Coal-Fired Ovens Hot New Trend in Pizza World


If you attended my Year in Pizza talk in early January, you know that 2008 saw a surge in the number of pizzerias using coal-fired ovens in the U.S.

Since November 2007, Slice has kept a map of coal-oven pizzerias in the U.S., and in that time we've added countless new coalers.

Not only has the rapidly increasing number of new coal pizzerias surprised us but where they're located has been interesting as well. Click through the jump for before-and-after maps.

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When we first started keeping track, the New York City area had the greatest density of coal-oven pizzerias, with few pushpins (or, in this case, coal-helmet-wearing Slice Dudes) outside the Big Apple. In the before-after map above, it doesn't seem like there was that much growth in the field.

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But when you zoom in, you find that in 2008 Florida rose to the top of the list and now outstrips the Big Apple in sheer number of coalers—most of the growth there attributable to the Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza chain.

'Pizza Marketplace' Notices Trend

I wasn't the only one to notice this trend. Pizza Marketplace wrote yesterday about the surge, talking to oven manufacturer Wood Stone, which makes a line of coal-fired models:

"Until about four years ago, we probably got one or two calls a year about coal-fired ovens, and then all of a sudden it was like the sky was falling," said Frank Milward, corporate chef at the Bellingham, Wash.-based oven manufacturer Wood Stone. "I would say that now I talk to a new person interested in coal almost every day."

In the article, Milward says he thinks the trend is the result of pizza-makers looking at the roots of pizza in the U.S., with many of the nation's early pizzerias operating coal-burners.