You can’t have a fresh Neapolitan pizza delivered to a war zone (unless Seamless got on that) but now, thanks to more than 20 years worth of military-grade food engineering, active-duty soldiers can dig into a quality slice next time they’re taking a break from letting freedom ring.

Introduced in the 1980s, Meals, Ready to Eat (or MREs for short) are high-calorie meals that soldiers can employ at any time, no cooking required. The main appeal? They’re designed to last for 36 months, even in harsh conditions. But just like you’d expect from meals that come in a plastic pouch—they just weren’t that good. Oldies-but-goodies include ham and chicken loaf, beef frankfurters, and a cheese and veggie omelet that was so bad it was dubbed the “Vomlet” by soldiers. (Yeah, they discontinued that in 2009).

In fact, MREs were so detested by military leaders during the Gulf War that they were cited as an actual morale problem. This prompted Gen. Colin Powell, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, to call upon the Combat Feeding Directorate. Powell held up one of the rations and issued a simple, but very stern, command: “I have two words for you. Fix it!” 

Soon after, the Army distributed a survey that found that “pizza and beer” were the most requested items. The Army’s team of food scientists got to work.

If you’re wondering why it’s taken 27 years to release a simple slice of pizza, it’s because creating edible and long-lasting MREs is a logistical nightmare. The primary challenge was correctly balancing the levels of PH and moisture in the bread, sauce, and cheese so that it wouldn’t become too dry or soggy. Also, oxygen hiding in the holes of the crust turned the cheese and sauce rancid. This was fixed by adding a small number of iron fillings to the sealed pouch, which bound the oxygen.

Lo and behold: MRE No. 23 was born. The full meal includes blueberry cobbler, a chocolate protein drink, an oatmeal cookie, Italian breadsticks with jalapeno cheese spread, and pepperoni- and cheese-laden pizza. The real question, though, is how does it taste?  “On our scale, it got a seven,” says Army senior food technologist, Michelle Richardson. “Nine is the highest.”

Need more convincing? The New York Times recruited Jeff Pond, who is the chef at Area Four, a top-rated artisanal pizzeria in Boston, to give it a try. His response: “You know, they’re not far off. It’s familiar. It reminds me of the frozen pizzas I had as a kid.” After another bite, Pond proclaimed, “I actually like this.” Mission success.

If you’re interested in a more thorough walkthrough of MRE No. 23, check out this video review from YouTube’s resident MRE expert, Steve1989MREInfo:

[h/t The New York Times, The Seattle Times]