12/21/2011 03:58 pm ET | Updated Aug 31, 2012

How To Make The Perfect Cheese Plate

You don't need to be an expert cook when it comes to entertaining. Sometimes all it takes is knowing how to put together a few store-bought ingredients, and you can pull off an impromptu cocktail party or small gathering with little to no effort. This is where the cheese plate comes in. And who doesn't love cheese?

Whether you're new to the world of cheese or are a long-time aficionado, here are some tips that you can use to put together the perfect cheese plate for your party.

Follow these tips:

  • For parties, have a selection of anywhere between three to five cheeses. An odd number is always fun!
  • Include a variety of milk types (cow, sheep and goat) and cheese styles (see the flavor guide below). A fun way to think of the different varieties you'll want on your cheese plate, is this saying: "Something old (harder, aged cheese), something new (young, fresh cheese), something stinky, and something blue."
  • A good rule of thumb for quantity is 1 to 2 ounces per cheese, per person. This ensures that everyone has enough cheeses to taste and enjoy.
  • Serve the cheeses at room temperature and have a separate knife or spreader for each kind. Cut up a portion of each cheese to indicate to your guests that they can dig in.
  • And don't forget a beverage! Cheese pairs wonderfully well with wine or even beer. Check out this handy pairing guide from Murray's.

This is the way the experts at Murray's categorize cheeses into flavor profiles to make it easier to choose.

Cheese Flavor Profile Guide

Bloomy (buttery and rich): Brie or Camembert
Blue (punchy and spicy): Roquefort or Gorgonzola
Firm (supple and grassy): Aged Manchego or Cheddar
Fresh (creamy and tangy): Unaged cheeses such as fresh chevre (goat cheese) or fresh mozzarella
Hard (dry and caramelly): Aged Goudas or Parmigiano-Reggiano
Semi-soft (pliable and melting): Alpine-style cheeses like Gruyère or Emmenthaler
Washed rind (stinky and intense): Taleggio or Grayson

When you're choosing cheese in the store, taste them before you buy -- there's no better way to tell if you or your guests will like the flavors. But if you absolutely can't choose, ask the cheesemonger for help. If you'd rather leave up the decision to the experts, Murray's has a number of gift packages that will have you covered for holiday entertaining.

Thanks to the experts at Murray's Cheese for their help and suggestions!