Light, fresh meals are on the menu and opportunities for platters and grazing boards are a daily occurrence.To inspire an unique twist to your grazing occasions, top Kiwi platter professionals share their grazing inspiration tips with us.
Top 10 Platter Tips
#1. Colour“I live by ‘you eat with your eyes’ therefore one of my favourite platter tips is to make sure your platter is bursting with colour. The best way to add great pops of colour to any platter is by using seasonal fruits and vegetables as well as different coloured chutneys, relishes and hummus.” — Rachael, grazers_nz
“We love using florals to garnish our platters – it gives your platter the final jazz of colour!” — Ying, platterandgraze
Place food components with contrasting colours next to each other so food items stand out. Get creative – think rich reds of strawberries and cherry tomatoes, pastel colours of cheeses and nuts, fresh greens with grapes, celery and herbs, tropical fruits, seasonal vegetables and vibrant dips such as pumpkin and beetroot hummus.
#2. Variety“Don’t be afraid to use a whole lot of different foods, a little bit of everything, not only gives it texture/colour – but most importantly variety so that the fussiest of eaters still have a handful of stuff they love. Cut food up in to easy to eat sizes – people want bite size so they can try a little bit of everything.” — Ying, platterandgraze
“As well as using a mixture of vibrant colours, use a variety of textures and tastes too. This will also help to create your edible work of art.” — Simone, pitter_platter
“When you need an amazing range of different flavours, add relishes or chutneys! Fruit pastes make for a new texture on a beautiful grazing table.” — Stacey, the_platter_board
Balance is everything. With variety, there’ll be an array of nibbles for everyone to enjoy. Choose food items that are small enough to pick up with one hand and don’t require cutlery.
Consider mixing up the textures: something soft, cold, crunchy, creamy. Think flavours – sweet, salty and savoury.
#3. MeatsWhat will be on your platter board: cured meats (salami, prosciutto, ham); cooked meats (roast chicken, pulled beef); or smoked meats (smoked chicken or artisan sausage)?
If possible, roll or fold cured meats so they look appetizing and easy to remove off the platter to avoid guests having to prize off salami slices that may have awkwardly stuck together.
Don’t be afraid to cut large slices in half or tear prosciutto and pile into heaps around the board. Use toothpicks or tongs for easy self-service.
#4. Cheese & Crackers“Gimme some flavour baby – we are all about fresh and amazing flavours and there are some pretty amazing things you can pair with cheese! For us creating beautiful platters took time and became a bit of an art, we are slight perfectionists when it comes to placing and a little OCD about straight lines, but for us it’s all about that end product!” — Birgitte, themadplatternz
For full flavour, cheese is best served at room temperature. Remove it from the fridge, cover with a damp tea towel, and leave for 1-3 hours before serving.
It is a good idea to separate strong cheeses from the more mild tasting ones – you don’t want your cheese selections to start tasting like each other. Use separate knives too.
Plain crackers carry the flavour of all the delicious ingredients on your platter board: sea salt crackers, rice crackers, multigrain or wheat crackers work well. If you choose to add a flavoured or dried-fruit cracker with unusual ingredients, note that while ‘a little fancy’ it may not go with all your platter board ingredients. Mix it up and add other carbohydrates too: crostini, blini, pretzels, breads, cheese sticks etc.
#5. Quantity“Don’t be afraid to explore new flavors, add lots of textures, height and colour. The beauty of platters/grazing is people can try little bits of everything and aren’t committed to eating a whole plate if it isn’t to their taste.” — Alycia, southern_graze
While our eyes may be bigger than our stomachs, the beauty of a grazing board is to have ample bite-sized nibbles for your guests.
As a measure, keep the meat-to-cheese ratio at 1:1 (around 3 slices per person) as with the cheese, and everything else 1-2 pieces per person. There will be some popular items on your platter board so bear in mind that these may disappear quickly!
#6. Presentation“Find the perfect board, we encourage people to invest in a nice wooden board, so you can use and use again. This way you also get use to the amount of food you require, and will get quicker and more efficient every time.” — Ying, platterandgraze
“I use a layer of wax paper then brown paper and a mix of props and straight on the brown paper.” — Alycia, southern_graze
Make your platter as visually appealing as possible.
Consider using a variety of pinch bowls for salts and colourful ramekins to house chutneys and savoury jellies, dipping sauces, olives or pickles that might leek into another ingredient’s space, affecting both flavour and texture.
#7. Assembly“Never put crackers and bread next to pickles etc, they’ll go soggy – and never put sweet things right next to the meats.” — Brooke, yourperfectplatter
“Start with round bowls as focal points to create anchor points to build around, then add cheese and large fruits, then fill in the gaps with smaller goodies!” — Ying, platterandgraze
If using a round platter board, you may wish to create a wreath-like decoration of edibles around the outside of the platter and hero the main feature in the centre. Blackcurrant & Red Onion Jelly makes for an impressive baked brie centrepiece to be served with crusty slices of bread and crackers for a show-stopping feature.
#8. Food Safety“Make separate platters of gluten free and dairy free options so there’s absolutely no cross contamination. Many crackers are gluten free.” — Jess, gatherandgrazetimaru
“Use good quality food – never skimp on quality or cut corners with cheap produce. We especially love Barker’s Feijoa and Pear fruit paste paired with soft cheese!” — Ying, platterandgraze
Be generous with cheese knives and spoons so to not-cross contaminate foods, particularly Fruit Pastes and Chutneys, meats and seafood, or different cheeses. This will be most welcomed too so guests can serve themselves without waiting for the sole utensil to be passed around.
Keep serviettes handy, and provide a bowl for olive stones, chewed strawberry stems and cocktail sticks so they don’t get discarded back on the board!
While soft cheeses are best served at room temperature, keep meats chilled as long as possible before serving. Cover food from flies with draped netting before the ‘big reveal’ when ready to serve.
#9. Angles & Heights“We love creating platters with height, use cake stands, vases and other household items to add layers to your platter!” — Ying, platterandgraze
Elevate brie by sitting in on top of the box it came in, or use miniature boards to isolate or feature some of your hero ingredients. Arrange cheeses cut into different shapes and angles spread around the board. Consider giving your platter height by adding a vase of flowers picked from your garden.
Tightly packed platter boards are visually appealing. Once you have laid out your feature pieces (meat, cheeses, fruits and vegetables), and scattered ‘fillers’ such as nuts, pretzels, chocolates, you may still find a couple of gaps.
#10. Fill in the Gaps
Fill these gaps with edible goodness everyone can enjoy such as baby spinach, herbs or small loose leaf lettuce. Tuck it under savoury items that won’t be affected adding both colour and instant gap fillers!