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In The Family
What Is a Pie Bird?

And does your pie need one?

You won’t see them in many cookware stores, but there’s a thriving market for them on eBay. Pie birds are hollow ceramic figurines with openings at their base and mouth, and they’re the cutest baking tool you’ll ever see. In practical terms, they’re little steam vents you bake into the center of a pie; their heads poke through the top crust and let off steam and pressure to keep volatile bubbly fillings from boiling over.

Aesthetically, they’re usually shaped like blackbirds with yawning yellow beaks, but collectors also seek out other animal shapes and humanoid forms. Pie vents became popular in Victorian England when high-end pies were all the rage; primitive English ovens struggled with consistent, gentle heating and frequently led to filling blowouts.

Makers soon fashioned the vents into cute little animals, a kind of industrial-era Instagram bait, and even though today’s ovens have rendered the pie bird’s function mostly obsolete, there’s something inarguably adorable about an apple pie with a wide-mouthed blackbird poking its head through the top.

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Max Falkowitz

Max Falkowitz is a food and travel writer for The New York Times, Saveur, GQ, New York magazine’s Grub Street, and other outlets. He’s also the coauthor of The Dumpling Galaxy Cookbook with Helen You.