What Is and Isn't Charcuterie?

What Is and Isn't Charcuterie?

What this is: Understanding the real meaning of a charcuterie board.

Who it’s for: People who like to use the right words for the right things.

If you’ve been on TikTok or Instagram lately, you may have seen some fussin’ in the comment section about people incorrectly labeling S’mores Boards, Brunch Boards, etc. as “Charcuterie Boards”. 

The truth is that charcuterie boards have caught on, but about 90% of the people talking about them are using the term incorrectly. If you came to our curds&co store and ordered a charcuterie board, you would get a board with all meats, some olives, pickles and mustard. No cheese, and definitely no s’mores, waffles, or bagels and lox. 

LET’S GET SEMANTIC

Charcuterie is a French word whose etymology traces back to meaning cooked flesh” (char = flesh, cuite = cooked), and then became to also be known as the place where you would buy it. Charcuterie boards traditionally include sausage, salami, cured ham, pâté, along with nuts, bread, and condiments. 

So, what do you call a board with cheese and charcuterie on it? Well, that depends! 

  • Charcuterie Board: If it’s mostly meat, as in: meat is the star of the show but it has a little bit of cheese, it’s still okay to call it a charcuterie board. 
  • Cheese Board: But, if cheese is the main attraction, and there’s a little selection of charcuterie, like one or two types, we’d call it a cheese board. 
  • Cheese and Charcuterie Board: If the board has an equal supporting cast of cheese and charcuterie, we’d go ahead and call that a cheese and charcuterie board. 

HOW DID WE GET HERE?

Why do so many people use the term “charcuterie” incorrectly? Well, you can blame social media (and Google) for that. People all over social media mistakenly use the term “charcuterie” when they basically mean any food that is artfully arranged on a board. So then what people end up searching on Google for is for a “charcuterie board.” So then, if you’re trying to get your cheese board post high up in Google search results, you’re going to call it a “charcuterie board” too, and pay to show up on those search results. And then we get stuck in the positive feedback cycle we find ourselves in, where almost no one knows what to call anything anymore.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

So, if it’s not a charcuterie board, what should you call a board filled with Graham crackers, Hershey’s bars, and marshmallows? There are so many options! How about calling it a Campfire Dessert Board, or a S’mores Board (a play on the charcuterie board-tangential “smörgåsbord”) or a S’mores Grazing Board. If your board is covered with breakfast foods, call it a Brunch Board. If it’s a cute little cones of cheese, once slice of salami, grapes, olives and yogurt covered pretzels (which by the way, look cute but are a weird collection of foods to eat together, we can do better people!), call them Cheese and Pairing Cones. Or Snack Cones or Tasting Cones. 

So there you have it. Mom says to use your words and we suggest using the right ones, and then we’ll all know whether or not we can expect salami or cheese or marshmallows on our board.

Watch our video below for more clarification about what is and isn't charcuterie.

SUMMARY

Charcuterie boards are composed of mostly meat, everything else is mislabeled.

HOMEWORK

You be the judge: Scour the internet, look on TikTok, Instagram or Pinterest. Search for “charcuterie boards” and see how many pictures it takes you to find a real charcuterie board. What are the wildest, most mislabeled charcuterie boards you can find? How would you retitle them? While you’re at it, hopefully you’ll find some fun things you can add to your real charcuterie board, too!

Downloads

Click the icons to download a pdf of this lesson and our two handy guides: How Cheese is Made and Cheese and Pairing Types.

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