Meet the 'Polarizing Stepchild of Charcuterie'

Butter boards are the latest TikTok food craze, though some wonder how safe they are
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 26, 2022 9:30 AM CDT
Meet the 'Polarizing Stepchild of Charcuterie'
This October photo shows a butter board made by Leslie Hobbs in Seattle, Wash. Butter boards have become the polarizing stepchild of charcuterie boards.   (Leslie Hobbs via AP)

Legit gross or crazy delicious? Butter boards, the polarizing stepchild of charcuterie, have taken TikTok to new food-craze heights as some horrified safety and nutrition experts look on. And now, heading into the holidays, the boards are landing on tables as quick, inexpensive alternatives to the meat- and fancy cheese-laden OG despite a winter butter shortage projected for the US that could drive up prices and make butter more difficult to find in supermarkets. "I wish they'd just go away. The idea of smearing something on a wood board with other food, sharing that with other people, and having them all dip into it—it's a bacteria heaven," says Laura Cipullo, a registered dietitian in New York City, per the AP.

Justine Doiron, who creates food content as @justine-snacks on TikTok and Instagram, got the butter board party started on Sept. 15. She's credited with coining the term in a video that has her spreading it with abandon on a cutting board and topping it with, among many other things, edible flowers. She got the idea— jazzed-up butter on wood—from chef Joshua McFadden's 2017 cookbook with Martha Holmberg, Six Seasons: A New Way With Vegetables. "I think the draw is that it's super customizable," Doiron says. "You can be so creative with it." Doiron went viral, and copycat videos under the #butterboard hashtag have since racked up more than 240 million views on TikTok.

Searches related to the topic have reached 10 billion on the platform, with decorated mountains of butter also going strong on Instagram. And the boards themselves have spawned sweet sister versions, vegan cousins, and ice cream aunts and uncles. Private chefs are even fielding lots of requests from clients now looking for spreadables on boards. However, Darin Detwiler, an assistant teaching professor of food policy at Northeastern University who lost his 16-month-old son in the 1993 E. coli outbreak, sees the potential for pathogens everywhere when it comes to butter boards.

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Wood boards crack, and those cracks can't adequately be cleaned, he notes. "Personally, I would use a plastic board, something that can be sanitized in a dishwasher," he says. “The second hidden danger is the idea of so many hands in a butter board. If any of those hands aren't washed, you're just inviting opportunity." Entertaining expert Paul Zahn of LA has a workaround for that: "jarcuterie." "Make individual jars or boards for guests," he says. (Read more butter stories.)

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