Our 31 researchers were given rigorous training and dispatched to the field with packets of wet ones, bottles of Tums, and a scientific score sheet (the one pictured at right is from the Cove, in San Antonio, whose Texas Burger ranked number five on our list).

As soon as the burger came, we broke off a small piece of the patty and tasted it by itself to see how juicy and well seasoned the meat was. You’d be surprised at what the fixin’s can disguise.

The ideal bun was lightly buttered and toasted on the griddle. A joint that didn’t care enough to take this step was immediately suspect.

We arrived at a total score by using a complex, proprietary algorithm to weight the various elements. Our formula gave the most emphasis to the meat. The highest possible total was 50.

Our scores ranged from 1 (“Are we back in our grade-school cafeteria?”) to 5 (“Have we died and gone to heaven?”).

Atmosphere made a huge difference in how much we enjoyed a burger, but a checkered tablecloth couldn’t make up for a dried-out, burnt patty.