The term jar opener used to primarily refer to the V-shaped cabinet-mounted style of infomercial fame. However, handheld models have dramatically increased in popularity and quality. Our top pick is the handheld Swing-A-Way Comfort Grip Jar Opener (Est. $9) . Although the most recent models don't live up to the legendary, decades-long life spans of older Swing-A-Way kitchen tools, the Comfort Grip's all-metal construction still proves better than plastic when pitted against stubborn jars. It adjusts quickly to fit all lid sizes and requires only minimal grip and effort, making it a favorite with arthritis sufferers and others with hand or wrist issues.
"The Amco SwingAway jar opener has been a great boon to my arthritic hands," writes one woman at Amazon.com. Another chimes in to say, "THIS is the one that works every time! It is easy to store, easy to use and works on any jar -- large or small." Just put it on the jar, squeeze the handle and turn. That said, the Swing-A-Way jar opener isn't perfect; we found a few scattered complaints it tends to rust. Some owners say the unpadded top grip occasionally pinches their hands.
If you find the Swing-A-Way jar opener uncomfortable, the Kuhn Rikon Gripper Jar Opener (Est. $18) offers a good alternative that doesn't require you to squeeze the handles. Instead the Gripper uses a dial to lock onto the lid. Both the Kuhn Rikon Gripper and the Swing-A-Way Comfort Grip lack any sort of a non-slip pad to keep the jar stationary as you're opening it; you'll have to either hold on to the jar or improvise your own non-slip pad.
Although at first glance the Kuhn Rikon Gripper's single-handle construction appears to be more arthritis-friendly than the Swing-A-Way's twin-handle design, the Kuhn Rikon draws more complaints about how much hand and wrist strength it requires. That, paired with bulky, plastic construction and a relatively limited size range -- handles lids 1 to 3.5 inches in diameter, compared to the Swing-A-Way's 0.5 to 4.5 inches -- is enough to bump it back to second place. If you like the Kuhn Rikon's no-squeeze style but prefer metal construction, the Kuhn Rikon Deluxe Gripper (Est. $22) comes with a metal handle (it still has a few plastic components).
Another popular model, the Oxo Good Grips i-Series Jar Opener (Est. $10) , is a portable version of the classic under-counter unit and includes its own detachable, non-slip base pad to help you grip the jar. The V-shaped Good Grips i-Series Jar Opener doesn't have any moving parts to break and doesn't require you to squeeze anything.
Unfortunately, to use it, you must press down on the jar opener and twist at the same time, which owners say requires a good bit of strength. The petite, easy-to-use and easy-to-store Swing-A-Way Comfort Grip Jar Opener retains its top spot.