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Best Manual Can Openers

By: Tara Tuckwiller on November 20, 2017

EZ-DUZ-IT cuts to the top in can opener tests

A can opener's task seems pretty simple, but expert and user feedback confirms 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.

However, we've found a refreshing exception: the EZ-DUZ-IT Deluxe Can Opener (Est. $10). Remember the old American-made, handheld Swing-A-Way can openers? Your mother, grandmother and perhaps your great grandmother most likely 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. $8), 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 say they're just not as well made as they used to be. They prefer the American-made version -- the EZ-DUZ-IT.

"The John J. Steuby Co. out of Hazelwood, Missouri was the actual manufacturer of Swing-A-Way can openers for Amco, for nearly 50 years. So they decided to just start making them again, and instead of stamping 'Swing-A-Way' on them, they are stamping their own brand on them: 'EZ-DUZ-IT,'" says a Chowhound contributor who tests the EZ-DUZ-IT against an original 20-year-old Swing-A-Way.

The verdict? Yep, the EZ-DUZ-IT is the classic Swing-A-Way reborn. "I gave it the ultimate test, which is to open a can in the air (i.e., without supporting the can on a table). If it doesn't slip off the rim of the can and/or leave any piece of the lid uncut then it is working perfectly, and this EZ-DUZ-IT is working perfectly."

The EZ-DUZ-IT has few frills. There's no magnet to prevent the lid from falling into the food, and no lid lifter mechanism to handle the sharp-edged lid for you. However, the all-metal handles (many competing can openers have partially plastic handles) are extremely durable -- easily able to withstand a fall from a counter -- and are rubber coated for a secure grip in even wet hands.

But best of all, it's built like a battleship, and it cuts through lids like butter -- and that's what really counts, Wirecutter testers conclude, after struggling through more than 100 cans with nearly two dozen inferior can openers. The simple, classic EZ-DUZ-IT outperforms them all -- including the new Chinese-made version of the Swing-A-Way, which refused to cut all the way through lids, forcing testers to pull them off by hand.

The Made in USA Can Opener (Est. $15) is exactly the same as the EZ-DUZ-IT, made in the same factory in St. Louis, Mo., just sold under a different name. "The John J. Steuby Company sells the EZ-Duz-It to a company called 4 Peaks Technology LLC, which sells it as the Made in USA Can Opener; this arrangement probably accounts for the price increase," Wirecutter's reviewers say. It performs identically to the EZ-DUZ-IT in their tests.

The EZ-DUZ-IT is sold at Williams-Sonoma, and also by third-party sellers at Amazon and Walmart. The Made in USA Can Opener is sold by 4 Peaks Technology at Amazon. Be careful when choosing a seller, though; some EZ-DUZ-IT buyers report having received a counterfeit product.

Jar openers defeat those stubborn lids

Jar openers help arthritis sufferers and others with hand or wrist issues conquer even the tightest lids. 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, reviewers say.

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 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 that it tends to rust. Some owners say the unpadded top grip occasionally pinches their hands.

Handheld jar openers do require the use of both hands. For some people -- those with a broken hand or arm, for example, or those with very limited grip strength -- a cabinet-mounted jar opener may work better (and those are covered in our section on Under Cabinet Can Openers).

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