How Long Can Your Charcuterie Board Actually Stay Out?

No matter the season, charcuterie boards are great to set out for parties, family get-togethers, and casual weekend lunches. Comprised of cured meats along with specialty cheeses, nuts, olives, crackers, fruits, and spreads, charcuterie boards have seen a surge in popularity over the last few years thanks to stunningly-styled offerings that look particularly beautiful in social media feeds (via Business Insider). Good looks, a tantalizing array of sweet and savory bites, and the way finger food enables guests to chat and mingle make these boards an ideal appetizer option. 

Perhaps the only drawback to providing a charcuterie board at a party is that the food often sits out at room temperature for hours. Although guests are happy to circle back to that board throughout the night, the food, particularly the meats, should only be left out so long. How long? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that two hours is the maximum, even for cured meats like prosciutto, salami, soppressata, and chorizo. Any longer than this and you run the risk of bacteria growing on the meats and potentially making guests sick. This two-hour timeframe also includes the hour or so you let the meats come to room temperature before serving, which Simply Home Cooked says is ideal to experience the best flavor from charcuterie.

Of course, meats aren't the only component of the perfect charcuterie board to take in into consideration.

Cheese has its own time limits

According to Bon Appétit, letting your cheeses come to room temperature allows the complex flavors to really shine. In all, however, four hours is the maximum that cheese should be left out of the fridge. Delicate, high-moisture cheeses like mascarpone will likely look the worst after sitting out this long, so you'll know it's time to throw them out. More firm cheeses like Cheddar and Parmesan may start to dry out, especially along the edges. 

Appearances aren't the only problem of course. Like with meats, bacteria will form on cheeses left out too long with the potential to cause sickness. So Yummy also noted that if your charcuterie or cheese boards include dairy-based dips or spreads, they should not be out of the fridge for more than two hours. 

To make sure you and your guests stay healthy, set a timer or enlist a friend to help remind you when it's time to clear charcuterie boards away. Another strategy is to only set out a small portion of your cured meats and cheeses for the start of the party. Once these have been eaten, you can replenish the board with more offerings that have been safely waiting in the fridge.