How to plan and create a grazing table

11th April 2022

Grazing tables are a great, informal way of providing buffet style food but all served on one board with spectacular results. Here at Party Pages Peterborough, when we think of a grazing table, we think of a selection of meats, cheeses with chutneys, garnishes, breads and crackers all intermingled together on a large board for guests to help themselves to throughout your party or event.

You can, however, put anything you like on there (within reason)… savoury pastries, party food, crudites, salads. For the purpose of this article, we will only be focusing on a charcuterie and cheese style table.

The first thing to note is that if you have many dietary requirements, allergies or fussy eaters attending your event, this is probably not the best food option for you. The idea of the grazing table is that the items are all intermingled and there is a very high chance of cross contamination. You can platter some of the items, but then this becomes more like a traditional buffet rather than a grazing table.
However, if you have some foodies and your guests are happy to help themselves, the grazing table can be a fun and impressive offering at your event. You can stay clear of the meats and just have a vegetarian board, or you can have a variety of everything to ensure that guests will have a wide choice.

 

PLANNING
In order to create a successful and impressive board, you will need to plan what you’re putting on there. This may then involve visiting a few different shops or supermarkets to ensure that you can source all of the correct items, but the time spent on the preparation will be worth it in the end.
Below is our suggestion of the items that you should include on your grazing table.

Aim for approximately £5.00 to £10.00 per head in total, depending on the quality of the items that you want to provide. We normally create a spreadsheet when planning our grazing tables so that we can work out the budget and how much/many of each item to purchase.

Due to the variety and costs of these items, we wouldn’t recommend a grazing table for less than 25 guests, but you can then cater for hundreds by simply increasing the number of different items or the amount of each item.

A grazing table does take a little time to create on the day and put into place last minute. We would recommend that you allocate at least an hour prior to serving to put all of the items into place.

 

CHEESE
As with any good cheeseboard, you want to make sure that you have at least one option from the different types of cheese available. The more that you are catering for, the larger the portions you can opt for.

  • Soft & Fresh – Cream Cheese (Plain / Flavoured), Mozzarella, Goat’s Cheese, Feta, etc.
  • Soft Ripened – Brie (French / Cornish), Camembert, etc.
  • Semi-Hard – Comte, Edam, Gouda, Jarlsberg, Smoked Applewood Cheddar, etc.
  • Hard – Cheddar (Mild / Medium / Mature), Red Leicester, Manchego, Gruyere, Wensleydale (Plain / with Cranberry or Apricot), etc.
  • Blue – Stilton, Roquefort, Danish Blue, etc.

There are so many different options, so we would recommend that you choose some really popular items such as cheddar, brie and stilton; then some more exciting ones for the more adventurous guests.

We would suggest buying each cheese type in one block, but then slice some portions to put out on the board to make it look more appealing and also help guests to serve themselves quickly. Take a look online at the correct way of slicing different types of cheese or for ideas of what will look nice.

Although stored in the fridge, cheese is often recommended to be served at room temperature, so we suggest that you take the blocks out of the fridge a couple of hours prior to serving and start cutting them up when you begin to build your grazing table.

Don’t forget to put out enough cheese knives on the board so that guests can cut their own portion from the main block if they would prefer. Then make sure that you have plenty of normal knives for them to take to their seat to eat with.

 

MEATS
Again, variety is what will keep your grazing table exciting here, but make sure that you include some popular meats for your board. Our main recommendations are sliced ham, salami, Italian/Spanish cured meats, chorizo etc.
Most of these meats can be bought readily prepared, which will save you some time, but slices of cooked or cured meat will often stick together in the packaging. We definitely recommend that you spend some time separating the slices and arranging them nicely on your board.

Pate is a nice added extra, which will compliment the cheeses. We suggest two or three different types, so perhaps a chicken liver, a duck and orange or a standard Brussels or Ardennes pate and you can purchase these in slices, blocks or even in jars.

With any meats, it is important that they are kept in the fridge until creating your grazing table and (if possible) even covered until serving. Some cured meats and pate can discolour when exposed for too long.

If you have any vegetarians attending, you might decide to keep the meats separate from the main board. If so, we recommend using slates, wooden boards or small plates/bowls but then still keeping them towards the main grazing board itself.

BREADS & CRACKERS
As with any cheese and charcuterie board, it is important to have plenty of bread and crackers available. We hate it when you’re given a lovely cheese board and then only 3 or 4 crackers to enjoy, so we tend to put plenty on the grazing board.

You can get some really lovely artisan crackers in lots of different colours, shapes and flavours. We still recommend that you include some of the popular more common crackers that people enjoy.
We enjoy placing the crackers around the blocks of cheese and in decorative lines on the main board. If you want to, keep some boxes of crackers aside ready to put out if the board is looking sparce or someone asks for some more at their seat.

If providing bread, we recommend that this is bought as fresh as possible and sliced just prior to serving. We also suggest serving the bread in a basket or tray separate from the main board, as it can start to go stale straight away.
Again, variety is the spice of life, so include some white, brown and seeded options. Baguettes and bloomers are lovely options and even some rye bread or melba toast can go well depending on your cheese and meat offerings.
This is probably the main thing to keep your eye on throughout the event, to make sure that it doesn’t run out and don’t forget the butter and/or sunflower spread.

 

ACCOMPANIMENTS
We’re sure we don’t need to tell you how important it is to have some chutneys and fresh/dried fruit available to have with your cheese and charcuterie boards, but on a grazing table it is even more important.
The accompaniments add the colours, textures and tastes to really give your grazing table a wow factor. It is easy to get a bit carried away and before you know it, you’ve spent as much on these extras as on your cheeses (we’ve been there and done that!), so below are our recommendations and ideas. The larger the event, the easier it is to provide the variety of items, but even on the smallest of boards, we would recommend trying to include some of the below.

  • Fresh Fruit – Grapes, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and tomatoes are popular and will add a pop of colour. More exotic fruits can look impressive, such as pomegranate, kiwi, pink grapefruit, figs, pineapple and dragon fruit and these can be sliced and arranged decoratively.
  • Dried Fruit – Apricots, figs, cranberries and dates are all lovely with cheese and meats.
  • Antipasti & pickles – Olives, sundried tomatoes, artichokes, mushrooms, gherkins/cornichons and pickled onions are usually in an oil or vinegar, so we recommend serving these in small bowls.
  • Nuts – Almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios and Brazil nuts are great for filling in spaces.
  • Dips & Chutneys – Red onion chutney, tomato chutney, chilli jam, piccalilli, humous, baba ganoush, guacamole, salsa, etc.

 

Once you have budgeted and planned what items are going onto your grazing table, it can be a little tricky to get the balance right without having put one together before.

Here at Party Pages Peterborough, we use a spreadsheet to calculate the costs per head depending on each individual item. This is why above we have suggested between £5.00 and £10.00 per person. Any more than this and you are very likely to have lots of leftovers or wasted food, but this does depend on where you source your items from and for what price.

Also bear in mind whether your grazing table is acting as a full portion meal, or if it is a token offering so that your guests don’t go hungry. We would expect to spend approximately £150.00 to £200.00 on items for a 25 person grazing table as a full meal.

 

CREATE

To physically put the grazing table together, we recommend that you source a large board (approx. 80cm x 40cm per 25 people) and make sure that it is covered with brown baking paper, to make it hygienic for the food to be put on directly.

Start with the cheeses and place them around the board as spaced out as possible, then place any accompaniments that you have in bowls in the largest gaps. Remember to have some of the cheese sliced ready and place these near the main blocks of each cheese.

Use your crackers to fill in some of the biggest spaces and aim to have at least 5 crackers per person placed on the board directly.

Depending on if you are putting the meats on the board directly or on slates/boards nearby, place these on next.
At this point you should aim to have ¾ of the board filled. If you don’t, perhaps go back and slice some more of each of the cheeses; especially the ones that you know will be popular.

Finally, you will use all of your other accompaniments to fill in the final quarter of the board. We like to try and fill the larger spaces with fruits and keep the nuts in large piles, rather than spreading them out all over the board.

We will usually decorate our grazing table with log slices, foliage and lanterns to create a rustic effect and we will also often use bamboo plates and cutlery in keeping with this theme. You can obviously decorate however you deem appropriate for your event, but in all honesty, the board itself will be the real eye catcher!

 

Here at Party Pages Peterborough, we have had great feedback about our grazing tables and often asked questions on how to create one. We always take into account the theme of the event and what guests will be in attendance when finalising the list of items, but these are the standard items for any grazing table that we build.
If you like the idea but you’re not sure that you want to do this yourself, why not enquire with us today via Our services and let Party Pages Peterborough do the hard work for you?

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