Do Not Use Coal or Coke as Fuel for a Wood-Fired Oven

I’m looking forward to uncovering my oven soon.
I’m assuming that using Hardwood Charcoal would be fine to use in my MBG but how about coal? I’ve been reading about coal fired oven pizza places opening up and thought it might be fun to try. I also think the coal might allow me to maintain a temperature longer without needing to refuel.
Lastly Coke. I’m trying to find a more definitive position on using Coke. What I’m reading mostly is it gives off dangerous gases…thoughts?


I would not use coal or coke in the Barile. Everything I can find say coal fired ovens separate the burn chamber from the cooking chamber in order to isolate the smoke and dangerous gases given off when burning coal. (e.g. a lot of coal also has sulfur in it)

You can pick up small pieces of coal along the great lakes in northern Michigan. I picked some up for Christmas time use if the kids misbehaved. Amazing how a lump of coal on a nightstand encourages a kid to gravitate to the “nice” list-but I digress. I’ve burned some of this for fun and it’s hard to light, makes a lot of black smoke and smells like motor oil. Nothing I want near my pizzas.


Thanks, that makes total sense to me. I threw the question out there because some of the Wooster Street New Haven spots have been using coke or coal for many years, but as I think of it the fire boxes are separate from the cooking chamber as you said.
Thanks again

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Hi Dave,

After doing some research, I agree with @kgondoly Ken on this, and it sounds like you do as well.

I’m glad you asked the question, though. We have a coal-fired apizza place that opened during the pandemic within walking distance of our place. It’s tempting to want to try a different fuel. One site focused on it more from the baking end of it and asserted that wood-firing gives you a moister cooking environment and a classic Neapolitan crust, while coal-firing is hotter and drier and gives you a “New York” pie. Those Wooster Street establishments using coal must be located closer to the train station. :upside_down_face:

One additional “fun” fact: coke in particular needs lots of oxygen to get started. Blacksmiths use it for their shop forges and igniting coke requires a blower to get it going. Once you get it going, it’s going to heat up to the high end of our wood-fired ovens’ range pretty quickly. I wouldn’t want to work with it unshielded. And I wouldn’t want to be my next door neighbor breathing that stuff.

Here in Connecticut it’s looking pretty hopeful for uncovering the oven in the next couple of weeks. Happy pizza!

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So, is it OK to use hardwood charcoal? I have avoided this assuming it was a no, no.

Hi Brian, sorry for the delay in responding.

If you’re talking about genuine hardwood charcoal, it’s just wood with no added binders or combustibles. In my opinion it would be fine to use it in your oven once it has been properly cured.

It does strike me that it would be much more expensive than using, say, splits of hickory, cherry, or other popular aromatic hardwoods. The advantage would be quicker lighting and turnup to cooking temperature for grilling foods.

To heat up the entire oven for baking, though, I’d expect you would need an entire bag of the stuff to accomplish what you can do with 6-8 dry splits.

Regular charcoal briquettes are a definite “no”—they are basically sawdust compressed with coal dust and binding agents and they will contaminate your hearth. They are designed for radiant cooking with separation between them and the food (usually a grilling grid).

Thanks for info. It’s good to know for emergencies or if I have a need for fast lighting.

Update on that: they are now closed “indefinitely” because their coal-fired rig set the place on fire. I’m not going to speculate as to how it happened.

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