Charcuterie boards are one of the easiest (and prettiest) ways to feed your guests; they make stunning centerpieces on any appetizer table and are always filled with fan favorites like assorted cheeses, salty meats, and plenty of jams and bread. One of the best parts of these grazing boards is that you can leave them out for guests to pick on as they choose, but that also sometimes means the meat winds up staying out at room temperature much longer than it probably should. In fact, charcuterie boards should never sit out for more than two hours.
Charcuterie boards usually contain cured meats, which are meats that have been preserved with nitrates and salt over a lengthy period of time. However, just because the meat has been at room temperature for months in the curing process does not mean it's safe to leave it out for hours on your dining room table. Bacteria grow almost immediately once that charcuterie is sliced.
Don't Leave Your Meat Plate Out For More Than Two Hours
No matter how much salt is in that cured meat, it still isn't safe to leave it sitting at room temperature for more than two hours; bacteria start to grow the moment that cured meat is sliced and exposed to air, which can lead to food poisoning -- so don't be fooled into thinking its high sodium content prevents bacteria growth.
There's a difference between meat that has been cured and sliced versus meat that has been cured and sealed. Cured, sealed meat has not been exposed to bacteria or air, which is why you might see these types of meats sitting in sealed packages at room temperature in the grocery store. It also could be why you sometimes need to remove the white, chalky rind that surrounds the meat. But the moment you slice it, treat it the same as you would any perishable food. You should also reduce the unrefrigerated time to just one hour if the meat is sitting out in heat over 90 degrees Fahrenheit because bacteria grow at a faster rate at that temperature.
A Quick Tip For Keeping Your Charcuterie Board Cold
While charcuterie and cheese are supposed to be somewhat warm when served, if you plan to have the board out for more than two hours, you'll have to take steps to ensure it remains cold enough for your guests to eat safely. One way to do this is to replace meats and cheeses halfway through. If you prepare them in advance, it will only take a few minutes, and the board will have likely lost some of its organized luster after a couple of hours, anyway.
Make a charcuterie board about half the size of what you planned, but buy the same amount of meat and cheese. Slice up all the meat and cheese at once, but store half of it in your refrigerator and organize half on the board. Then, after two hours, just swap the charcuterie that remains on the plate with the new charcuterie. This way, you can serve as much meat and cheese as you originally wanted, but by taking 10 minutes or so to swap it, you provide guests with four hours' worth of charcuterie without taking too much of your own time away from your party.
Read the original article on Daily Meal.