Thanksgiving can bring out our food ambitions like few other holidays. High expectations are set for the feast, and the pressure to nail the centerpiece dish is high. For Serious Eat‘s J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, few other dishes can top the glory of a turducken; for the uninitiated, that’s a whole deboned chicken stuffed in a whole deboned duck stuffed in a whole deboned turkey.

He dipped into The Food Lab to share his trials and, ultimately, his success in making one from scratch. It’s a lengthy post, complete with both a major-step explanation and a 61-photo slide show, but well worth a read if you’re interested in taking on the challenge.

Lopez-Alt began his long quest for the perfect turducken in 2004 and found his first attempt dry, fatty, and chewy. Three years later, after he tried major brands of mail-order turduckens, he realized he wasn’t the only one turning out dry versions. Once he sketched out the four main issues, he went about solving each one. This year brings success, as he says, “The finest roast to ever emerge from my oven. Turkey meat that gave its juice away freely to anyone who asked. Perfectly rendered duck fat, tender to the teeth. And flavors that blended as harmoniously as robotic lions joining forces to save the universe.”

The turducken was born in Louisiana in the ’80s—it’s considered to be either the invention of chef Paul Prudhomme or Hebert’s Specialty Meats.

[via Serious Eats]