The most popular handheld can openers we encountered are side-cut smooth-edge models: the best-reviewed Oxo Good Grips Smooth Edge Can opener (Est. $22) and runner up Kuhn Rikon Auto Safety LidLifter (Est. $16) . Both models have stainless-steel cutting mechanisms and pincers to help you lift off the cut lid, and both receive their fair share of praise from owners with tendonitis and arthritis.
The actual operation of the two models, however, is quite different. The Oxo Good Grips opener has a typical scissors grip -- two handles you squeeze together. The grips also control the lid-lifting pincers. The operating handle is mounted on the side, so users' hands are in a handshake-like position to turn it. Most owners say the Oxo Good Grips is easy to use and requires very little force; they also like the cushioned, rubber grips on the handles.
On the other hand, the Kuhn Rikon Auto Safety LidLifter has just one handle and a plastic push-button to control the pincers, which is a relief for arthritis sufferers who find squeezing painful. However, single-handle operation means you can't adjust how much pressure you're exerting on the can. Some users say the fact that the crank knob is curved helps you get a better grip. However, we found a number of complaints about the knob's positioning feeling awkward; it forces you to keep your palm down as you twist it.
The Kuhn Rikon Auto Safety Master Opener (Est. $16) is essentially the same can opener as the LidLifter, plus a few tools for opening pop-top cans and bottles.
None of these models are particularly friendly to lefties. Nor are they dishwasher-safe, and all are on the bulky side. However, most users are willing to compromise for cutting blades that never touch their food and leave a completely smooth edge. "You can actually take your finger and run it all along the edges of the can and top and you will not get cut at all," writes one user at Viewpoints.com.
Durability is also a bit of an issue for the Kuhn Rikon Auto Safety LidLifter and Oxo Good Grips. In some reports the blades dulled within just a few months of purchase, requiring several passes to open a can, which can create dangerous metal shavings that may end up in your food or cut your fingers. Owners didn't have much to say about Kuhn Rikon's customer service, but find Oxo offers excellent customer service that cheerfully replaces defective units or exchanges them for a different model.
We also found a fair number of reviews (mostly at Amazon.com) from customers who have owned both can openers and compared them directly. Most note the Oxo Good Grips is slightly easier to use and opens some cans the Kuhn Rikon Auto Safety LidLifter will not, although both struggle with industrial-size cans.
Anyone with severely compromised hand strength (or incapable of right-hand operation) will appreciate the hand-neutral ratchet mechanism on the
If you'd rather use a top-cutting manual can opener, the Swing-A-Way Portable Can Opener (Est. $9) (model number 407) performs reasonably well. It draws mixed reviews for comfort but remains a basic, dependable workhorse that stores easily in your kitchen drawer. The biggest downside is, again, durability; numerous Amazon.com reviewers say that older Swing-A-Way models were of much higher quality and could easily last a decade or more, while the newer models don't last long at all.
Many owners blame Swing-A-Way's durability woes on their switch from American to Chinese manufacturing. If you'd prefer a can opener built in the United States, several recommend the EZ-DUZ-IT Deluxe Can Opener (Est. $10) as a good alternative. Our top choice remains the Oxo Good Grips Smooth Edge Can Opener for its comfort, performance, general ease of use and excellent customer service.