A can opener's task seems pretty simple, but expert tests confirm what many of us already know: Plenty of can openers simply don't work. Their blades dull; their gears chew up the labels and spit them into our food; they gunk up and rust; and their cutting wheels slip off the can or refuse to turn no matter how hard we crank the stiffened-up handle.
The Oxo Good Grips Locking Can Opener with Lid Catch (Est. $17) is the refreshing exception. It wins three expert tests -- and the hearts of more than 200 owners at Amazon.com. "The [Oxo] Good Grips Locking Can Opener, that's the one I use the most," says Lynne Rossetto Kasper of NPR's The Splendid Table, in an interview with TheSweethome.com. "It works very smoothly." The Oxo sailed through TheSweethome.com's tests at a New York soup kitchen, opening can after can quickly and comfortably for both right- and left-handed testers.
The Oxo is a traditional top-cut can opener (it cuts around the top of the lid and leaves a sharp edge) but with a built-in magnetic lid lifter and release, so you never have to actually touch the lid. "Fingers never came in contact with the lid," confirm testers at The Wall Street Journal, where the Oxo earns a top recommended spot. The magnet "catches the lid to prevent it from dipping into your beans" -- another pet can-opener pet peeve. Oxo offers a satisfaction guarantee, so you can return its products for a replacement or refund if fails to perform as expected.
For about half the price of the Oxo, owners say they've found a real gem: the EZ-DUZ-IT Deluxe Can Opener (Est. $9). Remember the old American-made, handheld Swing-A-Way can openers? Your mother or grandmother may have had one in her kitchen drawer (and used it for 30 years or more -- those things were almost indestructible, owners say). Well, you can still buy the Swing-A-Way Portable Can Opener (Est. $6), but it's made in China now. Plenty of experts and owners are perfectly satisfied with the new Swing-A-Ways, but some customers at Amazon.com say they're just not as well made as they used to be. They prefer the American-made version -- the EZ-DUZ-IT.
"John J. Steuby Co., the company behind EZ-DUZ-IT, used to manufacture components for the Swing-A-Way before its production was moved to China in 2008," TheSweethome.com's Nick Guy reports. "With its extra 40 grams of mass and smoother grips, we found that the EZ-DUZ-IT does feel more solid" than the Swing-A-Way," he says. "However, this style still can't beat the Oxo opener because there's no magnet, so the lid can still fall into the food." The EZ-DUZ-IT's grips aren't as softly cushioned as the Oxo's, either.
Prefer a smooth-edge safety can opener? Unfortunately, most miss the mark according to the feedback we spotted. "We weren't able to find a smooth-edge opener that makes a clean cut and lets you lift the lid without using your hands," Guy says.
However, one opener that the Sweethome.com has yet to test, the Fissler Magic Smooth-Edge Can Opener (Est. $40), is in the site's plans for future testing -- and the Fissler has already prevailed in one top expert test. In addition, TheKitchn.com's Emily Han says that after using the Fissler can opener for her Thanksgiving meal prep, "I have found The One!" After trying (and hating) a bunch of different can openers, she really likes the Fissler. It quickly and smoothly separates the lid from the can, leaving no rough edges, allowing you to lift off the lid without it ever touching the food. You can use the lid as a cap to store leftovers in the can, too.
Fissler backs its can opener with a lifetime limited warranty against defects (but not normal wear). The Fissler earns high marks from most owners at Amazon.com (4.5 out of 5 stars, with about 120 reviews), but a few say the blade has dulled over a few years of use and has started leaving metal shavings on the lip of the can.
Once exceedingly popular, wall-mounted and under-cabinet can openers are rarely found in kitchens now. However, they still remain a great choice if you want the convenience of a manual can opener without giving up any drawer or counter space. The Swing-A-Way Wall Can Opener (Est. $10) draws rave reviews from people who grew up with these space-saving models in their kitchens and, in some cases, still use the very same one.
The newer models are compatible with the wall mount from decades past. However, those who've purchased current versions say quality has declined quite a bit in recent years. Others note small quirks, like having to tilt cans to engage the cutting teeth, which can lead to a sloppy mess if the can is full to the brim. The magnet that's meant to hold onto the cut lid sometimes becomes dislodged and really only works if you keep it clean.
Still, while it appears to be not quite as well made as the old Swing-A-Ways, this one does work and plenty of users remain loyal to it. At Amazon.com, we saw a rating of 4.2 stars following more than 430 reviews.
The Swing-A-Way Wall Can Opener is covered by parent company Amco Houseworks' 30-day warranty -- if purchased directly from the company. If you buy the can opener from a retailer, it "must be returned to the original place of purchase," Amco's website states.
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. $8). Although the most recent models don't live up to the legendary, decades-long lifespans 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 Swing-A-Way jar opener wins an expert test of jar openers, easily unlocking jars of all shapes, sizes and materials -- from tiny plastic-lidded vanilla bottles to the big metal lids of tomato sauce jars. Owners at Amazon.com say it's great for arthritic hands -- easy to store and easy to use. Just put it on the jar, squeeze the handle and turn.
That said, the Swing-A-Way jar opener isn't perfect; experts say it takes a few tries to get the hang of using it. We found a few scattered complaints it tends to rust. Some owners say the unpadded top grip occasionally pinches their hands.