items olives and stuffed baby peppers
- cured meats thinly sliced prosciutto & salami
- dried fruit dates, dried apricots
- nuts pistachios, macadamias
- 1 tbsp honey
- 5-6 pecans roughly chopped (optional)
- Place your cheeses down on the board first, placing the brie on a saucer or small plate (see my notes below).
- Then place your bowls for dips, blueberries, green beans, olives, and stuffed mini peppers. When you are happy with your placement, fill the bowls and unwrap the cheese and place back in position.
- Place any larger focal items next, like grape bunches.
- Add your crackers next, placing them in groups around the board.
- Then place on your last items of prosciutto & salami (see my notes below), strawberries, dates, dried apricots plus the toothpicks.
- Fill in any gaps with pistachios, macadamias, and pretzels.
- Drizzle honey (1 tbsp) on top of the brie, then sprinkle with chopped pecans (5-6) if using.
- When I first put down the cheeses and empty bowls I leave the cheese still wrapped. This is what I call the "put and look" stage, so I can get a feel for what I want to go next to what, what will fit where etc. The cheese is still coming up to room temperature which is what we want, but it's still wrapped so it's easy to move around.
- I put the brie on a small saucer because it's going to have honey drizzled on top and this keeps it confined on your board and not coating everything near it in honey.
- I fold the salami - first in half, then in half again, and then in half again.
- For the prosciutto, depending on the size of the slices, I tear them in half across the middle then just slightly scrunch each piece and place on the board.
- Would you like a sweet platter option? It makes the perfect no-fail, showstopper dessert! Check out my guide for the Top 10 Tips For The Perfect Sweet Platter.