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What About Coal? - Forno Bravo Forum: The Wood-Fired Oven Community


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What About Coal?

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  • What About Coal?

    As a person who lives nowhere near a coal fired brick oven I have no idea what pizza cooked in one tastes like. According to the net people rave about the few coal oven joints there are in NY and CT but can anyone tell me if it is really THAT much better than a wood oven? I like the idea of the wood smoke myself (mmm BBQ) but am curious if a coal oven is hotter than a wood oven and produces a finer finished product?

    Also I'm in Saskatchewan, Canada. Any of you Canucks nearby wanna suggest types of wood I should be using around here (that is readily available and fairly cost effective)? Thanks.

  • #2
    Wood and Coal


    I'm in Ontario (don't wince), but my girlfriend is from Saskatoon. Saved. Although I grew up on the East Coast of the US, where coal fired ovens in NYC, Boston and Philadelphia were the norm, I don't think they are in any way superior to wood, especially for pizza, where you want a certain amount of smokiness in the finished piece. Anthracite coal will not give you that, although hard coal will burn hotter more consistently.

    For woods in my bread oven, I'll burn just about anything that isn't nailed down. However, the best success I've had is starting with soft woods (yellow pine, white pine, cedar, fir, "Manitoba Maple," soft maple, etc., not red pine), then layering with hard woods like hard maple, locust, birch, beech, oak and so on. Trick is to make sure your sticks are not too thick; three to four inch diameter maximum. Otherwise, split it first.

    By preference, I like to burn limb wood cut as standing dead, so there's no issues about seasoning.

    There have been more than a few threads here about woods, types and seasoning, so maybe do a search.

    I'll refrain from the eastern Canada suggestion that there are no trees in Sask.

    "Made are tools, and born are hands"--William Blake, 1757-1827


    • #3
      Running Back To Saskatoon

      Dear Hoser Jim:

      Thanks for the tips, very detailed (the Timbits are in the mail). I can see I've got lots of options (and lots of research to do yet).

      As for the no trees in Saskatchewan, I guess I could burn barley or rye. They are actually marketing ovens here that burn grain for home heating. You know the price of wheat must be down (and oil to be up) when it's considered a viable heating fuel.




      • #4
        Burton Cummings


        I guess he was a workshop owner. Sorry guys, Canuck jokes, something in the order of back bacon and a "twofer." Hosers all.

        I truly hope you can get very fine flour in Sask, although I've heard from others that it's tough to get there. Strange, that, given the fact that Saskatchewan produces some of the finest hard wheat in the world.

        We can post further on wood types if you like. Point is that you want a monster fire to heat up. Was it Dmun who said, "It's the sort of fire that the kids say, 'Cool, dad, put on more wood.' And the wife says, 'You put any more wood in there and I'm calling the Fire Department.'

        Check out sources for heavy oak pallets: they're free, most times, and they burn hot and fine.

        "Made are tools, and born are hands"--William Blake, 1757-1827


        • #5
          Coal Pizza

          I had my first coal-fired pizza for lunch today. We went to Coal Vines in Dallas. I thought the pizza was excellent, as it was my favorite style. Thin crust, with not too much sauce and cheese. The bottom of the crust was every color from black to brown to white.

          I'm not sure that the Coal itself is responsible for all of the excellent qualities of this pizza, as I've also had excellent pizza from wood and gas fired ovens. Most of the credit belongs to the chef.

          If you can get your hands on some coal, why not give it a try? I wouldn't have the first idea about where to get coal. Perhaps I could pinch some from a freight train on it's way to a local power plant.

          I'm building a Pompeii Oven in Austin, Texas. See my progress at:
          Il Forno Fumoso


          • #6


            Agreed. The quality of the pizza in a retained heat oven, any retained heat oven, comes from the ingredients and the skill of the maker.

            "Made are tools, and born are hands"--William Blake, 1757-1827


            • #7
              The town an hour away is a big coal producer, but I don't think it's anthracite - i think it's lignite?

              As for the wheat/flour - I should just make my own considering I have bins full of the stuff

              I also have access to lots of barley so I should get that still fired up as well to accent the wood fired / coal fired pizzas.