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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.
To help find the best can opener for your kitchen, we tested them out at home and evaluated each on design, performance, ease of use, cleaning, and overall value. Dozens of various-sized cans containing soup, tuna, and more were opened to make sure these options are undoubtedly the best, and if they featured a magnet for fetching lids, the effectiveness of that was tested, too.
Behold, our list of the best can openers, according to our at-home testing.
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.
Our tester liked that this opener locks fully for storage, but is easy to open with a press of the red trigger. She also liked how it latches and locks onto the can with the turn of the knob, so there's no need to keep squeezing the handles. 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.
Even though this can opener is mostly plastic, our tester found that it felt very durable and couldn't imagine it breaking with normal kitchen use. As for cleaning, it is dishwasher safe, but it is just as efficient to wash by hand.
"This opener cuts the lid inside the rim, as opposed to others that un-crimp the outside joint between the lid and body." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
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 opened can, either.
Since the blade never makes contact with the food, it will stay cleaner. You also don’t risk cross-contaminating foods, because no one wants their evaporated milk to taste like baked beans. 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.
This electric can opener 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. Our tester liked that the can and lid were held securely in place until she fully unlocked the top lever, so she didn’t have to worry about the can self-releasing. The lever action also means this opener works equally well with your right or left hand.
"A 15-ounce can opened in just 15 seconds, making it the fastest tool in the roundup to open a standard can. It cuts from the side of the lid, rather than the top, leaving the cut edge perfectly smooth." — Julie Laing, Product Tester
Most Ergonomic: Oxo Good Grips Smooth Edge Can Opener
Non-slip, comfortable grip
Smooth 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. The stainless steel cutting wheel never touches your food, 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 sharp edges on the can or lid. Our tester was glad she reviewed the simple instructional diagrams that come with the can opener before squeezing it onto a can for the first time. The opener’s side-cut style attaches to the can at a different angle than top-cut openers. Once our tester understood the placement, the opener’s cutting wheel locked easily onto the can and the knob turned quickly with minimal pressure.
The magnet is fairly weak, since it isn’t designed to lift the lid completely off the can; it just gets that motion started. Once the lid is loose, you flip the opener sideways, reopen the jaws, and use the lid “pliers” to lift off the lid. If the can has a label that comes right to the lid’s edge, some of the label paper or glue may come away, too. This can make it slightly harder to remove the lid, but you’re unlikely to ever drop the lid back into the can.
Some users may find the oversized turning knob easier to use than other styles, but its side placement makes the opener bulky and requires extra space to store. The rubber grip material wipes clean, but attracts lint.
"It took just 21 seconds to open and lift away the lid of a small tuna can. It cut through so quickly and smoothly I wasn’t sure it had actually worked until I successfully lifted off the lid." — Julie Laing, Product Tester
Best Multipurpose: 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 the cutter never touches the food. Our tester recommends reading the instructions on the packaging if you’re new to using a safety can opener.
When the lid is free, a button clamps the lid-lifter jaws onto the lid to remove it, then you simply release the button to drop the lid into the trash. In testing, the lid-lifter tended to grab both the can and the lid, so be sure to keep one hand on the can to prevent spills. The lid can also be pressed back onto the can to keep the contents neat while you work on a recipe.
During testing, the can opener’s other modes easily popped open home-canned jars of pickles and glass beer bottles, and it quickly unscrewed plastic seltzer lids. There’s also a lever for pull-top cans.
"It’s a little longer than many manual can openers, but you may find room to store its all-in-one design by ditching several other opening tools." — Julie Laing, Product Tester
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 moving parts, and it doesn’t require batteries or electricity, so you can use it to open cans when the power is out. You could tuck it into a kitchen drawer or with your fishing or camping gear, but the lack of a blade cover makes a magnetic knife strip the ideal storage place.
It includes a bottle opener, and the slightly bent corner on the handle sneaks under a pull tab, making it a versatile tool. Our tester liked the easy-to-clean design, hefty handle, and sharp stainless steel cutting edge. She found it best for 3-inch or taller cans because low-profile tuna cans are shorter than the gadget’s handle.
This opener 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 slide-and-rock motion of the tool as you rotate the can counterclockwise. It may take a couple of tries to nail the technique—especially because the instructions on the packaging are in Japanese and a how-to video on the manufacturer’s website shows the demonstrator rotating the can in the opposite direction, which requires more pressure and results in a very ragged cut edge.
There’s no magnet on this device, but the last cut swung the lid slightly upward, so you may be able to quickly lift it off without losing it in the can. In testing, the lids tended to stay attached to the can by a small piece, preventing them from falling, but requiring them to be pulled off, or they came completely free, but fell into the can.
"The can opener worked well, but I’d find it far more useful if it had a blade cover so that I could pack it in a camp kitchen box. It works like a P-38 with an oversized handle, and its operation will be straightforward to anyone familiar with that old-school military device." — Julie Laing, Product Tester
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. Although many retailers mention an integrated bottle opener in their description, the wall-mounted model does not include one.
You can lock the opener into place once you swing it out from the wall, and it securely clamps onto cans. Still, it’s wise to keep a hand on the can to avoid spills. Our tester found it easiest to support small cans from the bottom and larger ones from the side, holding them with a loose grip so that they could spin.
"The magnet was strong. It not only kept the lid from falling in, but pulled it seamlessly from the can. I didn’t lose any lids into their cans, although it’s possible to stop cranking too early and not completely cut off the lid, which prevents the magnet from doing its job." — Julie Laing, Product Tester
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 some folks. 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. Our tester tried it with several styles of cans and had no problem tucking the hook under the tab—the lids smoothly rolled back most of the way. The opener lacks the leverage to completely remove the lid, so you have to finish pulling it free with your fingers.
This pop-top opener is 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.
"A can of coconut milk was open in four seconds—at least, that’s when the opener reached the end of its leverage point. It took another six seconds to completely pull away the lid with my fingers." — Julie Laing, Product Tester
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).
How We Tested
We sent six can openers to our experienced home canner and product tester, who tried each out with different-sized cans containing dolmas, coconut milk, tuna, soda, and more to determine which can openers are the very best. Each can opener was rated on design, performance, ease of use, cleaning, and overall value. Our tester then offered additional insights on each can opener's strengths and weaknesses.
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.
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.
Where should you store your can opener?
The style of can opener determines where you store it. A freestanding electric can opener needs counter space or perhaps cupboard room if you use it infrequently. Manual can openers often fit in a utensil drawer, but some may find a home in a countertop utensil holder or, if it has a stainless-steel body, on a magnetic knife strip. To keep a can opener clean and sharp, store it away from food and moisture and in a place that protects the cutting blade.
How do you sharpen a can opener?
Before you attempt to sharpen your can opener, check the manufacturer’s instructions. Some companies advise against sharpening their openers yourself, some styles have replaceable cutting blades, and some don’t even need oiling. Before sharpening, clean the opener by soaking the gears in vinegar and scrubbing away any rust, then wipe it with a little mineral oil. That may be enough to get the can opener working smoothly.
If it’s still dull, it may be possible to sharpen the cutting blade with a diamond file, bit of sandpaper, or even long strip of aluminum foil. Fold the sandpaper or foil several times until it is about as thick as a can lid, then run it through the gears for several full rotations. Test the can opener on a can, and repeat the process as needed until it penetrates a can lid easily.
Are can openers designed for right- and left-handed use?
Most manual can openers are designed for right-handed use. If some of your family members are left-handed, an electric opener or a one-handed manual opener that can be used with either hand may be the most versatile. Some openers are designed just for left-handed users, but they can be harder to find and more expensive than right-handed or ambidextrous models.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Julie Laing has been a writer and editor for more than 25 years and published her first cookbook, "The Complete Guide to Pickling," in 2020. She reaches for a favorite opener every time she needs to pop open a jar of home-canned pickles, a bottle of home-pressed cider, or a can of store-bought black beans to mix with homemade salsa. Julie opened stacks of tin cans to personally test six of the can openers for this roundup.