What does “coal-fired pizza” really mean?

Folks are always fired up about coal-fired pizza and the shops that carry it tend to plaster it on their awnings – sometimes, in the same font size as their name.

You could be forgiven for dismissing the whole coal-fired thing; separating the restaurant-boast-tropes from the real deal isn’t always easy. Your neighborhood, somehow, is home to The World’s Best subs, Thai, fajitas, and corn fritters. In fact, multiple places in [insert town] occupy the top spot on the planet! How lucky are you?

So, what does coal-fired pizza really mean? What’s the difference? Is coal-fired pizza the pie that you should be prioritizing above all others?

We bring you the answers to all of your burning questions.

Why do people love coal-fired pizza so much?

Coal-fired ovens burn at extremely high temperatures and can be set to about 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. That hot hot heat gives the pizza a glorious char, creating a crispy texture on the outside of the crust with the inside of the dough staying tender.

So, what’s the difference between wood-fired and coal-fired pizza?     

Wood-fired pizzas are typically baked at temperatures between 570 and 660 degrees and can reach up to 800 degrees. That’s still plenty hot, and still cooks pizzas plenty fast, but not quite as hot or fast as coal. Coal fans say their preferred pie is even crispier and even more charred than wood, gas, and all the other oven options.

Is coal-fired pizza better than wood-fired?

Depends on who you ask. Some say the wood-fired oven still gives pizza ample char while imparting a hint of smoky flavor that coal can lack. 

Does coal-fired pizza taste like it’s burnt?

Not burnt – charred. There’s a difference and, please, do not worry: the expert pizzaiolos know how to walk that fine line. Whatever you do, don’t send your beautifully blistered coal-fired pizza back. 

What types of pizzas are made in a coal-fired oven?

Clam Pie New Haven

Some of New Haven’s most vaunted pizzas are made with coal.  The shops responsible for some of the longest lines in Connecticut – Pepe’s and Sally’s – both use coal to beautifully blister their pies. Modern, another NH fave, also started out with coal, but they’ve since switched to a brick/oil rig.

Most New York City pizzerias are powered by gas-fueled ovens these days, but many are still using coal to achieve charred perfection. John’s of Bleecker Street, Totonno’s, Grimaldi’s, Lombardi’s, Sac’s Place, and Patsy’s all bake with coal and all boast massive fanbases who say it makes a big difference.    

Is it safe to cook with coal?

Historically, coal plants have gotten a bad rap for emitting harmful pollutants into the atmosphere. However, your local pizza parlor is using far less coal than the plants of yesteryear and a much cleaner type of coal as well.

Ovens use high-quality hard anthracite coal, which emits far less of the bad stuff than soft bituminous coal – with far less ash and sulfur, it burns hotter and cleaner than all the rest. Also, pizzerias tend to use high-tech air filters to further cut down on pollutants.

Mom & pop coal-fired pizzerias have also helped to bolster an industry that was once in decline. Before the coal-fired pizzeria craze, the demand for anthracite coal was in steady decline. Now, communities relying on the coal industry have gotten a second wind, thanks to the demand for well-crisped pizzas.  

Alright, now I’m hungry. Where can I get coal-fired pizza near me?

We’ve got you covered: Find and order the best coal-fired pizza near you with the Slice app.

3 thoughts on “What does “coal-fired pizza” really mean?

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  1. Nice explanation. I think the char on pizza has gone out of control to the point that pizziolos are intentionally putting extra char on pizza not just whatever happens naturally.

  2. Burnt is good for you taste good some people need to develop a taste for it but it’s worth it so long as you don’t buy with your eyes only

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