January means playoff season, and if you want game days to go off without a hitch, you need to know how to build perfect nachos. The following how-to guide ensures every bite is as good as the next.

Do Ahead of Time

The jury is out on store-bought verses homemade chips, but only make your own if you can fry a few at a time to ensure crispiness. Cut corn or flour tortillas into triangles and, in batches, carefully fry in 350° to 360° oil. Turn the chips two to three times until they stop simmering and/or are light golden brown. Remove to a paper towel–lined tray to drain; immediately add the desired amount of salt. If you’d rather use store-bought chips, choose ones that are fresh, salted, triangular, and thick enough to stand up to a mother lode of toppings.

• Plan a day or two ahead for special additions such as refried beans, homemade green chile, barbacoa, carnitas, or even duck confit.

Game Day

Place a single layer of chips directly on several rimmed sheet pans (don’t use foil) then top with a generous layer of freshly grated cheese that completely covers the tops of the chips. Pop these under the broiler just long enough for the cheese to melt, then remove from the oven. The melted cheese will act as a barrier to help guard against sogginess.

• If refried beans are part of your plan, make your own ahead of time, or at least refresh the canned variety by sautéing half a chopped onion and a few cloves of garlic in a small amount of butter or vegetable oil, then stir the refried beans into the mixture in the pan. Thinly smear a small amount on top of each chip.

• Don’t just randomly add toppings. Be methodical and layer each chip individually to make sure every bite is delicious.

• Keep cooked toppings (beans, ground beef, etc.) warm. Add them to the chips and return the nachos to the oven just to reheat. Add fresh ingredients like greens and avocado after the nachos come out of the oven.

• Go traditional with just chips, cheese, and sliced jalapeños, or get creative. My current favorite combo (pictured) starts with crispy white corn chips topped with plenty of melted asadero and cheddar cheeses. Then each chip is topped (in order) with pulled pork, sour cream, a touch of queso fundido or drained green chile, and slipped back into the oven to reheat. Once removed, layers of homemade pico di gallo, fresh avocado dipped in lime, freshly chopped cilantro, and chopped bacon complete the set-up.

• Serve immediately.

Tip: Buy pulled pork by the pound at Whole Foods’ taco station (not the deli); find duck confit at Marczyk Fine Foods.