No matter what type of cheese you plan to serve on a appetizer tray, the best crackers are those that don't fall apart at first bite. Beyond that criteria, choose crackers that work with the specific cheeses you're serving, and provide an assortment of crackers with interesting tastes, textures, shapes and colors to give the tray a festive feel.
If your budget allows, buy a few packages of crackers you might serve, and try them out with different cheeses before your event.
Thin, brittle crackers, such as white soda crackers, don't work with spreadable cream cheese blends or soft cheeses. For those typees, choose among these sturdy crackers:
- Crackers with dried figs, dates, nuts or fennel seeds embedded in them go well with Brie or Camembert. Find crackers like these at specialty grocery stores or make your own.
- Pepper-flavored crackers go especially well with goat cheese.
- Unsweetened, thick oat or wheat crackers give you a sturdy base for spreading any cheese.
- Woven wheat crackers go with all spreadable or soft cheeses.
Because flavor comes through both your taste buds and the aroma of foods, serve all cheeses at room temperature so they taste full and rich.
Monterey Jack, fontina and havarti cheeses retain their shapes when you cut them, so you have a choice of either small or large crackers -- you don't need a large platform to contain cheese crumbles. Choose fun butterfly or triangle shapes in addition to round and square crackers. Flavor combinations that work well include:
- Butter-flavored crackers for any semi-soft cheese
- Crackers with walnuts for fontina cheese
- Crackers with fennel or caraway seeds for havarti or Muenster cheese
- Crackers with blends of spices and seeds for mild processed American cheese
- Rice crackers for a crunchy contrast with any smooth semi-soft cheese.
Hard and Semi-Hard Cheeses
Some cheeses have a tendency to crumble when you slice them, so you need a large cracker to contain all the tasty bits. Or use a small cracker with just one chunk of cheese that your guests can pop into their mouths in one bite. Try these pairings for hard and semi-hard cheeses:
- Butter-flavored crackers for single chunks of any hard cheese
- Crackers that incorporate dried fruit for cheddar, Gouda or other Swiss cheeses and hard Manchego cheese
- Spicy crackers with black pepper or paprika for cheddar cheese
- Olive oil crackers for Parmesan cheese.
Blue cheeses, with their sharp, tangy flavor, are in a class by themselves when it comes to a cracker companion. Try sturdy oatcake crackers, crackers flavored with honey, crackers with walnuts or crackers with dried figs.
- The Flavor Bible; Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg
- Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board: Cheesecyclopedia
- The Deluxe Food Lover's Companion; Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst
- Worldnews. Inc.: American Cheese
- University of Cincinnati: UC Style: How to Capitalize, Spell, Punctuate Food, Culinary Terms
- Real Simple: Plan a Cheese Party