How to use a Pie Bird
Funnel-style steam vents have been placed in the center of fruit and meat pies during cooking since Victorian times; bird shapes came later.
Pie funnels were used to prevent pie filling from boiling up and leaking through the crust by allowing steam to escape from inside the pie. They also supported the pastry crust in the center of the pie, so that it did not sag in the middle, and are occasionally known as “crustholders”. Older ovens had more problems with uniform heating, and the pie bird prevented boil-over in pie cooking.
Line the bottom of your pie plate with your bottom crust, place the pie bird in the center and scrape your filling into the crust and around the pie bird. Roll out your top crust on a lightly floured work surface, cut a small slit in the center, then carefully place the top crust on top of the filling. Use whatever technique is easiest for you: pick up the crust using fingers and palms, drape it over a rolling pin and use the pin to help transfer the crust, or roll it up with a rolling pin and unroll on top – your choice. Ease the pie bird up through the slit; it should fit snugly. Crimp crust edges as desired and bake with the bird in place. Remove the bird after you have cut your first wedge of pie.
Even though a pie bird is not necessary to bake a pie, we did experience extra crispiness when the pie bird was used. And hey, they are inexpensive, make great host/hostess gifts and look darn cute hanging around on the shelf.