A meat and cheese tray is my go-to for any size gathering. They are so versatile and can be scaled up or down for any size budget or amount of people. I did one at our Christmas party last year and do them often, even if we just have another family over for a BBQ.
I have a love-hate relationship with Trader Joe’s. I love their prices. I love their selection and I love all the fun, seasonal things that they bring in. My girls love their tiny shopping carts and the people who work there are always lovely.
I don’t like how they wrap a lot of their produce in plastic. They always seem to be out of one thing that I need and if you hit that parking lot at just the wrong time, it will suck every kind ounce of blood you have in your body.
That being said, they have some of the best pricing and selection of cheese and charcuterie meats. I grabbed some of my favorites and pulled together a quick board when we had some friends over recently.
Meat and Cheese Tray Layout
Over time, I’ve accumulated a few different platters that I like to use for my meat and cheese tray layouts. I base that on the number of people I’m expecting and the number of items I have to fill the board. This particular board is from Crate and Barrel, I love the color and the versatility – you could write on it with chalk to label your meat and cheeses. So fun.
Then I lay out my cheeses. I always try to have at least one hard and one soft cheese. For this meat and cheese tray, I used brie, manchego, and smoked gouda. I also used my favorite fig jam and some homemade apple butter.
The next step is to layer in your meats. I like to peel the meat apart and fold them so they are a bit fluffy and easy to grab. If I am using prosciutto, I will cut the strips in half so they are a little more bite-sized.
There is so much flexibility with meat and cheese trays. Once I have my main meat and cheese on the board, I will play around with the rest of the food to fill the tray. This particular time, I used blackberries, strawberries, and pita crackers. I also grabbed some tiny pumpkins from the floral section of Trader Joe’s and added them in. What’s more fall and festive than tiny pumpkins!?!
Leaving room around the cheeses will give people space to cut in and get a good piece off without making a mess all around the meat and cheese tray. I also like to make cuts of the cheese before guests even arrive. People are more likely to dig in if they don’t feel like they are the first to do so.
As the party goes on, and things start to disappear off the tray, refill bare spots with extra crackers or berries.
These are the Trader Joe’s Pita Bites that I used on this tray. I had intended to use the pretzel sticks and spinach/kale dip on this tray but it didn’t fit right so I served that in a separate bowl. They are staples in my shopping cart when we make a Trader Joe’s run.
Back to the meat and cheese tray, the finished product is so fun, festive, and an easy way to wow your guests with the presentation.
Trader Joe’s Meat and Cheese Tray Tips
Since the pandemic started, we began doing “family dinner nights” with our oldest’s best friends and their families. Each month is a different theme, everyone pitches in a dish or dessert and we revolve the hosting duties. Last month, we did a Dips for Dinner theme and made a few boards. I pulled this one together using some of my new favorite meat and cheese tray items from Trader Joe’s.
- Lining up the crackers makes it visually organized – these are everything bagel crackers, pita chips, and fig crackers.
- Use the containers that your condiments come in for an easy presentation. I kept the Pub Cheese dip in its container and moved the tapenade into a bowl of my own.
- I love these meat trio packages. I take them and cut them with kitchen scissors to make stacking easy and the meat bite-sized.
- Make it ahead of time and keep the cheese in its wrapping. I covered this entire board with cling wrap after I made it and kept it in the fridge until our guests arrived.
- We paired this with my easy kale salad and a kid-friendly veggie platter.
Have you done a meat and cheese tray? I’d love to hear some of your favorite things to include, comment below.