In the era of Instagram, the humble cheese and charcuterie board has reached new, wild heights. Board food, as a concept, has gone beyond meat and cheese. We're serving everything on boards these days—from candy laid out in color-coordinated patterns to waffles to cereal to whole roasted salmon. There are even a whole host of board food related cookbooks that will teach you the ways of splaying out ingredients in Instagram-pleasing patterns.

It's weird. It's stunty. Depending on who you are, it's adorable or a bit irksome. And yet, as the saying goes, if you can't beat the Instagram board food people at the algorithm, join them.

The truth is that there's an art and science to creating a highly photogenic board of food—it's a lot of work, but the reward is sheer beauty! And Instagram likes! Fortunately, there are industry experts who have all the trade secrets to making your charcuterie plate or mezze platter as photogenic as possible.

When I first started researching this topic, the first person who came to mind was Grace Rasmus, a former colleague and current cheeseboard connoisseur.

"I made my first cheeseboard about three years ago at my mom's request. She'd seen one online and basically asked if I could copy it for a Thanksgiving appetizer." Rasmus says. "I love meat and cheese and manhandling food, so I happily obliged." At the time, Rasmus was doing social media for a food magazine and she says she couldn't help but see food through an Instagram-y lens. So she "really went for it" when it came to the styling and presentation. "The photos kind of blew up, so I kept making them at home for my family and friends and posting them on Instagram."

She now no longer knows how to make a non-Instagram-friendly cheeseboard. "It HAS to look 'grammable, even if we're on a dark patio, even if it's just for two people, even if no one is taking a picture. I just can't help myself."

Fortunate for us, she has some expert tips on crafting an aesthetically pleasing cheeseboard…and so do two other experts, authors of some of those board food books I was talking about, Lisa Bolton author of On Boards: Simple & Inspiring Recipe Ideas to Share at Every Gathering, and Shelly Westerhausen, author of Platters and Boards: Beautiful, Casual Spreads for Every Occasion. Here's everything you need to create a board of food that has the potential to go viral.


A board. (Duh.)

Choose the shape and size of your board based on what you're serving…and what will look good in an iPhone photograph. If you're strictly sticking to cheese, consider a board with a built-in slicing mechanism like this one. For larger spreads, invest in a lengthy board like this one that people can treat like a miniature buffet table. If you're serving a spread of fruits and veggies, try a board with a lip to prevent grapes from rolling out of place.

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Murray's Cheese

Cheese and Charcuterie

When you arrange your board, Bolton suggests starting with the biggest items (cheese wheels and wedges, large bunches of grapes, whole roasted vegetables) and any vessels you want on the board for dips and spreads (more on those below). "Start filling in the spaces by alternating colors. If you have white crackers and white cheese, break them up with some bright fruit or vegetables." Though your first priority is how this looks on camera, it doesn't hurt to have, you know, actually delicious cheese and meat. To always have them on hand, sign up for these cheese and meat of the month clubs:

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Condiments, Crackers, and Jam

Shelly recommends planning 1–2 ounces of cheese, 1 ounce of crackers, and a few tablespoons of jam (or spread) per person. Lisa also suggests using crackers and sliced bread to add inexpensive volume to a board, as well as including gluten-free options that can behave like crackers (like thinly sliced radishes and cucumbers).

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Small Bowls

Serve your condiments in pretty little bowls on top of your board. Whether you prefer spicy mustards, sweet jams, or herb-infused olive oils, serve them in pinch bowls or nut bowls for easy, aesthetically-pleasing access.

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Knives

You'll need a spreader for jams/jellies/mustards. A chic set of cheese knives can instantly add photo-readiness to your board and it will make consumption a little easier.

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Herbs & Fresh Garnishes

Lisa says the one thing that takes a board from average to Instagram-able is a fresh garnish. "I love using edible flowers (think pansies, roses, begonias or impatiens), herbs that have gone to seed (chives, lavender, oregano), whole fruits or fruits cut in half, or skewered toothpicks of blueberries or peas." Grace corroborates this advice, and says that a few sprigs of rosemary or thyme can really make a board stand out.

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Color

Shelly suggests browsing the farmers market for vibrant veggies, like purple cauliflower, yellow carrots, and watermelon radishes that add to the presentation and the edible selection. Lisa adds that you can get added texture and greenery by leaving the leafy tops on veggies like celery and carrots.

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Fillers

In her cheeseboard journey, Grace has learned to fill in the gaps, "I like things to be touching. No blank space on my boards!" She suggests using ribbons of prosciutto and sliced fruit to cover up empty spaces, and your nuts of choice to go in all the nooks and crannies.

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