15 Best Meats for a Charcuterie Board

These are some of the best meats you can put on a charcuterie board. A big part of making a delicious meat and cheese platter is choosing the right ingredients!

Charcuterie boards are all the rage at parties nowadays, offering a smorgasbord of tasty treats. And when it comes to a charcuterie board, the meats are a crucial part.

Charcuterie board on gray surface

Picking out the right meats can really take your cheese board to the next level and create a delicious blend of flavors. We’re going to go over some of the top meats you should consider for your next get-together. 

Whether you want to stick with the classics or try something new and exciting, we’ve got you covered. So let’s jump right in and discover the best types of meats for your charcuterie board. 

The Beauty of Meat and Cheese Boards

I first encountered a charcuterie board at a local restaurant. The boards they made were different every time, with the chef picking the best meats available from local suppliers.

And I fell in love with them. Despite being so gourmet, they were the perfect affordable meal to split with a friend or two. The meats and cheeses on them are wonderfully filling as well as delicious.

How Many Meats Should You Have?

It varies depending on personal preference, the size of the board, and the number of other items you plan to include. As a general guideline, it is common to include a variety of two to four different types of meats on a charcuterie board.

When selecting meats for a charcuterie board, aim for a good mix of flavors, textures, and styles. Popular options often include cured meats like prosciutto, salami, soppressata, chorizo, and pâté. You can also consider including smoked or air-dried meats like smoked salmon, bresaola, or coppa.

Ultimately, the number of meats you include on a charcuterie board should provide enough variety for your guests to enjoy without overwhelming them. It’s also important to consider the size of the board and ensure there is enough space to arrange the meats attractively alongside other accompaniments such as cheeses, fruits, nuts, and bread or crackers.

Top Meats for a Charcuterie Board

You’ll find many of these are available at the deli meat counter at your regular grocery store. For some, you might have to look around for a butcher or a more high-end grocer.

1. Prosciutto

Prosciutto, with its rich flavor profile and elegant presentation, is a fantastic choice. Its distinct, delicate taste is attributed to an aging process that can last anywhere from nine months to two years. This gives it a complex flavor that’s salty, slightly sweet, and full-bodied, putting it in a league of its own.

In addition to its unique flavor, the texture of this Italian meat contributes significantly to its appeal. The meat is thinly sliced making it light yet satisfying on the palate. This thin slicing also lends itself well to the visual aesthetics of your charcuterie board – you can drape or roll the slices in various visually pleasing ways.

Prosciutto’s versatility is another key reason for including it on your board. It pairs well with various types of cheeses, fruits, breads, and wines. This allows you to create diverse and exciting flavor combinations, enhancing the overall gastronomical experience for your guests.

Lastly, prosciutto adds accessibility and convenience to your charcuterie preparations. Many specialty stores sell pre-packaged prosciutto that’s ready-to-serve—making it easy for anyone to add this luxurious touch to their charcuterie arrangements. Adding prosciutto will indeed elevate your charcuterie experience.

2. Calabrese 

Calabrese Salami is an excellent choice for a charcuterie board and this can be attributed to several reasons.

To begin with, its flavor profile stands out. Calabrese Salami has a bold, spicy flavor that can provide a nice contrast to other meats and cheeses on the board. The spice comes from Calabrian peppers that are native to its namesake region in Italy.

In terms of texture, it hits the right notes. It’s firm but not too hard which makes it easy to slice thin and enjoy in small bites. It’s made from pork shoulder, belly or head.

Moreover, its versatility cannot be overstated. The robust flavor of Calabrese Salami pairs well with a variety of accompaniments like olives, cheeses, and breads. It can complement milder cheeses or stand up against stronger flavored ones.

Aesthetically speaking, Calabrese Salami adds visual appeal to the charcuterie board. When thinly sliced, the salami presents beautiful marbling.

Lastly, originating from Italy’s Calabria region gives it an international touch and story element to your charcuterie presentation.

3. Sopressata

Sopressata, a beloved Italian dry salami, is often the star of any charcuterie board. Its robust flavor, unique texture and visual appeal make it an ideal choice for providing depth and variety to your assortment.

Flavor plays a crucial role in the selection of items on a charcuterie board, and Sopressata brings a distinctly bold taste. Depending on its preparation, it can be spicy or sweet, giving you flexibility in creating different flavor profiles on your board. This traditional salami is usually made with premium quality pork and seasoned with various spices such as pepper, garlic and hot red pepper. It complements well with numerous pairings including cheeses, olives and crusty breads.

The texture of Sopressata is another aspect that makes it desirable for a charcuterie board. Unlike some other cured meats, Sopressata has coarsely chopped meat which gives it a distinctive rustic appearance when sliced. This also provides a hearty bite which sets it apart from other deli meats that are typically fine-grained.

Finally, the visual impact of Sopressata cannot be underestimated. When sliced thin, the marbling effect created by pockets of fat interspersed with dark red meat is incredibly appealing against the backdrop of cheeses, fruits and other accompaniments on your board. 

4. Salami

Salami is a versatile cured meat that comes in various flavors and textures, making it a great addition to any charcuterie board. Whether you prefer mild or spicy, smooth or coarse, there’s a salami out there to suit everyone’s taste preferences.

With its rich and savory taste, salami pairs well with a variety of cheeses and can add depth and complexity to your charcuterie spread. Its sliced form makes it easy to arrange on a board, and its bold flavors make it a standout choice.

When selecting salami, consider the different types available, such as Genoa salami, Milano salami, or Hungarian salami, to create a diverse assortment of flavors and textures. Don’t be afraid to experiment and find your favorites!

5. Genoa Salami

Genoa salami is a popular choice due to its robust and savory flavor profile. The distinctive taste, which comes from the garlic, peppercorns, and wine used in its preparation, allows it to pair well with a wide variety of cheeses, fruits, and breads.

The texture of Genoa salami also contributes to its appeal. It’s firm yet pliable, providing an appealing contrast to softer or creamier items on the board.

Another key attribute of Genoa salami is its versatility. It complements different flavors seamlessly – from sharp cheeses like cheddar to light and fruity wines.

In addition to its flavor and versatility, Genoa salami enhances the visual appeal of your spread. Sliced thin and fanned out on a board, it adds visual interest and invites guests to dig in.

6. Chorizo

Chorizo is a flavorful Spanish sausage that adds a unique and smoky taste to any meal. It’s flavored with smoked paprika, salt and garlic.

Its bold and spicy flavor profile makes Chorizo a standout choice for those who enjoy a bit of heat in their charcuterie experience.

Whether thinly sliced or chunked, Chorizo is a vibrant and flavorful option. Its distinct smokiness pairs well with a variety of cheeses and adds a punch of flavor to every bite.

7. Pancetta

Pancetta is another remarkable selection, bringing its own unique Italian touch to any gathering. It’s made from pork belly and characterized by its savory flavor and delicate texture.

In terms of flavor, Pancetta stands out due to its exceptional curing process. It’s typically seasoned with an abundance of herbs and spices such as juniper berries, nutmeg, and pepper before being rolled and dry-cured. This treatment infuses the meat with a robust, savory taste that is both distinctive yet versatile enough to balance other ingredients on the board.

The texture of Pancetta further enhances its appeal. When thinly sliced, it has a melt-in-your-mouth quality that is hard to resist. Its delicate nature adds a textural contrast to harder or denser elements like crusty bread or firm cheeses. 

Additionally, Pancetta’s versatility makes it an ideal companion for many other foods. It pairs well with both sweet and savory components — from bold cheeses to fresh fruits and even sweet jams or honey. Hence, incorporating Pancetta into your assortment allows you to explore diverse flavor pairings.

Moreover, visually speaking, Pancetta brings an enticing aesthetic element to the table with its beautiful spiral when rolled up or shimmering marbled appearance when laid flat. This helps create a more appealing and vibrant spread.

8. Bresaola

Bresaola is a well-known Italian delicacy that is derived from air-dried, salted beef. This lean and tender meat adds a unique element.

A distinct quality of Bresaola lies in its flavor profile. It has a deep, smoky, and slightly sweet character that sets it apart from other cured meats. This subtle sweetness can provide an interesting contrast to the savory cheeses and salty accompaniments. As it’s often served thinly sliced with just a drizzle of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar, it can bring out complex flavors when paired with different cheeses, fruits, and wines.

Next comes the texture of Bresaola which plays a crucial role in providing variety on your board. Despite being firm due to the air-drying process, Bresaola remains incredibly tender to bite into. Its lean quality offers a pleasing contrast to fattier meats like salami or prosciutto. 

Lastly, the visual aspect of including Bresaola should not be overlooked. With its rich burgundy color tinged with dark edges achieved through the curing process, it adds a splash of color.

9. Mortadella

Mortadella, an Italian meat product that hails from Bologna, is a fantastic addition due to its unique flavor profile, smooth texture and remarkable visual appeal.

First off, Mortadella’s distinctive flavor makes it stand out among other cold cuts. It has a light, slightly sweet taste and a pronounced aroma achieved by blending pork with a rich mix of spices such as pepper, pistachios or myrtle berries. This combination of flavors sets it apart from the more robustly flavored meats. As such, Mortadella can provide a nice counterpoint to stronger-tasting items.

Regarding texture, Mortadella excels with its exceptionally smooth and somewhat creamy consistency. Unlike most cured meats which are coarse and chewy, Mortadella is finely ground resulting in tender slices that melt in your mouth. Its softness provides an interesting contrast to harder textures on the board like crusty breads or crunchy pickles.

Lastly, let’s talk about presentation. With its glossy pink color interspersed with white chunks of fat and often green dots of pistachios, Mortadella is quite visually intriguing. When cut into thin translucent slices, it adds an elegant touch.

10. Capocollo

Capocollo, also known as coppa or Capicola, is a traditional Italian and Corsican pork cold cut that is widely praised for its delicate flavor and tender texture. Its unique characteristics make it an excellent choice.

First, Coppa is made from the pork neck or shoulder and then dry-cured, which gives it a distinct taste profile.

The combination of spices used in its preparation – usually including garlic, paprika, and red or white wine – creates a complex yet balanced taste that pairs well with other items on the board like fruits, cheeses, and breads.

Secondly, the texture of Coppa has just the right amount of fat marbling, which melts in your mouth when eaten at room temperature. This provides an appealing contrast to the textures from other meats or accompaniments.

Thirdly, Coppa is visually striking on a board due to its vibrant red color with beautiful white marbling. It can be served thinly sliced so that its intricate patterns stand out.

11. Speck

Speck is one of my personal favorite meats to see on a charcuterie board. It originates from Italy, particularly the regions of Tyrol and Alto Adige, and it brings a distinct European flair. Its unique flavor profile and texture make it a popular choice.

One of the defining characteristics of speck is its complex flavor that comes from being both smoked and cured. Initially, this Italian ham is seasoned with various spices such as juniper berries, pimento, garlic, and bay leaves before undergoing a slow smoking process.

The method of preparation gives an aromatic smokiness to the meat while preserving its natural flavor.

The texture of speck adds another layer to its appeal. It has been aged for about 22 weeks after curing and smoking, leading to meat that’s firm yet not excessively dry or hard. When sliced thin, speck offers just the right amount of chewiness without being too tough or soft, making it ideal for enjoying with crackers or bread.

Furthermore, speck’s versatility makes it fit seamlessly into any platter arrangement. Its rich taste complements milder cheeses and contrasts nicely with sweet elements such as fruits or jams on the board. Plus, its attractive appearance – characterized by profound color variation between lean meat and fat – adds visual interest to your spread.

12. Pate

Pâté, a rich and flavorful blend of cooked ground meat and fat minced into a spreadable paste, is a sophisticated choice due to its complex flavor profile, creamy texture, and versatility in pairings.

To start with, the unique taste of pâté can greatly enhance the variety of flavors on your board. Depending on its ingredients, pâté can range from delicate and subtly flavored to robust and intensely savory. It’s typically prepared with liver from chicken or pork, which provides an earthy flavor. Additional ingredients like herbs, spices, wine or brandy can also be used to infuse it with more layers of flavors.

Beyond its taste, pâté brings an interesting textural dimension. Its smoothness and creaminess provide a stark contrast to the firmness of cured meats or the crunchiness of pickles and breads. This multifaceted texture makes each bite unique and satisfying.

Lastly, one of the key benefits of including pâté on your board is its adaptability with various accompaniments. It pairs exceptionally well with different types of crackers, breads, fruits, and even jams or jellies for those who prefer a sweet-savory balance. Moreover, when served in rustic terrines or elegant ramekins it adds visual appeal to your board.

13. Summer Sausage

Summer sausage is a popular choice for several reasons. First, its robust flavor profile makes it an excellent pairing with various other components on the board.

Summer sausage has a rich, slightly smoky and tangy taste that balances well with both sweet and savory accompaniments. Whether it’s paired with sharp cheeses, tart pickles, or sweet fruits like grapes or figs, summer sausage provides a unique flavor dynamic that enhances the overall experience.

Secondly, its firm texture allows for easy slicing and serving. Unlike some softer sausages or meats that can be difficult to handle, summer sausage holds its shape well when sliced. This practical characteristic not only contributes to the aesthetic appeal but also makes it more convenient for guests to serve themselves.

Lastly, summer sausage is traditionally made to last without refrigeration which makes it an ideal choice for events as it can stay out on display for extended periods without spoiling. Its shelf-stable nature also means you can buy it in advance without worrying about freshness – a handy feature when preparing for a gathering.

14. Jamon Iberico

Jamon Iberico, a prized Spanish ham renowned for its exceptional quality and flavor, is an outstanding choice. Its unique taste profile, melt-in-your-mouth texture, and striking visual appearance enhance the appeal of your board.

The primary reason behind the widespread acclaim of Jamon Iberico lies in its extraordinary flavor. The ham comes from black Iberian pigs that are often fed on acorns during the last phase of their life.

This diet gives a distinct nutty flavor to the meat that’s unlike any other. In addition to this richness, Jamon Iberico also has a complex sweet-savory balance that complements other elements on your board perfectly.

Adding to its allure is Jamon Iberico’s exceptional texture. The ham is cured for an extended period which results in slices that are not just tender but practically dissolve on your tongue. This lush texture can offer a delightful contrast to harder cheeses or crusty breads typically included.

Finally, there’s no denying the visual appeal of Jamon Iberico. When sliced thinly, it showcases a deep red color with beautiful white streaks of fat running through it. This vibrancy adds an element of elegance and sophistication to the overall presentation.

15. Bianco D’Oro

Bianco d’Oro, a type of Italian salami known for its mild and subtly spiced flavor, is an excellent addition. It’s praised for its unique taste, tender texture, and appealing presentation.

The distinguishing feature of Bianco d’Oro is its flavor profile. Made from finely ground premium pork that’s mixed with garlic and white pepper, it offers a delicate yet distinct taste.

This mild character makes it versatile in pairings. It complements stronger-flavored cheeses or spicy accompaniments well, without overpowering them.

Another attribute that sets Bianco d’Oro apart is its texture. Unlike some cured meats that are coarse-grained, this salami has a fine texture which provides a soft bite when sliced thinly. It presents an interesting contrast to the harder textures found in other elements like dry-cured hams or hard cheeses.

From an aesthetic perspective, Bianco d’Oro adds visual interest to your spread due to its light color compared to other darker meats. When sliced thin, it reveals beautiful marbling of fat which enhances the overall look of your board.

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Last Updated:

April 25, 2024