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Why Is Cheese Served on Slate?

If you order a cheese plate in a fancy restaurant, there’s a good chance it’ll be served on a black slate cheese server. This natural material has become synonymous with cheese boards, and with good reason: It’s beautiful, natural, and easy to clean (just like the Cheese Grotto).

Slate is a great choice if you want the dramatic appearance and functionality a black cheese board provides, but there are alternatives that offer a similar look.

The History of Slate Cheese Boards

golden quarter wheel of cheese on round black slate cheese board being cut by white person's hand with bamboo knife

No one knows where or why the first cheeses were served on slate, or by whom. But slate’s history as a sturdy natural building material dates back to Roman times. Centuries ago, slate was used across Europe and later in North America as a roofing material.

U.S. slate production peaked around 1900 but has declined drastically since then as materials like asphalt took slate’s place on roofs. Slate roofs were especially common in the Northeastern U.S., where slate deposits exist and continue to be quarried today.

Since slate could be expensive, it makes sense that a farmhouse’s old slate roof tiles would be repurposed as ad hoc serving platters, if only for a rustic ploughman’s lunch of cheese and bread out in the field. Stone surfaces like marble and slate also help keep cheese cool in warm weather.

The Pros and Cons of Slate Cheese Boards

overhead shot of round black cheese board with piece of cheese, hand writing, and orchids

These days, black slate is considered an elegant, higher-end cheese board material, and reclaimed and newly-made slate cheese boards are commonly used to serve cheese, charcuterie, and even entrees and desserts in restaurant settings.

In addition to their rustic yet modern look, black slate cheese boards offer an attractive texture. Another benefit of black slate cheese boards is that you can write on them to label your cheeses, just like you would a chalkboard. Simply wash the board with soap and water to remove the chalk.

They’re also relatively easy to clean. While some slate cheese boards are dishwasher safe, we recommend washing them carefully with a soft sponge or cloth in warm, soapy water. Rinse your slate in cool water, then allow it to air dry. With proper care, your slate cheese board should last for years.

Black slate cheese boards do have a few downsides. They can be heavy and must be handled carefully, as slate can chip and shatter if bumped or dropped. We recommend treating yours with a few drops of mineral oil a couple of times a year.

The Best Black Cheese Board

animated gif of round black cheese board with pieces of cheese, fruit, olives, etc being added

We love our Circular Serving Slate Set not only because it’s made of beautifully textured black slate, but also because its round shape offers an aesthetically pleasing alternative to the typical square or rectangular cheese board.

Our round black cheese board can be used to serve cheese for up to six guests and comes with its own hand-carved bamboo knife, plus a piece of beautiful soapstone chalk for labeling. Even better, it’s pre-treated with mineral oil and is dishwasher safe, making post-party cleanup a snap.

If you’re looking for a black cheese board that’s lighter and more durable than slate, our Sustainable Black Cheese Board and Knife Gift Set is a sturdy and sustainable alternative. Made from PaperStone®, a composite material made from 100% recycled paper, natural pigment, and petroleum-free, food-safe resin, it’s unbreakable—but still offers the dramatic, elegant look a black cheese board provides. And yes, it includes a piece of soapstone chalk for labeling.

Do you have a black cheese board in your collection? Tag us @cheesegrotto on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter and let us know!

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