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CAN OPENER BUYING GUIDE: how to choose can opener that works

      Buying a can opener that is right for you is not an easy task.  Chances are you already own one or maybe even a few of these gadgets. Some of them have ended up in the trash because they didn’t work. Some of your openers got pushed far away in the drawer because they were difficult to use and caused frustration.

      So you need a new can opener now. And this time you are determined to get a handy device that is functional, pleasant to use and, hopefully, will last for decades. But how to choose the right can opener that works? Which option among many available choices to pick? On what features to concentrate?

      This can opener buying guide explains in a simple way how to select a gadget that satisfies your demands. First, it describes the requirements to look for in a good can opener. Then it gives you knowledge of types of can openers and discusses their positive and negative points.  Next, it makes clear how to determine which type of can opener is right for your needs.  After you learn about available options from this guide, feel free to proceed to the can opener COMPARISON TABLES section of our website to pick the best tool suited for you.


What is the best can opener?

In order for you to end up with a perfect tool, your new can opener should meet some requirements, which we divided into four groups. The first group of requirements is a “must haves” in any can opener. The second group describes the features that are nice to have. The choice of the features will depend on your individual preferences and the budget. The third group of requirements lists people’s individual needs. Lastly, the fourth group takes into consideration aesthetic requirements that might be important to some people.


1. Essentials 

First of all, a can opener should be:

1) able to open a can. A simple request, but there are lots of can openers on the market that cannot do that;

2) simple to set up and operate with no complicated steps involved;

3) long-lasting. In order not to buy a new can opener every year it is better to find a tool produced by a manufacturer that offers a good warranty: lifetime warranty and 100% money back guarantee is ideal (some manufacturers still offer this option), one-year limited warranty or no warranty at all is unacceptable.


2. Additional requirements 

Besides, you most likely will want your can opener to have the following qualities:

1) well made, so it does not have a flimsy feel. If the opener is handheld – it should be comfortable to hold, if it is freestanding electric – it should not tip over from the weight of the can. It also should be able to grip cans securely;

2) rust resistant ( it’s best when the cutting mechanism is made of stainless steel. You don’t want to end up with rust particles in your food, do you?);

3) easy to maintain – preferably a dishwasher-safe manual can opener or dishwasher-safe removable cutting unit for an electric one; 

4) leaves smooth, safe edges after cutting, so you won’t hurt yourself on the sharp edge of the can or can lid. This can be achieved by buying can openers, known as “safety,” “safe-cut,” or “smooth-edge”;

5) has a cutting wheel that does not touch the food to eliminate cross contamination risk. You can reach this goal with a safety can opener because it cuts through the side of the can. The opener’s metal wheel goes under the lid’s outer lip so  the entire top of the can lift up and off (see illustration on the right)

manual can opener (side cutter)
Manual can opener ( side cutter)

6) if you want to stick with a traditional manual can opener that cuts the can on the top through the lid, it is good to pick a gadget with lid lifter magnet. The magnet can pick the lid from the top of the can without creating a mess. If the opener has a release button – you will not need to touch the lid by hand and can send it straight to the trash container ;

7) you also might want your can opener to be able to open unusually shaped cans: rectangular Spam or sardine cans, as well as pull and pop cans.


3. Individual needs

After you figured out from the previous section which can opener features are important to you, it is time to take into consideration individual needs.

Think about which person and in which situation will use the can opener. Will this can opener be used :

1) by a left-handed person?

2) should it be ambidextrous? ( so left handed and right handed people in the family can use the same can opener);

3) operated by one hand?

4) by somebody that has arthritis, or weak hands? By elderly or children?  By somebody that need to open a lot of cans per day ( like lots of canned dog food) that puts a strain on the wrist?

5) for camping and traveling or for an emergency/ survival kit? In this situation the main requirement for a can opener is to be functional, light, and small;

6) for commercial use? This will require a heavy duty can opener, that can handle a large volume of bigger and taller cans.

7) Should it be budget friendly? (under $15)


4. Aesthetic considerations

Also, you cannot deny aesthetic needs. Some people want a can opener to be:

–  of a particular color to coordinate with the other appliances;

– displayed on the countertop;

– mounted under cabinet;

– wall mounted;

– multifunctional (combine few tools in one);

– hidden in the drawer.

What are your aesthetic preferences?


Types of can openers

Now, after we have covered what to take into consideration when looking for a good can opener, let’s get some knowledge of can opener types. First, we briefly describe and illustrate each type.  Then we follow with tables showing positive and negative points of each can opener type. Finally, we give practical advice on how to know which can opener types are fitting to your needs.  


1. Three types of can openers

There are 3 types of can openers: manual, electric and crown punch. 


a) manual can openers

The manual can openers are hand operated. This type of opener can be divided further into subtypes depending on the mechanism used to cut into the cans.

   1) Manual openers with the cutter attached to the handle open the can by punching a hole into the lid and moving the cutter along the can rim in slight up and down motion toward yourself ( like in P-38 model) or away from yourself (as an old-fashioned can opener with the long lever). There are no moving parts in this kind of opener.

manual can opener P-38

P -38 can opener

manual can opener lever with a claw
Manual can opener with long lever
2) Manual can openers with a turning knob or key that propels a cutting wheel and results in an open can. They are known as rotary-style openers. Consequently, this type of openers can be subdivided into:     
manual can opener (top cutter)

a) can openers that cut into the lid from the top of the can. The cutting wheel touches the food. If the opener is not cleaned after each use it can lead to cross-contamination.

manual can opener (side cutter closeup view)

b) can openers that make a cut from the side of the can. They remove the outside rim of the can without coming into contact with the food.  They are often called a “safety”, or “smooth edge” openers because they do not leave sharp edges.

3) heavy duty countertop manual openers.

This kind of opener needs to be screwed down to a sturdy surface. Turning the handle engages a knife that cuts into the lid of the can. Those openers are mostly intended for light commercial use and are able to cut large cans up to 7″-11” tall.


b) electric can openers

The first electric opener was patented in 1931 and described as “power-operated cutting device specially adapted to be hand-held”. At that time it didn’t become widely accepted by the public.  A freestanding electric can opener model, offered by Hammacher Schlemmer company in the 1950s, found more success. Modern electric can openers are easy to operate with the push of a button. A magnet holds the can in place while it spins through a sharp blade, removing the top.

Similarly to manual can openers, electric can openers can be divided into subcategories: top cutters and side cutters. Among electric can openers, there are models that can be set on a countertop, or mounted under a cabinet. Those models need to be plugged into an electric outlet to work.  Some freestanding and under cabinet mounted electric can opener models are multi-functional: usually, it is a combination of an electric can opener, knife sharpener, bag cutter and bottle opener.

Lately, the market became saturated with handheld electric openers that are battery operated. In order to use an automatic (battery operated) can opener you need to place it on top of the can, push a button and wait for the lid to be removed with no sharp edges left behind.

electric can opener freestanding
Freestanding electric can opener.
can opener automatic battery operated

Battery operated can opener

This YouTube video made by “Best Electric Can Opener” shows freestanding electric can opener (top cutter) in action.

c) crown punch  can openers

These heavy-duty manual can openers are able to open large cans in a single stroke. They work by pressing the lever down (there are also air driven models) which punches the circle shaped blade into the can. In order to be able to open different sizes of cans, the operator needs to change the blade that corresponds to the can size. It is a reliable piece of equipment for a commercial kitchen that requires opening up to 200 cans per day.


2. ‘Pros’ and ‘Cons’ of each type of can opener

The tables below present positive and negative points for each can opener type. Clicking on the category heading will bring you to the page with the best performers in listed categories. (Disclosure: some of the links in this article are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase an item through a link, I may earn a commission (at absolutely no extra cost to you). Read the site’s Disclosure policy for full details).

MANUAL (with no moving parts)


  • lightweight
  • does the job
  • takes little space
  • good for travelers


  • leaves jagged  edges
  • touches food while cuts the can
  • most models get rusty
  • hard to use

MANUAL (rotary style, top cutter)


  • easy to operate 
  •  takes little storage  space
  • by not cutting lid all way around you can drain liquid from the can
  • not expensive          


  • leaves sharp edge
  • cutting wheel touches the food
  • most of the models can rust
  • require cleaning after each use ( just few models are dishwasher safe)
  • not great for weak hands

MANUAL (rotary style, side cutter)


  • easy to operate 
  • takes little storage space
  • leaves smooth edge after cutting
  • the wheel doesn’t touch the food
  • easier to maintain
  • not expensive                    


  • can be hard to turn knob for people with weak hands
  • can create metal shredding falling into food
  • doesn’t last as long as the manual top cutters
  • hard to latch on to the can

MANUAL ( screw to the countertop models)


  • easy to operate
  • heavy duty
  • can handle tall and heavy cans
  • can be used for commercial application


  • takes a lot of space
  • needs sturdy surface
  • expensive
  • hard to maintain

ELECTRIC (top cutter)


  • easy to use for people with weak hands                          


  • leaves sharp edge
  • cutting knife touches food
  • loud
  • needs electricity
  • takes a lot of space
  • if a magnet that holds a can is weak, the can fells down
  • -some models can tip over from the weight of a can

ELECTRIC (side cutter)


  • easy to use for people with weak hands
  • does not leave sharp edges
  • the cutting knife does not touch food              


  • if magnet that holds a can is weak, can fells down
  • loud
  • needs electricity
  • takes a lot of space
  • can tip over ( some models) from the weight of the can

AUTOMATIC (works on batteries)


  • easy to use for people with weak hands
  • doesn’t take much space
  • leaves smooth edge
  • the wheel doesn’t touch the food -not loud                 


  • many owners report unsatisfactory performance
  • require frequent change of batteries

CROWN PUNCH (for commercial use)


  • sturdy construction
  • can be completely washed down
  • opens can in one move ( saves time)
  • can open up to 200 cans per day -automatic lid remover ( in some models)
  • good for commercial kitchens           


  • need to change the blade for different size of cans
  • very expensive
Hammacher Schlemmer electric can opener

One of the top performers – Hammacher Schlemmer The Superior Electric can opener  offers lifetime warranty.

3. Which type of can opener is right for you?

Your choice of one of three types of can openers should depend on how often and for which kind of cans you will use the device. Ask yourself two questions:

1) How many cans on average do I need to open per day?

2) How big are those cans?

If you normally open cans of usual size ( like most grocery stores carry: 15 oz soup cans and larger  28 oz cans, which height does not exceed 7”), you need to get a manual or electric can opener for everyday use. Check out comparison table for the best can openers in this category.

If you are opening more than 25 cans per day which are more than 7’’ high, you should look into heavy duty manual, electric or crown punch can openers. Most likely you are running small or large business facility if you have these needs. Go to CAN OPENERS FOR COMMERCIAL USE (in comparison tables) to pick your opener.

If you are traveling or hiking, or if you are creating an emergency kit, you need a lightweight manual device to open a can of food ( or maybe even multi-use tool) to carry with you. In this case, you will choose an opener in this comparison tables.


Final thoughts on How to choose can opener that will last

By now you are equipped with all required knowledge to choose the can opener that fits your needs.

  1. You know which types of can opener suit you ( manual, electric or crown punch),
  2. You are aware of positive and negative points of each type,
  3. You decided which features in can opener are important to you.
  4. When you looked through the individual needs description you noted if you fell into any of listed individual needs categories. If you don’t find yourself belonging to any of those categories, then you need a can opener for everyday use.


Next step

To make your search for the actual model and make of can opener simple and quick we created comparison tables, which we categorized by individual needs:

– for everyday use ( fits for most people)

for commercial use ( heavy duty)

for campers/travelers or for an emergency/survival kit ( light and small can openers)

– for seniors, people with arthritis or weak wrists

– left-handed can openers

– one-handed

– ambidextrous

– budget friendly (under $15 )

– stylish gifts

You can pick a can opener category from a drop-down menu or from the can opener comparison tables landing page. Each table contains 3 best rated can openers suitable for a chosen individual category. You will be able to see at glance the type and features of can openers and have an opportunity to buy a can opener of your choice with the click of the button.

For additional information that can help you to make the decision, visit BEST RATED CAN OPENERS section of our website, where you find best can openers categorized by type, see top performers in 5 categories and a list of can openers with a lifetime warranty.

can opener buying guide

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