Meat and cheese trays are a great appetizer or an easy way for guests to make their own sandwiches. Perfect for parties, potlucks, BBQs, or family gatherings!
Meat and cheese trays are always a hit at family gatherings. You can put them on the table as-is, or you can serve them alongside rolls or bread slices so your guests can make sandwiches. They are so much fun to garnish and make look pretty! Plus, they are SO EASY to make up. You can whip up a meat and cheese tray faster than you can make most appetizers.
I recently attended an event at our local Albertsons Market Street where we learned from our local deli catering expert how to make meat and cheese platters. It was such a fun girls night! She gave us all sorts of great tips on how to make meat and cheese trays for events. These tips are great for if you are catering for a big event or if you just wanted to make something that looks nice for a smaller gathering.
For the meat
First of all, you want to choose 2-3 different kinds of deli meats. Typically meat and cheese trays include ham, turkey, and roast beef. For purposes of folding and/or rolling the meat, you will want to have it sliced fairly thin. You can ask your deli to slice it as they would a typical “sandwich slice”. It will be easiest to ask your deli to give you the slice amount rather than the weight you are looking for. For meat and cheese trays you will want ten slices of each kind of meat.
It is a good idea to separate the turkey and the roast beef on a deli tray. The roast beef is really dark and can discolor the turkey if it is sitting next to it. For this tray, we started with ham in the middle and then put the turkey and the roast beef on either side.
When preparing the meat to be placed on the tray, you can either roll it or fold it. Rolling is great for when you are serving the meats on their own. If you are wanting to use the meat for your guests to make sandwiches, it if better to use the folding method. That way it is easier to pick up and place on the roll or bread. When folding, you just fold like an accordion, back and forth with about 1 1/2″ folds. When placing the meat on the tray, be sure to leave some room right in the middle. You want the meat and cheese to be in a ring. If you don’t have circle guides on your tray you can place a condiment cup or any other small, round object in the middle to prevent you from overlapping any of the meats or cheeses in the middle.
When stacking the folded meat try to make it look like a pyramid make it look like a pyramid. You will put four folds (or rolls) of meat close together on the tray, then three folds of meat directly over those, then two, then one. You will do the same for each of the meats until you have three stacks of meat, taking up exactly half of the tray.
For the cheese
You can use as many different kinds of cheeses as you would like for your deli tray. For the tray I did, I used sharp cheddar and Swiss. The harder cheeses like these work best for meat and cheese trays because they don’t stick together as much and can easily be picked up with tongs.
Once again, when asking you deli to give you cheese slices, go by the slice instead of weight. You will want eight “sandwich” sized slices for each kind of cheese. Once you have your cheese squares, stack them directly on top of one another and slice them all diagonally (do this separately for each kind of cheese). This will give you two stacks of 8 triangles for each kind of cheese (so four stacks total).
Grab one of the stacks and hold it lightly on one of the corners. Keeping hold of the corner, gently fan the cheese out at the opposite end. You may have to separate some of the slices a little to get the perfect fan effect. You can also separate the cheese and place them on top of each other one at a time to make the fan, it might just take a little longer.
When placing them on the tray, put each “fan” in a different direction and fill up the remaining space on the tray.
Garnishing your meat and cheese tray
At this time you should have a nice ring of meat and cheese with a 3-4″ round space in the middle. Now you can let your creativity run wild. You can garnish your tray any way you would like. For our tray, we rolled up some leafy green lettuce like a bouquet, ripped the excess off the bottom, and placed it in the hole in the middle. You can also use kale, red leaf lettuce, or anything else pretty and leafy.
We also played around with fruit for garnish. To slice the lemons, limes, and kiwis, we did a deep zig-zag cut around the center and simply pulled it apart once it was cut all the way around the axis. This gives it that cool 3D star shape in the middle. For the strawberries, we did several parallel cuts across the strawberry, cutting all the way through, then fanned it out.
Remember to serve with little condiment dishes of mayonnaise and mustard if you are using your meat and cheese platter for the purpose of making sandwiches.
Tips for storing and serving
When you are making a meat and cheese platter it is best to prepare it the same day you are serving it. If you aren’t going to serve it immediately after you make it, be sure to cover it well and refrigerate it until ready to serve. It will stay good in the fridge for up to 24 hours. I wouldn’t recommend going over that. When setting it out to serve, don’t let it sit out too long. No more than 2 hours.
If you live in the Boise/Meridian area and want a hands-on class for making meat and cheese trays, check out the class schedules at the Albertsons on Broadway or Albertsons Market Street. You will learn how to make these platters and the best part is you can take your own creation home with you!
- Fold or roll each deli meat and place on tray in stacks around half of the tray (see notes above). Be sure to leave space in the middle of the tray, forming a ring.
- Place 8 slices of each type of cheese in a stack and cut diagonally into triangles. Fan out each stack of cheese and place on the remaining half of the tray.
- Garnish with green leaf lettuce and/or fruit.