Cheese by Numbers has step-by-step guides to creating gorgeous cheese boards.

By Renee Cherry
March 09, 2019

Nothing says "I'm casually sophisticated," like nailing a cheese board composition, but that's easier said than done. Anyone can throw cheese and charcuterie on a plate, but crafting the perfect board takes an artistic hand. If you could use a cheatsheet, head straight to Instagram. The account @cheesebynumbers, explains how to build a cheese board in paint by number terms. (Related: Easy Appetizer Ideas Featuring Ingredients You Already Have In Your Fridge)

After getting tons of requests for cheese plate pointers, Brooklynite Marissa Mullen created the Instagram account @thatcheeseplate, and eventually @cheesebynumbers which breaks down her process further. Cheese by Numbers has dozens of templates you can follow step-by-step, but if you're looking to create your own custom board with all your favorites, read on for everything you need to know.

How to Make a Cheese Board

Mullen always follows the same template when creating her boards:

  1. Board: You want something round or square, says Mullen. Cutting boards, cookie trays, and lazy susans all work. If you'll be using components that need a ramekin (more on that later), arrange the small bowls on the board now.
  2. Cheese: Go for 2-3 cheeses. "I like to switch it up with different types," says Mullen. You could choose a cow's milk with a goat's milk and a sheep's milk, one hard, one soft, and one aged cheese, or a brie, a cheddar, and a blue. Spread out the cheeses on the board. "if it's a rectangular board like one on the top left side one in the middle and then one on the bottom right," she says.
  3. Meat: Mullen coined the term "salami river" for the meat she arranges to run through the center of her plate.
  4. Fruits and vegetables: Next, place seasonal fruit on one side of the meat with cornichons, mini cucumbers, carrots, cherry tomatoes, etc., on the other side.
  5. Crunchy items: At this point, your plate should be looking pretty full with a couple of gaps. Fill them with crackers or nuts.
  6. Jams/chutneys: Fill any ramekins with jams, chutneys, olives, or anything else you'd like to stay isolated.
  7. Garnishing: Lastly, garnish with herbs or fresh flowers.

How to Select Your Cheeses

Equally as important as your layout is the cheese you choose. Mullen suggests going to a cheese shop. "I definitely feel like if you go to a cheese shop you can find a lot of funky cheeses from local creameries and more small batch creameries in the states, as well as good French and Italian cheeses," she says. If you don't have access to or the budget for a cheese shop, Trader Joe's has a great affordable selection, as do many grocery stores, she says.

If you're completely lost at the store, Mullen recommends Humboldt Fog as a safe bet. It's a ripened goat cheese from Cypress Groves creamery in California that feels artisanal but is available at many grocery stores, she says. When catering to a crowd, you can never go wrong with gruyere or a French brie, she says. (Always go with full fat; It's totally fine according to science.)

Food Photography Tips

If you're mainly in this for the 'gram, you'll want to follow Mullen's method behind the shots on her pages. She suggests setting your board on a blank surface–she uses her kitchen table–so the colors pop. Choose a spot that gets indirect natural light, then snap a photo from directly above the plate.

How to Pair Your Wine and Cheese

If you'll be pairing wine with your cheeseboard, the adage "if it grows together, it goes together," can help you narrow down your choices. Wines and cheeses from the same region generally pair well together. (Related: The Definitive *Truth* About Red Wine Health Benefits)

Here are 13 more can't-go-wrong wine and cheese pairings:

  • Camembert with sparkling wine
  • Burrata with sauvignon blanc
  • Compté with Chardonnay
  • Fontina with pinot grigio
  • Goat cheese with dry Riesling
  • Gewürztraminer with muenster
  • Cheddar with dry rosé
  • Gouda with pinot noir
  • Gruyere with Malbec
  • Idiazabal with Tempranillo
  • Brie with Beaujolais
  • Asiago fresco with dry sherry
  • Roquefort with port