If you have limited hand strength or dexterity, an electric can openers could be your best choice. The best electric can openers are fast, stable (they won't tip over when you attach the can), not too bulky, and make it easy to remove the lid after cutting.
The Hamilton Beach SmoothTouch 76606ZA (Est. $30) is the top pick according to reviews. "In our tests, the Hamilton Beach was able to open all sizes of cans" TheSweethome.com says -- something the other five electric can openers it looked at can't manage. The Hamilton Beach is also a runaway favorite at Amazon.com (4.6 out of 5 stars based on more than 6,100 customer reviews) and Walmart.com (4.6 stars with nearly 850 reviews).
Unlike most electric can openers, the Hamilton Beach uses a side cut design -- cutting around the side of the can just below the lid instead of through the top of the can. Once the can is opened, both lid and can come away with smooth edges, making cut fingers a thing of the past. Another plus is that the blade never touches your food (so it won't get gunky and gross with food residue -- or force you to clean it every time you open a can), and neither does the lid. Owners love that they no longer have to worry about possibly germy lids sinking into the can. However, keep in mind some of the drawbacks of smooth-edge can openers, as noted in the introduction to this report.
The black-and-chrome Hamilton Beach SmoothTouch is about 10 inches tall, with a base roughly 5 inches square. It carries a one-year warranty. The Hamilton Beach SmoothTouch 76607 (Est. $35) is identical, except it comes with a small pair of stainless-steel kitchen scissors that store in the back of the can opener.
The West Bend Can Opener (Est. $40) is also worth a look. It's roughly the same size as the Hamilton Beach, but the West Bend is more rounded and streamlined, with a stow-away cord. Unlike the Hamilton Beach's smooth-edged side cut, the West Bend cuts through the top of the can like a traditional can opener. A built-in magnet keeps the sharp lid from falling into the food.
The West Bend's main claim to fame is its hands-free operation. You lock the can in place, press the lever, and walk away -- the can opener stops itself when the job is done.
"We tested almost a dozen electric openers, and the West Bend beat them all hands (or hands-free) down," says The Wall Street Journal, where it won testers' hearts with its easy, quiet operation. It gets fine reviews at Amazon.com (4.2 stars in more than 2,680 reviews), but not quite as stellar as the Hamilton Beach. Because this is a top cut opener, the cutting assembly can touch the food, so you do have to wash it -- and although it's removable and dishwasher-safe, it's just one more task to worry about.
The West Bend comes in either black or brushed silver, and it includes a built-in bottle opener and knife sharpener. Depending on where you buy it, it costs about the same or sometimes a little more than the Hamilton Beach SmoothTouch 76606ZA. "The West Bend performed well, opening cans in seven seconds or less," TheSweethome.com's testers say. "But although it provides the same opening power as our top electric pick (the Hamilton Beach SmoothTouch), it costs more yet offers no added benefits."
Like the Hamilton Beach, the West Bend electric can opener has a one-year warranty. In years past, West Bend has gotten better reviews for its warranty service than Hamilton Beach, but we didn't find that to be true when preparing this report. On the contrary, the West Bend gets a higher proportion of negative reviews for support at Amazon.com than the Hamilton Beach, although both get overwhelmingly positive feedback. That extends to the reviews of the can opener itself. Though owners are largely satisfied, they are not universally so. Durability is a concern with the West Bend Can Opener that's voiced in some user reviews, and several note a propensity for peeling can labels, leaving shreds of paper on the counter.
While these electric can openers are not large, they do take up a little bit of space on a kitchen counter. If that's a concern, under-cabinet electric can openers are a space-saving option. They mount to the underside of a wall cabinet, keeping them off of the counter and out of your way. See our Under Cabinet Can Openers section for our top pick.