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Can openers are way underutilized for one simple reason: canned foods have an undeservedly bad rap.
They were popular for a short time when aluminum cans were introduced in the 1960s, but they fell out of favor as the world became more health-conscious because people assumed canned foods contain unhealthy preservatives. After all, how else could they last so long?
More recently, though, there have been a lot of studies on canned food that shows it is often just as healthy as its fresh or frozen counterparts. The canning process naturally preserves nutrients like proteins and healthy fats.
Canned foods are convenient and healthy, and being able to open them for use in recipes quickly and without making a mess is a very useful tool in any cook’s arsenal.
In this post, I’ll share my top six picks for the best can openers with you and answer a few commonly asked questions about can openers.
About Can Openers
Types of Can Openers
Buckle in! Here are some popular types of can openers. The first four are the most important to this post, which is why I included a description.
- Butterfly openers – The most popular can opener type. It has two plier-like handles that you squeeze together to grip the lip of the can. You wind a crank on the opener to turn a serrated wheel that opens the can. This type is cheap and intuitive but it’s labor-intensive to use and can be messy.
- Church key openers – This is the simplest type to use. Basically, you lever the opener to the can’s rim using one of the bottle openers on the appliance, and then push down the sharp point of the appliance onto the can’s top to punch a triangular hole in it. The hole isn’t really big enough for canned goods like frozen vegetables, but it’s a perfect size to pour out canned soup or another liquid.
- Electric openers – Just put a can on the magnetized part of the opener, flip a switch, and the opener will cut around the perimeter of the can lid in just a few seconds while you hold the can. It’s quick and easy, but it’s obviously a bit more expensive that manual types.
- Smooth-edge openers – This type cuts open the cans from the side rather than the top. You latch it onto the side using a similar method to a butterfly opener, and once you are finishes cranking around the can’s perimeter you can lift off the top leaving a smooth edge since the sides of a can are made of a smoother aluminum than the top.
What to Look For When Buying a Can Opener
If you want to search for a can opener to buy, consider these factors.
Ease of Use
Some can opener manufacturers get so caught up in making the can opener cool-looking that they forget to make it easy to use. You should be able to start opening a can within 10 seconds of picking the opener up for the first time, without an instruction booklet.
Some can openers require fast ripping motions or leave sharp edges. This is fine for careful chefs, but clumsier ones and people with kids will want to buy a safer one.
Stainless steel is more expensive than some can opener materials, but it’s by far the best can opener material because it keeps the opener from rusting over time. Since can openers are within such close proximity of food when being used, rust can flake off and actually make the food toxic.
Once the can opener is clamped onto the can’s rim, how long does it take to open the can? You don’t want something that takes a full minute to open the can or has trouble clamping on at all.
Easy to Clean
It’s important a can opener is dishwasher-safe, because they usually have sharp parts that are hard to wash by hand.
6 Best Can Openers
To help you find the best can opener for you, I’ve categorized each of my top six can opener picks and arranged them in this handy table. Below the table, I go through each pick and explain why it beats out the competition.
1. Butterfly: Rösle Can Opener With Plier Grip
Let’s start with the clamping mechanism. It’s smooth as silk, and gripping/puncturing the rim of a can is amazingly easy.
Cranking the opener once you have a hold of the can is also remarkably smooth. The mechanism is ergonomically designed, so it’s easy on your thumb and allows you to get a lot of torque on the can. Because of that fact, you can get around the entire perimeter quickly and with minimal effort.
If the top doesn’t pop off easily after you’ve opened the whole can, the opener has a built-in pair of mini pliers that can finish the job. Whether you have to use them or not, the cut made by the opener is totally smooth and cannot cut you at all. In fact, you can put the top back on the can later to store the unused portion of the can or anything else you want! The opener does not come in contact with the food while working on the can, either, so it does not usually require any cleanup.
2. Church Key: True Church Key Can Opener
This opener is simple, simple, simple. It has two bottle openers on it that you can use to pop the cap off a glass bottle, and you can also use the bottle openers in conjunction with the opener’s sharp point to punch a hole in a can within just a few seconds.
It’s easy, it’s safe, it’s satisfying, and it’s made of stainless steel so it won’t rust. It can only create relatively small holes in cans so it’s not ideal for use with canned meats or vegetables, but it’s the perfect tool for opening a can of soup. Plus, it only costs $1.50.
3. Electric: Cuisinart Electric Can Opener
Lots of electric can openers have an LCD screen and variable options that make operation a pain for anyone but tech wizards, but this one is nice and simple with one-touch operation.
It has a magnetic lid holder and a very sharp blade that work together to open a can in seconds after you plug the machine in, put a can’s lid to the device, and press the lone on/off button.
The opener takes up less counter space than most similar products, but it still has an extra-wide base that gives it a stable feel. It looks great on the counter, too, with a beautiful stainless steel finish that lives up to the Cuisinart brand.
4. Smooth-Edge: OXO Good Grips Smooth Edge Can Opener
Whenever I use this can opener, I feel like I’m doing magic because it’s unbelievable that it can get such a good grip on the can with such minimal contact. Every time, though, the opener latches onto the can. Then comes the next part that feels like magic, the opening of the can.
The oversized rubber-covered handle makes turning so easy that it doesn’t feel like you are cutting into the can while you’re doing it. Each time, you feel that subtle “click” that lets you know you’ve made it all the way around the can’s perimeter.
At that point, you usually have to use the opener’s built-in pliers to lift the can’s top off. The cut edge of the can is always perfectly smooth.
5. Manual: OXO SteeL Can Opener
by Sur La Table
This opener is like a more affordable version of the Rösle butterfly-style opener I mentioned above. The major difference is that the serrated wheel on this one is not as sharp, so you have to clamp it down very tightly while you are cranking it to successfully open a can.
Luckily, it has an ergonomic oversized knob that makes this task easier than with most manual can openers. Still, it’s definitely a no-go for those without much grip strength and especially people with joint problems like arthritis.
6. Compact: Joseph Joseph Can-Do Compact Can Opener
by Sur La Table
This opener is surprisingly good at its job considering how tiny it is. It doesn’t have a handle like most can openers, opting instead for a dial on top of the small circular appliance.
On the bottom are the two serrated dials that can hook into the can. Twisting the dial to work the opener around the can’s perimeter can be a little tricky, especially for those without great grip strength. Once you’re all the way around, though, just push a button on the side of the device to release the lid.
Can Opener FAQ
Most can openers start to dull after 2-3 years, although well-constructed ones that do not get wet can stay sharp longer. If your can opener starts to dull, sharpen it by rubbing folded-over tinfoil on the serrated wheel.
Smooth edge can openers cut through the side of the can near the rim rather than through the top of the can. Since the metal on the sides is thicker, the edge left when the can is open is not as sharp. Another advantage is that the can’s top can rest on the can after being opened, so you can reuse the can for storage without needing to cover it in plastic wrap..
Some types like smooth edge can openers are fine for ambidextrous use. Others, like butterfly-type can openers, are generally only usable with one dominant hand since the serrated wheel has to be on top and therefore the opener will not work if flipped over. Fortunately, left-handed people don’t usually have any problem using a right-handed can opener.
Yes You Can
As I said before, more cooks should be using can openers on a daily basis!
It is my hope that this curated list of the best can openers out there will serve as a launching pad for you and others to help #bringcanopenersback.
Last update on 2022-03-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API