What is the best material for a cheese board?
Everything You Need to Build a Beautiful Cheese Board All the supplies you need, from boards and spreaders to knives and ramekins, to make this dinner party essential come to life.
Whether you've got family visiting from out of town, an annual party that it’s finally your turn to host, or a calendar filled with dinner and cocktail parties, a great cheese board is a classic crowd-pleaser. It greets visitors when they enter your home, laid out invitingly on the dinner table alongside a bottle of wine, and is the first sign that your party is going to be a success. If the cheese board is a hit, your status as a certified host or hostess will be solidified in the party pantheon, alongside Jackie Onassis and Perle Mesta. No pressure, right?
To help you navigate the innumerable cheeseboards, knives, and other accessories out there that compliment a cheese plate, we've gathered our picks (some of which we use in our test kitchen) for the supplies you need make this must-have dinner party appetizer a smash hit.
The most common choice for serving cheese. Reliable, easy to clean and economical, a wooden cheese or serving board can be anything from a sectioned wood burl to an appropriated cutting board. What makes the real difference in the character of the wood and how it emphasizes the story of the cheese. For example, serving a wheel of casu marzu (a Sardinian sheep's cheese) on a rustic olive wood slab from Tuscany will evoke a true sense of exotic dining, whereas displaying this famous "worm's cheese" on a ratty cutting board with plastic spoons may turn your guests' stomachs. Presentation matters just as much as the provenance of said cheese.
When choosing a wooden cheese board
When choosing a wooden cheese board, it's important to pick a species that will not absorb flavors easily. Cheese is by nature, rich in fats and oils, which have a propensity to go rancid once the fat oxidizes. While this is a part of natural aging process of cheese, most of the "pleasant" cheesey aroma is caused by the bacteria and yeast from the fermentation of the milk. Rancid fats create the same smell such as sour milk, which is sharp and generally unpleasant.
Woods to avoid that tend to pick up flavors are oak and most softwoods (fir, cedar, pine, larch, cypress). Oak in particular is famous for it's transference, as one look at a wine barrel and you'll immediately realize wine makers use oak because it easily absorbs and imparts flavors due to it's porous nature.
So when picking out a wood, a non-porous species is generally best to keep your wood from imparting any unwanted flavors. Some hardwoods that fall into this category include olive wood, birch, American cherry, hard maple and teak.
Porous woods include walnut and mahogony, so best to avoid these species. Do note though Brazilian walnut (Ipe), as seen in this paddle board, is not affected as Ipe is not a true walnut species.
If you must have one of the aforementioned woods ( larch for example, makes for a beautiful presentation), it is highly recommended to use both food safe oil and wax on a regular basis to season and seal in the wood to prevent imparting of flavors and smells.
Lastly, one careful point when picking out a cheese board is to ensure that it does not have any lacquer finish or varnish. Most of these finishes are not food safe and can chip when cut on, which will then make their way into your food.
It All Comes Down to Proper Cleaning
No matter what cheese board you choose, be it wood, marble or slate, the only real "secret" of the ultimate cheese snob is proper care and maintenance.
After using, your cheese boards should be scrubbed with hot soap and water and then wiped immediately dry. Wood boards should be oiled and waxed and marble boards should be sealed each month. If your cheese board even begins to have a whiff of stink, bacteria has begin to take hold, which means you need to disinfect and sanitize your board.