The Best Can Opener
Over the past two years, we’ve spent dozens of hours researching can openers, speaking with cookbook authors and food podcasters, and opening 85 cans with 22 can openers. We think that the OXO Good Grips Locking Can Opener with Lid Catch is the best can opener for most people. It locks onto cans and cuts through their lids with ease, and a magnetic catch lifts the cut tops off so you don’t have to touch a saucy and sharp-edged lid. Both our left-handed and right-handed testers found it a pleasure to use. A smoothly spinning knob with a soft-touch finish makes it comfortable to use as well.
If you can spend more, our upgrade pick is the Zwilling J.A. Henckels Twin Pure Can Opener. With its single, sleek handle and its lack of sharp or serrated wheels, you may not immediately recognize the Zwilling as a can opener (or even know how to use it). But once you’ve removed a few lids with it, we don’t think you’ll ever go back to traditional openers that messily cut into cans. It locks onto and opens all styles and sizes of cans, keeping them free of jagged edges better than any competitor we tested. A convenient lid catch lifts the tops off so that they never come into contact with the food (limiting the risk of cross-contamination). And with its smoothly spinning knob and comfortable handle, the Zwilling is also easier to hold and store compared with other openers we tested. In the few weeks since we settled on this recommendation, however, we’ve seen this model go out of stock on Amazon. Because it’s harder to find and twice the price of the OXO, we’re recommending it only if you value a safety edge (and you’re willing to fork over the extra cash for it).
The Hamilton Beach Smooth Touch Can Opener may take up valuable counter space and require an outlet, but we’ve found it’s the best electric option for anyone who has difficulty using a manual can opener. It works on all can sizes (something that other tested can openers couldn’t do), creates smooth edges, and conveniently holds the lid in place after opening. Because of its large size, we recommend this electric opener only for people who can’t use a manual one.
Table of contents
Who should get this
Whether you’re prepping tins of tomatoes, tuna, or beans, you need a good can opener. If you have an opener that struggles to latch onto cans, has a difficult-to-turn knob, or has dull blades that fail to cut the entire way around, it’s probably time for an upgrade.
If you have kids in the house, or if you simply want to eliminate the risk of cutting yourself on a jagged edge, switching to a safety can opener is the way to go. These models eliminate the risk of getting cut by creating a smooth-edge lid that you can remove and discard with ease. If you’re concerned about sanitation and want to avoid having the gear wheels come in contact with your food, a safety model is the best option.
How we picked and tested
A good can opener doesn’t need to be complicated or decked out with lots of fancy features, but it should easily and reliably open cans of all sizes. “Above all, I want a can opener that works every time—I don’t want it to slip as I open the can, and I want it to cut through the lid cleanly,” Emma Christensen, recipe editor at The Kitchn, told us. Matthew Amster-Burton, author of Pretty Good Number One: An American Family Eats Tokyo and the co-host of Spilled Milk, agreed: “Fundamentally, the qualities you want in a can opener are reliability (not falling off the can or leaving an uncut segment), comfort, and ‘leverage,’ i.e., a powerful mechanical advantage.”
The handle should feel good in the hand, and the knob should turn easily. The ideal can opener will leave a smooth edge and/or provide some sort of mechanism for lifting the cut lid away. A sleek, simple design will ensure that it doesn’t take up too much space or get caught in a cluttered kitchen drawer.
For most home cooks, a safety opener is the way to go. Conventional openers—such as the ubiquitous supermarket Swing-A-Way or EZ-DUZ-IT—tend to create a jagged, sharp edge because the circular blade pierces the top panel of the can. The newer safety openers, in contrast, use pressure from a top and bottom wheel to split the seam where the lid attaches to the body of the can, producing a smoother edge. A latch also generally keeps the lid from sinking into the can, preventing food contamination. “Safety can openers are great for households with kids, especially when kids get old enough to start helping out in the kitchen,” Christensen said. Most of the pros we spoke with actually use conventional manual models, but if you want to avoid sharp edges, the benefits of safety openers are worth their slightly higher price.
We also looked at electric openers, which come in both standard and safety styles. Such models generally have triangular blades, rather than round ones, that stay in one place while the can itself spins, as well as a magnetic lid latch. But electric openers hog a lot of counter or storage space. “I don’t think electric can openers make sense unless you have a medical condition that makes it difficult to use a manual can opener,” Amster-Burton told us. “They take up more space, require an outlet, and have more parts that can fail.”
To find the best openers for testing, we looked to reviews from Cook’s Illustrated (subscription required) and Consumer Reports (subscription required), as well as the list of highly rated models on Amazon. We also sought advice from people who know food inside and out but don’t work in professional kitchens (restaurant chefs often work with very large cans and generally don’t use consumer-level openers). In addition to The Kitchn’s Emma Christensen and cookbook author and podcaster Matthew Amster-Burton, we spoke with Dan Pashman, host of The Sporkful. We also chatted with Lynne Rossetto Kasper, winner of James Beard and Julia Child Cookbook of the Year awards for The Splendid Table and host of American Public Media’s The Splendid Table, and her co-creator and the managing producer of the show, Sally Swift.
Ideally, we wanted can openers that operate easily, remain comfortable to hold, and allow you to lift the lid without its coming in contact with the food.
For our original guide, we tested more than 17 can openers, both manual and electric. For our 2015 update, we tested our previous top picks (the OXO Good Grips Locking Can Opener with Lid Catch and the Zyliss Lock ’N Lift Can Opener) against an additional five openers: the Bartelli Soft Edge Automatic Electric Can Opener, the Fissler Magic Smooth-Edge Can Opener, the Rösle Can Opener, the Sieger Bravo Safety Can Opener, and the Zwilling J.A. Henckels Twin Pure Can Opener.
In testing, we took note of any glaring comfort or hand-strength issues, and how easily the openers latched onto cans. For manual openers, we measured how many full turns of the knob we needed to take to open each can size (or how many seconds for the electric openers), and the overall difficulty and comfort level of each model. We also compared the size and durability of the openers and whether they removed the lid in one try or required multiple attempts. For lid-catch models, we tested to see how well they could hold the larger, heavier lids from 28-ounce cans.
All of the openers we tested had no problem staying latched on while we turned the openers; however, some had a harder time locking onto the can than others.
This year we tested the openers with the most common can sizes home cooks use: 5-ounce tuna cans, 6-ounce tomato paste cans, 15.5-ounce bean cans, and 28-ounce whole plum tomato cans. For the original review, we tested 60 pounds’ worth of 14.5-ounce cans of veggies and 24-ounce cans of beef stew, which we donated to the Friends of Night People, a shelter that cares for the poor and homeless in Buffalo, New York.
The OXO Good Grips Locking Can Opener with Lid Catch doesn’t look too different from a normal opener. But the small differences add up to a much nicer device that’s a cut above your typical Swing-A-Way and well worth the extra $10 you’d pay for decades of can opening to come. Its ability to lock onto cans, its sharp cutting blades, its soft-grip handles, and its magnetic lid-lifting mechanism help this model open cans smoothly and comfortably while keeping your fingers safe from sharp edges. So it’s no surprise that this can opener gets great reviews from various publications, experts, and users.
As far as can openers go, the OXO doesn’t differ much from the rest of the field. Measuring 7 inches long, 4¼ inches wide, and 3 inches tall, it has a mostly traditional style. It’s a touch wider than the average opener due to the magnet, but about the same height. The body is made of black plastic and augmented by soft-touch rubber where you hold it, namely on the handles and the knob. Immediately above where your thumb rests is a gray button; this is the release for the locking mechanism that secures the opener onto the can, a feature we saw on only one other opener. Overall this model has a pretty compact profile, so it will fit comfortably in your kitchen tool drawer.
When it comes to removing lids, both testers agreed that the OXO ranked among the top performers both in ease of cutting and ease of use. The opener made quick work of every can we tried with a knob that turned easily and a blade that cut right through the lid. Thanks to the locking mechanism, the device physically snapped on, holding the components in place and ensuring that it didn’t fall off the can. Five smooth turns of the knob got the can open while keeping the lid out of the food. Most of the non-safety openers we tested took between five and seven turns, so this was at the low end of our results. The rubber coating made it very comfortable to use, even for several cans in a row.
While the OXO isn’t technically a safety opener, it does have some effective safety features. The cutting edge leaves a sharp edge around the lid’s perimeter, but the built-in magnetic lid lifter means you probably won’t ever have to touch it. Positioned to the left of the blade, the magnet is situated at the end of an opening that allows you to see through and line everything up. While it is not particularly strong, we found that the magnet worked well enough to hold the lid, prevent it from falling in, and lift it away; a thumb-operated lever helps with that.
The lifting release allows the lid to fall right into your recycling bin. And this feature addresses a concern we heard from many of our sources, including Dan Pashman from The Sporkful: “I do think that the issue of getting the top off and out is valid,” he said. When the lid falls in, “it is a little bit annoying … it would be nice if that never happened.”
Like all OXO products, this opener comes with a satisfaction guarantee, renewable at any time. If you’re dissatisfied, you can return the product to the company for refund or replacement.
Unlike with our upgrade pick, the Zwilling model, using the OXO has no learning curve, and we found that it securely locks into place on most cans. Although the lid latch is weaker than that on the Zwilling, it still allows hands-free lid disposal. Of the non-safety models we tested, the OXO is by far the best.
Who else likes our pick?
Not only did the OXO Good Grips Locking Can Opener with Lid Catch meet all of our criteria and perform well in our tests, but it’s also one of the few can openers that get consistent praise from various sources.
It was also the personal favorite of award-winning cookbook author Lynne Rossetto Kasper, who stressed the importance of a comfortable, easy-to-turn opener, especially for people who have issues with their hands. “The Good Grips Locking Can Opener, that’s the one I use the most,” she told us.
She later clarified that she was referring to the model with the lid lifter, not the one without that feature. “You want something really easy on those hands. I find that this particular can opener locks in really nice, holds onto that can, and then I twist, and it works very smoothly.”
Although Consumer Reports didn’t do full reviews or offer a pick for best can opener, Daniel DiClerico did note in his brief roundup that the “[c]ushioned handle locks shut to hold the can secure as you turn the knob, and the magnetic arm keeps lid from falling into can.”
Finally, the OXO opener has a high rating among Amazon reviewers. At this writing, with almost 500 reviews, the average rating is 4.2 stars out of five.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
Although we found this particular OXO opener to be the best of the non-safety openers, it wasn’t without some minor issues. Many people will cite the resulting sharp edge as one of the biggest problems, but thanks to the magnet, that isn’t a dealbreaking fault. Yes, it doesn’t make the same clean, smooth cut that a safety opener does, but because you don’t have to worry about fishing the lid out of the can, we can forgive this.
On top of that, it won’t open pull-tab cans (if a tab ever happens to break off), and it’s bulkier to store than our upgrade pick, the Zwilling model. But it’s also half the price of that opener.
Also, locking this opener onto the larger cans in our testing took a bit more force, although the task wasn’t impossible for either tester. On the average 14.5-ounce cans, we had no issues. This was also a problem with the Zyliss opener we tested; the rest of the openers handled large cans fairly well.
Long-term test notes
After six months of using the OXO Good Grips Locking Can Opener with Lid Catch as our go-to can opener, it’s still working as well as when we first got it. We’re very happy with the performance, though this model is no longer the absolute best opener we’ve used.
A safety opener for heavy use
Though it’s on the pricier side, the Zwilling J.A. Henckels Twin Pure Can Opener outperformed every other model we tested. Easier to use than other safety models, it latched on better and cut cans of all sizes. The Zwilling uses pressure to pop open the seal between the lid and the can from the outside, so it has no cutting blade to contaminate the contents. Because the opener doesn’t leave a jagged edge and never touches the food, it’s also safer to use than a conventional can opener. Additionally, we found the handle and the wide knob more comfortable to use compared with other openers we tested, and its compact design is dishwasher safe and easier to store.
The Zwilling was the most straightforward can opener compared with the other single-handle models we tested. It was even able to remove the often awkward pull-tab style tops, unlike the non-safety models, which couldn’t properly latch on. Additionally, the Zwilling’s built-in lid catch, which tightly holds the lid between the two wheels, allows for hands-free disposal (you simply turn the knob counterclockwise one rotation to release it). Our pick and our former runner-up, the OXO and the Zyliss, had magnetized lid catches that we found to be slightly weak in holding lids from larger cans.
Since the Zwilling opener splits the seal along the outer perimeter of the can (a feature we specifically looked for in this round of testing), it creates no sharp edges and never comes in contact with the food, avoiding the risk of cross-contamination. This wasn’t the case with the OXO, which has wheels that cut into the can and touch the food.
Unlike the thinner knobs on the Fissler and Rösle, the wide knob on the Zwilling was very easy to grip and turn, making this opener ideal for anyone suffering from chronic hand pain. While the thinner knobs of the other models have a sleeker design, they didn’t have as much surface area to grasp onto. Thanks to its wider knob, the Zwilling ultimately provided better leverage compared with the other openers we tested.
The Zwilling’s sleek design also makes it one of the easiest openers to fit in a kitchen drawer. We found traditional can openers with two arms, such as the Swing-A-Way, more likely to catch on items in a cluttered drawer. The hole in the Zwilling’s handle gives you the option of hanging it on a wall rack or hook, freeing up valuable drawer space.
The Zwilling does take a little getting used to, especially if you’re more familiar with a traditional two-arm opener. But in the end we found the Zwilling to be the easiest to use of all the single-arm safety models we tested. It has a convenient guide rail that keeps the opener steady as you cut around the can. As with most can openers, it isn’t intended for left-handed folks, and some Amazon reviews indicate that the opener gets dull after a couple of years of regular use. Zwilling J.A. Henckels will replace can openers with defects or manufacturing problems after inspection. However, the company’s warranty doesn’t cover issues arising from normal wear and tear.
An electric option
If you are unable (or don’t like) to use a manual opener, our pick for an electric model remains the same from our original guide: the Hamilton Beach Smooth Touch Can Opener. Its unique safety-opener design, its ability to work with cans of all sizes, and its current 4.6-star rating (out of five) with more than 5,000 reviews on Amazon makes it the winner among electric openers.
In our tests, the Hamilton Beach was able to open all sizes of cans, something the Bartelli Soft Edge Automatic Electric Can Opener couldn’t do, and it’s much easier to use than manual versions. A magnet holds the can in place as you push down on the lever, and the blade pops the top off at the seam. Very little manual exertion is required.
Although the Hamilton Beach won’t fit in a kitchen gadget drawer and requires an outlet, we’re confident it’s the best electric model available. But we really recommend this electric opener only for people who can’t use a manual one.
Sieger Bravo Safety Can Opener: If you want a safety opener but prefer a more traditional clamp-style can opener with two arms, we recommend the Sieger. It isn’t as effective at opening cans as the Zwilling, but it doesn’t have the slight learning curve that comes with our upgrade pick. Its biggest drawback is its plastic handles, which lack a hole for hanging and aren’t as sturdy or durable as the Zwilling’s handle. Due to its slightly bulky shape, this model also takes more space in a kitchen drawer.
Rösle Can Opener: This safety can opener was a close runner-up due to its overall sleek design, which is comparable to that of our upgrade pick. But the knob was difficult to turn, and this model didn’t latch onto cans as easily; we had to get the angle just right for it to attach properly.
Zyliss Lock ’N Lift Can Opener: This model has a design similar to that of the OXO, but its gears put up just a bit more resistance. The lid-catching magnet was also difficult to use.
Fissler Magic Smooth-Edge Can Opener: At around $40, we found this safety can opener (which was Cook’s Illustrated’s top pick) a bit too pricy for what it’s worth. Although it seems durable, in our tests the thin knob was difficult to turn, and this model had the most difficult learning curve of all the openers we tried (our testers took an average of three or four attempts just to get it to attach to the can).
Bartelli Soft Edge Automatic Electric Can Opener: We liked the portability of this electric opener, but it couldn’t open 6-ounce cans, and we had difficulty determining when it had completely removed the top. It also requires four AA batteries, which aren’t included.
Kuhn Rikon Slim Safety Lid Lifter: Getting this safety opener to work properly was very hard for our testers, and the design was confusing overall. We had difficulty seeing when cans were actually open.
Progressive Safety I-Can Opener This can opener seems to use the same opening mechanism as the Kuhn Rikon, but with different bodies and handles. It caused frustration among our experienced cooks. As with the Kuhn Rikon, testers generally had a hard time getting the Progressive to latch onto cans, and they couldn’t easily see when the lid was actually detached.
Good Cook Classic Safe Cut Can Opener: This model worked well on both small and large cans, and spun smoothly around the can. But separating the lid from the opener took too much jiggling and jostling.
West Bend Electric Can Opener: The West Bend performed well, opening cans in seven seconds or less. But although it provides the same opening power as our top electric pick, it costs more yet offers no added benefits.
Hamilton Beach Classic Chrome Heavyweight Can Opener: We found that this model couldn’t support the weight of a 24-ounce can, tipping over when it was attached.
Handy Can Opener: While this model worked decently enough in our tests, we ruled it out because it requires two AA batteries (which aren’t included) and took about three times as long to open cans as our fastest model.
OXO Good Grips Smooth Edge Can Opener: This OXO opener connected easily, but it has more bulk, creates a sharp edge, and lacks a lid-catching mechanism.
Five of the openers we evaluated were based on the same traditional, non-safety design: the Amco Swing-A-Way Can Opener and Swing-A-Way Easy Crank Can Opener, the EZ-DUZ-IT, the KitchenAid Gourmet Soft Handle Can Opener with Magnet, the OXO Good Grips Soft-Handled Can Opener, and the WMF Profi Plus Stainless Steel Can Opener. All of these worked fine, requiring between five and seven full rotations of the knob or handle to open a can and cut through the metal easily. They’re all good options, and a lot of people, including The Splendid Table’s Sally Swift, are quite happy with the inexpensive Swing-A-Way. None of them are the best choice, though, as they leave sharp edges and lack a lid catch.
Finally, since the Chef’n EzSqueeze One-Handed Can Opener, the CIA Masters Collection Side Can Opener, the MIU France CanDo Safety Can Opener, and the Zyliss Safe Edge Can Opener weren’t in contention for the lead, and the models we selected had higher ratings on Amazon and elsewhere, we chose not to test them.
- Author of Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father’s Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater and Pretty Good Number One: An American Family Eats Tokyo, and co-host of Spilled Milk, Interview ,
- Recipe writer for The Kitchn, Interview ,
- Can Openers, Cook’s Illustrated, April 2015 ,
- Who makes the best can opener?, Consumer Reports, January 19, 2012 ,
- Smooth-Edge Can Openers Are A Cut Above, Fine Cooking ,
- Author of The Splendid Table, Interview ,
- Co-creator and managing producer of The Splendid Table, Interview ,
- The Sporkful podcast, nominated for a James Beard Award, Interview ,
Originally published: December 22, 2015