Artistry and Function
An identifying characteristic of a pie safe is the ventilation, which typically is artistic tin punch work in the tin panels of the cupboard doors and sides. The tin often was brightly painted. The punched panels provided air circulation that allowed fresh baked goods to cool, and the ventilation helped prevent mold growth on stored goods. The tin panels were impervious to insects and gnawing rodents, although mice have marked the wood portions of many an antique pie safe.
Similar cabinets evolved, some with glass panels or wire mesh inserts instead of punched tin. Also used as jelly cupboards or for storing other preserved foods, some cabinets were made with solid or louvered door compartments and drawers for storing flour, sugar and bakeware. Practical Hoosier Cabinets became popular kitchen furnishings during the early 20th century -- before built-ins were the norm -- making pie safes old-fashioned.