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There’s no doubt about it—every home cook needs a can opener. Even if you primarily buy fresh meat and vegetables, there often comes a time when it's convenient to have canned foods on hand, whether it's tomatoes for classic spaghetti sauce, chickpeas for hummus, or even tuna for making a melt in a pinch.
A manual can opener is the most popular, and it's easy to use. It fits into a utensils drawer or countertop holder quite seamlessly. But opting for an electric opener may suit you best if you don't like the process of twisting. Ultimately, it's more a matter of personal preference than anything else. This kitchen tool may seem basic compared to other gadgets, but some have extra-useful features to help you open cans—and dispose of lids—safely and seamlessly.
Behold, our list of the best can openers.
Best Overall, Manual: Zyliss Lock N' Lift Can Opener
Wide comfortable handle
Locking handles reduces hand stress
Magnetic lid lifter for mess-free hands
Slight learning curve
Magnet doesn't always catch lid
This tool is easy to use, with wide, comfortable grip handles that make it easy to squeeze the opener into place on the can lid. The opener locks into place, so you don’t have to keep squeezing as you open the can. The side handle is easy and comfortable to turn, and the cutting operation is smooth.
When the can is open, you simply release the lock to let go of the can. A magnet grabs and holds the can lid so you can lift it away from the can, then you can use the magnet release lever to drop the lid straight into the garbage, so you don’t have to touch it at all.
Best Overall, Electric: Hamilton Beach Smooth Touch Can Opener
Smooth and safe side-cutting opener
Blade doesn't come in contact with food
Easy press-lever top
Takes up more storage space
This electric can opener opens cans from the side of the lid rather than cutting from the top, so you can open regular cans as well as those that have pull-tab lids. It leaves a smooth edge, so you don't have to worry about cutting yourself on the sharp edge.
This has a large top lever that’s easy to press down, so it’s simple for anyone to operate. Just attach the can, press the lever, and hold it down as the can opener does all the work. It's not clunky and the design is quite sleek, so you can store it on your countertop if you open a lot of cans. If you won't be using it often, simply tuck it away in a cabinet.
Best for Arthritis: OXO Good Grips Smooth Edge Can Opener
Non-slip, comfortable grip
Smooth and safe side-cutting opener
Oversized turning knob
Minor learning curve
While this can opener isn't electric, its non-slip, comfortable grip, and easy-turn, oversized knob make it super simple to operate—even for those with arthritis. The stainless steel cutting wheel never touches your food, which makes it sanitary, and you can use the attached lid pliers to remove the top of the can.
What makes this can opener stand out is the fact that it cuts on the side of the can instead of the top, meaning you aren't left with any sharp edges on the can or lid. Customers suggest reading the instructions or watching an instructional video before using it the first time, but once you get the hang of it, the whole process is quick, easy, and requires minimal grip strength.
Best Multi-Purpose: Kuhn Rikon Auto Safety Master Can Opener
All-in-one can and bottle opener
Smooth and safe side-cutting opener
Lid-lifter jaws clamp onto can lids
Might take practice to master
Handle not as comfortable as other models
This manual side-cutting can opener automatically locks itself onto the can as you turn the handle, so it’s simple to get it going. Since it works from the side of the lid rather than the top, you get clean, smooth removal with no sharp edges to worry about when the lid is removed, and since the cutter never touches the food, there’s no chance of cross-contamination. When the lid is free, lid-lifter jaws clamp onto the lid to remove it easily, then you simply push a button to release it into the trash. The lid can also be pressed back onto the can to keep the contents neat while you work on a recipe.
Besides opening cans, this has an integrated screw-top bottle opener, an integrated lift-off bottle opener, and a lever for pull-top cans, so you’ll be ready to open just about everything with this one device. It's available in several colors, to brighten up your kitchen or match your décor.
Best Compact: Korin Japanese Can Opener
Compact design for tight storage
Slight Learning curve
Does not come with a blade cover
Requires a little more strength to operate
This compact little cutter doesn’t have any moving parts, and it doesn’t require batteries or electricity, so you can tuck it in with your fishing or camping gear or use it to open cans when the power is out.
This requires a little more effort than other manual cutters, but the sharp cutting edge easily pierces the can lid, then the cutting continues with a rocking motion using the shape of the opener as a guide. This also includes a bottle opener, making it even more versatile.
Best Wall-Mounted: Swing-A-Way Japanese Can Opener (Ganji Kankiri)
Easy to access wall-mount design
Heavy duty construction
Crank handle makes opening large cans easier
Remember to support can from base
Slight learning curve
No need to find storage space in a drawer or cabinet for this can opener–it mounts to a wall where it will always be ready for use. The mounting bracket and screws are included with the opener, so you’ll have everything you need to install it. It even swings out of your way when not in use.
This is a heavy-duty can opener made by a company that’s been making can openers since 1938, so they know what they’re doing. It has a large crank handle that operates the cutter, giving extra leverage for easy operation. It smoothly and easily cuts the top of the can, then a magnet grabs the lid to keep it from falling in. An integrated bottle opener is included, making this even more versatile.
Best Flip-Top: Kole Kl J-Popper
No more struggling with tabs
Helps avoid cuts from pull-top lids
Only for pull-top can lids
Flip-top cans sound like a great idea, but some are tough to open and can be difficult for folks with arthritis or poor grip strength. This opener is made just for opening those flip-top cans (like tuna, soup, and even soda), providing needed leverage for smooth, easy opening. Just insert the end into the tab and pull to roll the lid back. Since your fingers are far from the lid, this also helps avoid cuts from slipping while trying to pry the lid with your fingers. It's lightweight and inexpensive, which makes it great for taking on a camping or boating trip. And while it doesn't come into contact with food, it's dishwasher safe for easy cleaning.
The Zyliss Lock N' Lift Can Opener is our top pick for good reason—it's an outstanding example of a top-cutting opener, boasting a convenient locking feature and a comfortable handle. If you prefer a side-cutting model, we like the Hamilton Beach Smooth Touch Can Opener for its ease of use and how it leaves a smooth edge (view at Amazon).
What to Look for When Buying a Can Opener
By Sara Tane
Most manual can openers are small enough to fit in a basic utensil drawer, making it a seamless addition to any home kitchen. Electric can openers are much larger—about the size of a box grater—so make sure you have enough cabinet or counter space to hold the device. What’s great about both manual and electric models is that regardless of the size of the device, it is still quite easy to open a can of any size.
If you want a small, compact device that you can use for camping or fishing, you can always look into a small cutter. While these can openers do not have the twisting feature that manual can openers have, they have a sharp edge that can easily pierce a can, and they use a gentle rocking motion that will cut through the rest of the lid. If you are opening a large can, it will take longer with a compact can opener. It’s not ideal for a home kitchen, but it's a great small item for situations where you’re extremely tight on space.
Ease of Use
The ease of use of a can opener mostly boils down to whether it’s manual or electric. If it’s manual, you will need to twist around the circumference of the can in order to release the lid. If it’s electric, you can simply place your can near the blade and watch the magic happen. One thing to note before purchasing a can opener is that most manual openers are designed for right-handed people. If you are left-handed, consider purchasing a model that’s designed for a lefty.
A new can opener can run anywhere from $10 to $40, so understanding what you want out of this tool is important before buying one. For starters, manual can openers are typically much cheaper than electric. At an approachable $10, a basic manual can opener can last decades. However, if you want an electric model that takes the hassle out of twisting and potentially subjecting yourself to sharp tin blades, then paying a little bit more for these added features might be worth it. Because this kitchen gadget is such an affordable item, most models do not come with a warranty; however, you really shouldn’t need one.
Types of Can Openers
The most common type of a can opener is the classic manual version. With these models, the opener clasps onto the outside of a tin can, and by twisting a knob, you are able to slice through the circumference of the lid. Some models have metal handles and others have plastic, which is a little less durable. For added convenience, a lot of models are also equipped with a bottle opener.
If you have sensitive wrists, this twisting action can be slightly difficult, even if the blade is super sharp and can easily slice through the lid without applying a ton of pressure. Two common complaints with manual openers are that sometimes the lid can fall into the can after it is cut off and that the edges of the lid can be sharp. To avoid slicing your hand on the rough, sharp edge of the lid, practice caution and use a butter knife to pop a lid off. You can also leave a small part of the lid attached to the can to act as a hinge.
If you want to avoid any twisting action, then an electric model is your best bet. Though an electric can opener is a bit larger than a manual one (it won’t fit in a utensil drawer, so plan to keep it in a cabinet or on your counter), it is definitely a huge perk to not have to fuss around with the latter. It electric opener will cost more than a manual one, but not so much that it would be an irresponsible purchase. Just like a manual opener, it can open cans of all sizes. Additionally, most electric models are built with a safety feature that uses pressure to remove the lid, which ensures the edges of the lid are sharp. It’s also worth noting that it will require an outlet and is a little bit more involved to clean because you need to be cautious of the plug and motor.
If you’re especially tight on space, you can always save room inside your utensil drawer or cabinets by opting for a wall-mounted opener. Most wall-mounted models include all of the tools necessary to easily install the opener into your kitchen wall. A large crank operates the cutter, ensuring you have enough leverage to open cans of all sizes. It is not the most stylish kitchen accessory but is certainly a useful one, so if the overall aesthetic and look of your kitchen isn’t super important to you, this is a great, practical option.
Safety Can Opener
This category includes both electric or manual models. What makes an opener a “safety” can opener is if it offers features that ensure smooth edges on the lid (to avoid accidental cuts), and if it uses pressure to safely pop the lid off. Instead of cutting directly into the lid, the opener's metal wheel goes under the lid's outer edge, so that the entire top of the can safely lifts up and off.
For the ultimate electric can opener, Hamilton Beach makes a magnetic model that will save you a whole lot of physical exertion. While it may cost a little bit more than a manual opener from competitor brands, it’s a great kitchen investment if you’re set on an electric model.
For an approachable, budget-friendly option, Oxo makes a slew of easy-to-use openers. It also offers several models with safety features, such as a pop-off lid and smooth edges. The plastic handles its models have can be less durable than metal handles, but it's still a great option for the average home cook.
The best way to maintain a can opener is to clean it after each use to prevent any risk of cross-contamination. Most manual can openers are not dishwasher-safe, so rinse yours by hand with hot, soapy water and a sponge. Clean it dry with a kitchen towel. If you need to clean an electric model, ensure it is unplugged before cleaning, and use a warm, damp cloth, getting in the nooks and crannies to make sure nothing is left behind. Never submerge it in water. Should your can opener develop any rust, simply soak the gears in white vinegar overnight and use a small brush to scrub the rust away. Rinse it with hot water and dry thoroughly.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Donna Currie is a freelance food writer who specializes in product reviews and recipes. She's also the author of Make Ahead Bread, and has been featured on Serious Eats, Fine Cooking, and her own recipe blog, Cookistry.com. As someone who appreciates the convenience of canned fruits and veggies in the winter, she appreciates a good can opener—in fact, she tested our best overall pick in this roundup.