What Does 'Charcuterie' Actually Mean?

Charcuterie Board Getty 8/26/19

OK, so everybody has heard of a charcuterie board. You’ve probably even snacked on one a time or two. But what does “charcuterie” actually mean? It’s more than a fancy schmancy party staple. 

What Is Charcuterie?

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Charcuterie, the branch of cooking devoted to prepared meats, is the result of humans’ need to preserve meat before refrigeration was invented. 

The word is derived from the somewhat disturbing-sounding French term “chair cuit,” which means “cooked flesh.”  

Most charcuterie deals with prepared pork products like bacon, ham, and sausage. 

Today, when we say “charcuterie,” we are most often referring to the acts of preparing, assembling, and artfully arranging cured meats with cheeses, fruits, vegetables, and crackers or breads. 

How to Prepare a Charcuterie Board

A charcuterie board is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. However, if you want to become an expert Charcutier, there are a few things you always need:


Meat is the star of the show, so don’t skimp on cold cuts. The world is your oyster, but some common charcuterie meats are: 

  • prosciutto
  • cured sausage
  • capicola
  • salami
  • pepperoni
  • jamón Serrano


The perfect charcuterie board has pre-sliced and spreadable cheeses. Head to your local Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods for expert advice. A few of our favorites are:

  • Gouda 
  • Gruyère
  • sharp Cheddar
  • Brie
  • burrata 
  • Camembert 
  • Roquefort


Bread, crackers, or something else to complement the meat and cheese is non-negotiable. You also need to include fruits, vegetables, or other options for your vegetarian and vegan friends. Common charcuterie accoutrements (besides crackers or bread!) include: 

  • grapes 
  • olives 
  • hummus
  • jam or jelly
  • honey
  • nuts

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