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Can Opener Buying Guide

By: Tara Tuckwiller on November 20, 2017

What the best can opener has

  • Stainless-steel blades. Stainless-steel blades are durable and resist rust.
  • Comfortable handles. The best manual can openers have non-slip or rubber grips that make them easier to use.
  • Reasonable size. Electric can openers must be tall enough to accommodate the largest cans you intend to open, and the best handheld models should fit easily in a kitchen drawer. Consider a wall- or cabinet-mounted can opener if drawer and counter space are tight.
  • An easy-to-clean design. Some side-cut can openers never touch the food inside the can at all, so their blades naturally stay clean. Top-cut electric can openers should have removable blade assemblies (these may be dishwasher-safe) for easy cleaning -- otherwise, they can get gunky really fast. Many top-cut handheld can openers are hand-wash only.
  • A sturdy build. Electric can openers should be heavy enough not to tip over when you attach large cans. High-quality manual can openers turn and cut smoothly and fluidly even after years of use.
  • Smooth, low-effort performance. Don't settle for a can opener that's hard to lock onto the can, that slips off mid-cut, or that's difficult to turn. We found plenty of can openers -- both manual and electric -- that work perfectly time after time.

Know before you go

Top cut or side cut? Both have advantages and disadvantages that could make one or the other a better choice. See the following considerations, as well as our comparison in the introduction to this report. Regardless of the type you decide is best for your household, manual can openers and electric can openers of both types are available.

Do you have children in the house? If so, the extra safety provided by a side-cut can opener that leaves smooth edges could trump all other concerns. The same is true if you are buying a can opener for an elderly individual.

How diligent are you about cleaning the can opener? A top-cut can opener's blades can actually touch the food inside the can, so you'll need to hand-wash it regularly (or find one that's dishwasher-safe). For electric models, a removable blade assembly will be easier to clean, but it may be a pain to get on and off. Side-cut can openers usually do not touch the food at all, so they'll stay cleaner.

Do you regularly use the lid to squeeze liquid from the can, as with tuna? You'll need a top-cut can opener to keep doing that.

Would you rather not touch the lid? For top-cut can openers, a lid magnet keeps the cut lid from falling into your food. This is not a problem when using side-cut openers, although these may include metal tweezers to help you lift the lid off.

How is your grip strength? If you suffer from arthritis or any other condition that may affect your hand strength, opt for an electric opener, or look for a can (or jar) opener with longer handles; they provide better leverage and ultimately require less effort.

What's your budget? Expect to spend $25 or more for a good electric can opener. A good, traditional top-cut manual can opener can be found for around $10, but side-cut manual can openers cost more and may not last as long.

Is counter (or drawer) space tight? Most electric can openers sit on the counter, so make sure you've got enough room for that, or pick an under-cabinet can opener. Some manual can openers have surprisingly bulky bodies; pick one that will fit easily in your kitchen gadget drawer (or consider a wall-mounted can opener).

Will you need to open a wide variety of cans? Manual can openers handle the largest range of can shapes and sizes. If you're buying an electric can opener, make sure it's tall enough to handle the largest cans you usually open (or choose an under-cabinet can opener).

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