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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.
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
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 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.
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 stainless steel 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 in contact with food—which means that it seldom needs cleaning.
Lateral cutting ensures no sharp edges that can mangle fingers, and the lid can be placed back on the can for short-term storage. The hanging hole on the handle also makes it easy to store on a rack where it’s easy to grab when you need it. Most reviewers agree that this manual opener is well worth the extra money and doesn't rust or tarnish over time.
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 is the Kuhn Rikon Auto Safety Master Can Opener. It's reasonably priced and has over 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.
Best Heavy-Duty: Made in USA Can Opener
Made in the USA
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, but customers say it gets the job done and stands the test of time, resisting rust with its zinc-plated carbon steel construction. As the name suggests, the tool is American-made, unlike some lookalikes on the market.
Best Budget: Good Cook Safe Cut Can Opener
Safe and smooth side-cutting
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 the slim design.
There’s no need to squeeze the handles to grab the can since the cutting mechanism latches on as you start turning, while the chrome loop helps you position the opener properly for can opening. Since this unseals the side of the lid, there are no sharp edges to worry about once the can is open. The heavy-duty chrome construction is supposed to be resistant to breaking, warping, scratching, staining, or tarnishing, although some customers said it broke after a year of use. For the most part, though, customers say they are happy with their purchase.
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 3-in-1 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. Not a one-trick play, this gadget has an integrated bottle opener and a jar opener that will save you space in your kitchen.
Best Crank: Swing-A-Way Easy-Crank Can Opener with Folding Crank Handle
Large crank handle
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 more compact 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. When you’re done, it should be hand washed and dried immediately to preserve the cutting edge. The large size of this can opener makes it great for opening extra-large cans that smaller openers may struggle with.
Reviewers say this is a comfortable can opener and many appreciate the versatility of this gadget.
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.
"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
Our best overall, the OXO Good Grips Smooth Edge Can Opener (view at Amazon), is constructed of high-quality stainless steel and is easy to use and clean. If you have a bigger budget, the Rösle Stainless Steel Can Opener (view at Amazon) is the way to go, as it's beautiful and bound to last a lifetime.
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.
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.