Manual or electric?
Can openers come in
many styles, from the nearly effortless electric models to the tried-and-true
hand-crank models that work just as well today as they did in decades past. The
best can and jar openers can handle a wide variety of can or lid shapes and
sizes without jamming, cutting your fingers or requiring a lot of hand
Types of Can Openers
Manual Can Openers
From models that are little changed from the ones your grandparents and even great grandparents used, to modern devices that offer improved safety and convenience, manual can openers remain the most popular choice. Most are easy to use and reliable, but some level of manual strength and dexterity are required.
Jar openers are tools that either clamp or slide onto the jar lid, providing extra leverage to help you get the jar open. Most jar openers require some (minimal) hand and wrist strength, but owners find they're still a big help for those with arthritis or limited grip strength.
Under Cabinet Can Openers
Once exceedingly popular, under-cabinet and under-counter can openers are not as common in kitchens now. However, they still remain a great choice if you don't want to lose any drawer or counter space to your can opener.
Electric Can Openers
Electric can openers reduce the process of opening a can to the flip of a lever or push of a button. Though they can take up a bit of counter space (space-saving under-cabinet models are also available), electric can openers are especially helpful if you have limited hand strength. Some will even stop automatically once they've completed the cut.
Top-cut vs. side-cut can openers
Can openers can be top cut or side cut, and each type has
its pros and cons. Many of us have learned to accept the risk of sharp, jagged
edges when opening metal cans with a top cut opener, but side-cut (also called
smooth-edge) can openers change that by cutting along the side of the lid,
splitting the seam where it joins the can and leaving smooth edges on both
Safer than traditional top-cutting models, smooth-edge can
openers are popular with parents of small children. They're also a great choice
if you're buying for an elderly member of the family, or are just tired of
fishing top-cut can lids out of your food -- a side-cut lid will not fit into
the body of the can (although some top-cut models are equipped with magnets to
keep the cut lid from falling down into your food). Plus, a side-cut can
opener's cutting teeth never actually contact the food, so they're more
sanitary, rarely need to be washed (according to users), and are thus much less
likely to rust than their top-cut competitors.
But smooth-edge can openers still aren't perfect. Because
they don't leave an obvious separation, it can be hard to tell when you've cut
all the way around, and if you cut around more than once, you risk creating
sharp metal slivers that can get into your food or cut your fingers.
Durability is a continuing issue with smooth-edge can
openers as well, and getting the lid off is sometimes a challenge. Some side-cut
openers come with tiny pliers to help you grasp the lid and pull it off. Owners
occasionally complain about the cutting blade of their smooth-edge opener
dulling over time, requiring them to circle the can more than once, which, as
noted above, creates metal slivers. Those issues and others lead Wirecutter to
stop recommending manual side-cut can openers, though its top electric can
opener is a side cut model.
Finding The Best Can Openers
"The Best Can Opener"
It seems like everybody's frustrated with dud can openers,
searching eagerly for one that will just work. We found plenty of expert tests,
choosing only the most recent and scientific ones for this report. Wirecutter
conducts the most thorough, up-to-date tests of manual and electric can
openers. Cook's Illustrated and Consumer Reports are trusted sources for
kitchen gadget tests (and Cook's Illustrated conducts the best jar opener test
we found), but they haven't tested any new can openers in the past few years. Fine
Cooking magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune and the bloggers at
AnnaAndKristina.com get in on the act, staging their own head-to-head can
Owner reviews fill in the rest of the picture, providing
important information on how a can opener works in real life, and over the long
haul as some models have been around seemingly forever and have amassed
thousands of reviews over the years. We look to sites like Amazon and Walmart
for that feedback.