This week's poll is dedicated to avid home-pizza-maker dmcavanagh, who often comments about the fine line between "charred" and "burned."
When I first started eating pizza from coal- and wood-oven joints around NYC and made my first forays onto the various food boards discussing pizza (this was around 10 years ago), I noticed that "char" was something pizza hounds desired. Pies coming from intensely hot ovens seemed to be considered failures unless they had just the right splotchwork of flaky, black, carbonized crust.
The idea seems to be that A) charring gives the pizza a just-so smoky flavor and that B) the absence of charring indicates that the oven may not be at the high temperatures needed to produce a "proper" coal- or wood-cooked pizza.
I'll be the first to admit that I've used somewhat ridiculous language in the past: "artfully charred" comes to mind. :-S
But not everyone likes the black splotches. Dmcavanagh, for instance, says:
Charred vs. burnt is an interesting argument in pizza circles. Here's my thought, do you put a pizza in the oven and hope to pull it out with a black crust? I don't think so, I know that's not my intention when I make a pizza. I think the "charred" concept is just a convenient excuse for "whoops, I left it in a little to long, don't want it to go to waste, let's called it "charred".
And I've talked to pizza-makers such as Lawrence Ciminieri of Totonno's, who says that people visiting the original Coney Island, Brooklyn, location seem to tolerate and even expect the "char," while folks who visit the Manhattan branches often complain that the pizza is "burned" and that he has his pizza-makers there ease back on the cooking time to yield golden-brown crusts instead.
And the Texas branches of Brooklyn-based Grimaldi's seem to have learned the hard way that Lone Star Staters send back "charred"/"burned" pizzas. Texas food writer Robb Walsh even noted this and wrote about it here.
All this to get to the poll: