No matter how big or small your kitchen is, you will probably need to use a can opener at some point, whether you’re opening canned vegetables for lunch or feeding the resident cat her favorite dinner. Manual can openers are a great tool to have in the kitchen because they take up less space than their electric counterparts, and they don't cost nearly as much.
Manual can openers fall into two basic categories: those that cut the can’s lid just inside the rim of the can, and those that unseal the outside edge of the can. Those in the first category allow you to leave the lid in place and use it to hold back the food when you want to drain the liquid. Those in the second category allow the lids to be placed on the can for temporary storage—although the lids don't snap on, so grabbing the can from the top can result in a mess if you're not careful.
We researched top-rated manual can openers and sent them to our expert product tester, so they could be evaluated side by side. Each one was rated on design, performance, ease of use, cleaning, and overall value.
No matter your preference, here are the best manual can openers to add to your arsenal of kitchen tools.
Best Overall: Oxo Good Grips Smooth Edge Can Opener
Safe and smooth side-cutting
Comfortable handles and crank
Small learning curve
Who else recommends it? Epicurious and Saveur both picked the Oxo Good Grips Smooth Edge Can Opener.
What do buyers say? 87% of 12,000+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or more.
You can't go wrong with the highly rated Oxo Good Grips Smooth Edge Can Opener. The side-wind mechanism cuts through cans easily and doesn't leave any sharp objects behind. It's constructed of high-quality stainless steel that's dishwasher safe for easy cleaning. Customers agree that this well-designed can opener is a great value.
Like other Oxo tools, this can opener is designed to be extremely comfortable—it even has handles that lock together so you don’t need to squeeze them while you’re opening the can. The soft-grip knob is comfortably situated on the side of the can and it's super easy to turn. If the lid isn’t completely loose, the built-in lifting tool lets you remove it without getting your hands messy.
Price at time of publish: $25.95
Material: Stainless steel | Weight: 10.4 ounces | Cutting Style: Top
Best Splurge: Rösle Stainless Steel Can Opener with Pliers Grip
Heavy-duty stainless steel construction
Safe and smooth side-cutting and replaceable lid
Blade never comes in contact with food
Can be difficult to crank for some
If cost isn't an issue, this stainless steel can opener is the way to go. The high-quality material won't rust, tarnish, or fall apart over time, and it looks beautiful in any kitchen setting. Most importantly, the cutting mechanism is completely sealed and won't come into contact with food, which means that it seldom needs cleaning.
This opener cuts laterally, which ensures there are no sharp edges that can harm your fingers. Plus, it cuts so that the outer rim of the lid is intact and can be placed back onto the can for short-term storage.
Our tester’s favorite feature is the tiny built-in pliers, which can be used to lift the lid away from the can for quick and sanitary disposal. There’s a hole in the handle that also makes it compatible with hanging storage, too.
Price at time of publish: $59.95
Material: Stainless steel | Weight: 10.6 ounces | Cutting Style: Side
"Not only is the brushed stainless design sleek and attractive, it feels smooth, solid, and extremely well-built. It functions as beautifully as it looks—I had cans open in about 20 seconds with no rough or sharp edges." — Sharon Lehman, Product Tester
Best Safety: Kuhn Rikon Auto Safety Master Can Opener
All-in-one can and bottle opener
Safe and smooth side-cutting
Easy to turn knob
Not as comfortable as other models
If you have children or teenagers who like to help out in the kitchen, you should invest in a can opener that opens cans from the side of the lid so you won't have any sharp edges. Our top pick in that style is the Kuhn Rikon Auto Safety Master Can Opener. It's reasonably priced and has more than 1,400 user reviews.
With this can opener, there’s no need to squeeze the handle, since the opener automatically grips the can as you begin twisting the top handle. If the lid seems a little stuck after it’s opened, mini pliers let you grip the edge of the lid for easy removal. Simply press a button on the side to release the lid into the recycling bin. This product also includes a bottle opener, a twist-off bottle opener, and a hook for easily grabbing pull tabs on cans.
Price at time of publish: $25.95
Material: Stainless steel | Weight: 6.4 ounces | Cutting Style: Side
Best Heavy-Duty: Made in USA Can Opener
Heavy duty construction
Heavy to hold
Not very attractive
There's a reason this manual can opener designed in the '50s is still a mainstay in households today: It features a straightforward design that works like a charm every time. It may not look like much, and there aren't any frills like magnets or pliers, but customers say it gets the job done and stands the test of time.
Our tester noted that using it is simple and takes little effort thanks to the extra-smooth knob and cutting blade. Depending on the can, there can be some rough spots left on the lids. Since you’ll have to fish the lid out of the can with your fingers or a utensil, use extra care to protect your hands. The zinc-plated carbon steel construction resists rusting and feels extra durable. As the name suggests, the tool is American-made, unlike some lookalikes on the market.
Price at time of publish: $23.01
Material: Alloy steel body, Stainless steel blade | Weight: 10.4 ounces | Cutting Style: Top
"Everything about this can opener feels smooth. From opening it, clamping it onto a can, and turning the knob, the process of opening a can of beans felt almost effortless." — Sharon Lehman, Product Tester
Best Budget: Good Cook Safe Cut Can Opener
Safe and smooth side-cutting
Easy to store
Not as durable as some other models
If you're looking for a manual can opener that won't break the bank, this is a great option because it's reasonably priced and still does the job well. It earns extra points for ease of use and a slim design. Our tester liked that this can opener is lightweight compared to all-metal models and notes it’s a good option for individuals with weaker or arthritic hands.
There’s no need to squeeze the handles to grab the can since the cutting mechanism latches on as you start turning. It can be a little tricky to figure out how to attach it to your can, but the chrome loop is there to help you position the blade properly.
Since this unseals the side of the lid, there are no sharp edges to worry about once the can is open. The lid lifts away easily and fits back onto the can if you need to keep it covered temporarily. The heavy-duty chrome blade construction is supposed to be resistant to breaking, warping, scratching, staining, or tarnishing.
Price at time of publish: $9.88
Material: Plastic | Weight: 4 ounces | Cutting Style: Side
"I could see this opener being ideal for weaker or arthritic hands since there's no squeezing involved and it's lightweight." — Sharon Lehman, Product Tester
Best One-Handed: Bartelli Soft Edge 3-in-1 Ambidextrous Safety Can Opener
Ideal for those with weaker hand strength
Safe and smooth side-cutting
Multi-use bottle and jar opener
Blade only turns in one direction
This three-in-one can opener is ideal for people who have less dexterity on one hand, since you can safely operate the tool with the other hand. It can be used by either left or right-handed users, too. It features a no-squeeze single-handle design and an easy-to-turn knob, so those with arthritis or joint pain won't have to worry about excessive gripping or squeezing. This operates from the side of the can, so it removes the lid without creating any sharp edges.
Our tester liked that the lid lifts away without having to fish it out from the food. She also appreciated the compact design and versatility of this tool. Not a one-trick play, this gadget has an integrated bottle opener and a jar opener that will save you space in your kitchen.
Price at time of publish: $14.95
Material: Alloy steel body, stainless steel blade | Weight: 4.8 ounces | Cutting Style: Side
"This safety feature is good for everyone, but especially households with young children helping in the kitchen. Plus, its 3-in-1 function makes it a good choice for small kitchens with limited drawer space." — Sharon Lehman, Product Tester
Best Crank: Swing-A-Way Easy-Crank Can Opener with Folding Crank Handle
Large crank handle
Doesn't take up much storage space
Difficult to use on smaller cans
Folks who find that twisting a small knob is uncomfortable will love this can opener because it has a large crank handle. If you're worried about storing an item with such a large crank handle, it's able to fold down for easier storage—it doesn't get more convenient than that.
This traditional can opener works by piercing the top of the can and cuts neatly around the inside edge to completely remove the lid. Our tester noted the large size of this can opener makes it a little tricky to use on smaller cans, like tuna fish and tomato paste. The size is ideal for opening extra-large or bulk-sized cans that smaller openers may struggle with.
Price at time of publish: $24.99
Material: Steel with cushion grips | Weight: 13.6 ounces | Cutting Style: Top
"The size of this opener and the extra-long handle make it fitting for large and bulk-sized cans." — Sharon Lehman, Product Tester
Best with Magnet: Zyliss Lock N’ Lift Can Opener
Locks onto cans for cutting
Magnet can grab can lids
Slight learning curve
Lid can fall into can
Magnet doesn't always reach cut lid
Can openers aren’t known for being the most comfortable kitchen gadget, which is why the Zyliss Lock N’ Lift can opener stands out in a sea of hand-cranked can openers. The Zyliss handle has a wide non-slip grip that makes it easy to wrap your hands around. Once clamped onto the can, the handles lock together, so you don’t have to keep squeezing them together while also cranking. It might seem like a slight advantage, but after the second or third can (much less the eighth or ninth), you’ll be glad it’s there.
The Zyliss Lock N’ Lift is also equipped with a magnet that holds onto the lid of the can once it’s been completely detached from the can. This feature saves you the messy hassle of fishing the top out of the can—or worse, risking a cut by bending the can lid back. While it’s not 100 percent effective, it’s a nice touch. Additionally, the can opener has a grace to its design that some commercial-style can openers lack. Easy to wash by hand and sized appropriately for drawer or utensil jar storage, this can opener gets the job done with a bit of comfort to boot.
Price at time of publish: $19.99
Material: Plastic body with stainless steel cutting wheel | Weight: 6.4 ounces | Cutting Style: Top and side
"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
How We Tested
We sent several manual can openers to the home of our product tester and small appliances expert to evaluate side by side. She used each one to open multiple sizes of cans and rated them on design, performance, ease of use, cleaning, and overall value. She also factored in the strength of the magnet and its effectiveness in grabbing the lid from the can once cut.
What to Look for When Buying a Manual Can Opener
Manual can openers all require at least a minimal amount of hand strength to crank, but a good can opener’s crank mechanism should turn smoothly and with the least amount of strain possible. When it comes to manual cranks, the design varies, but most can openers are fitted with a flat or curved knob-style crank. The larger the knob is, the easier it will be to handle. A few can opener options have a larger handle-style crank with a knob on the end that gives the operator more leverage when opening a can.
In addition to the knob, handing a can opener will be easier with handles that are easier to grip. Look for handles that have a non-slip grip, and fit comfortably in the palm of your hand. Handles that lock together while you’re cranking to reduce the amount you’ve got to squeeze are also helpful.
Top vs. Sides Cutting
Traditional can openers cut through the lid of a can that can leave sharp edges to slice hands while emptying the contents. Most people have used this sort of can opener, so if that’s what you’re comfortable with, there are plenty of options on the market. If you’re looking for a can opener that’s more on the safer and sanitary side, look for a model that slices the lid from the side of the can. This style of cut allows you to remove the top safely. It’s also a more sanitary method of can opening since the cutter’s blade doesn’t come in contact with the contents of the can, and you don’t have to stick your fingers into the can to fish out the lid.
Manual can openers don’t tend to come with very many bells and whistles. But some models are equipped with some extra features that you might find helpful. Can openers with a magnetic or clipping lid-catching tool will save you the hassle of fishing the lid out of your next can of beans. Other can openers come with bottle openers and pull-tab grabbers to help you open a broader range of canned goods.
How do you use a can opener?
A can opener basically does two things: It holds onto and rotates the can, and it cuts through the metal lid. Most metal can openers have a pair of hinged arms that you clamp onto the top of the can and hold closed either manually or with a latch while you turn a knob or hand crank attached to a sharp wheel that cuts the lid and a gear wheel that rotates the can. Other one-piece models clip onto the edge of the can and clamp themselves in place when you start turning the knob. The cut lid often has sharp edges, and many manual openers have magnets, mini-pliers, or other tools to remove and dispose of the lid without having to use your hands.
Is an electric can opener better than a manual can opener?
Electric can openers are fast, easy, and very safe, as they completely remove the lid without involving any hands and fingers at all. But they cost more than manual models and are a unitasker that takes up space on the counter. An electric can opener is a great timesaving option if you'll be opening a lot of cans often, or an easy option for someone who has trouble with hand movement or strength since there's no cranking involved. In general, a manual can opener is just as good at opening cans as an electric one; there's just more effort involved.
How do you open a can without a can opener?
Whether you're at a vacation house with no tools in the drawers or out camping and find you forgot to pack a can opener, you might find yourself in a dire situation where you need to open a can without an opener. A small knife with a sharp tip like a steak knife or pocket knife is a decent option: Put the can on a stable surface, hold the knife securely in one hand with the tip at the edge of the lid, and lightly tap the back of the knife with your other hand just until it pierces the can. Then rotate the can slightly and repeat until you've poked a series of holes all around the lid. You can then use the knife to pry the lid open between the holes. Any pointed item—a flathead screwdriver or even a sharp-edged rock—can work the same way.
You need to be very careful opening a can this way, as it's easy for the knife to slip, and the edges of the cut lid will be jagged and quite sharp. There's not really a safe way to open a can without a can opener, which is why it's an indispensable tool every kitchen or camping backpack should have. (And if you don't have one at home, you should read our recommendations above and buy one!) The method described here is for use only in an emergency.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Donna Currie is a cookbook author who writes roundups and reviews products for The Spruce Eats. She has tested more than 90 kitchen products for the brand.
This article was updated by Jenny Kellerhals, a food and beverage writer based in Queens, NYC. She's been a professional pastry chef for over a decade, and has opened more cans of sweetened condensed milk than she can count with her Made in the USA can opener. Sharon Lehman, who further updated this article, is a freelance writer specializing in food, health, and wellness topics. She is the Small Appliance Expert for The Spruce Eats. The FAQs section was written by The Spruce Eats commerce writer Jason Horn.
We Found the Best Manual Can Openers, Finally. Epicurious. https://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/we-found-the-best-manual-can-opener-finally-article
Power Through Your Pantry with the Best Manual Can Openers. Saveur. https://www.saveur.com/shop/best-manual-can-openers/