How to Buy a Can Opener

The practice of canning food has been in place since 1772, when the Netherlands first began sealing food into tin cans. It took an additional 80 years, however, before the first can opener was patented in England in 1855. 3 years later the can opener was patented in the United States. The original can openers had a sharp rotating wheel that would cut the lid. It was effective, but difficult to manage. In 1925, a variation of the original can opener was invented that employed a second serrated wheel to hold the cutting wheel in place. This dual wheel cutting mechanism is still used today, and the can opener has evolved to become 1 of the most ubiquitous kitchen tools. There are a variety of shapes and styles of can openers available on the market today. With so many choices, how does one find the perfect can opener for their needs? Here's how to buy a can opener.


  1. Image titled Buy a Can Opener Step 1
    Choose a basic hand held can opener.
    • Hand held can openers most closely resemble the original openers. They consist of 2 handles that come together at the cutting wheel. The idea is to clamp the cutting wheel down on the rim of the can using the handles, and then turn the wheel or knob to rotate the cutting wheel, thereby cutting the lid from the can. These are basic, utilitarian can openers. They are made from durable metals and they are designed to wash and store easily. These models are often called swing-a-way can openers.
  2. Image titled Buy a Can Opener Step 2
    Choose a hand held, smooth edge can opener.
    • Smooth edge can openers are designed to cut the lid of the can off from below the lid's seam. Other traditional models cut through the lid at the top of the can, resulting in a lid with very sharp edges. The smooth edge models, however, remove the entire top portion of the lid, seam and all, so there are no sharp edges left on the lid.
  3. Image titled Buy a Can Opener Step 3
    Choose a standing electric can opener.
    • Electric can openers are designed to eliminate the hand stress that can come from squeezing the handles and turning the knob on manual models. One simply snaps the cutting mechanism of the opener onto the top of a can, and a magnet holds the lid in place as the can rotates while the cutting wheel cuts the lid. When finished, the magnet holds the lid in place as you remove the can. These are a cleaner alternative to what can be a messy lid removal process with a manual opener. The downside is that they are more expensive, and require electricity to function.
  4. Image titled Buy a Can Opener Step 4
    Choose a mounted, hands free model.
    • Under cabinet mounted can openers are designed to save counter space. These electric models often have a cord storage nook to tuck the cord away when not in use. You simply fit the can into the cutting mechanism, and turn it on. The magnet will hold the lid in place as you remove the can. Space-saver models are also more expensive than traditional manual can openers.


  • Some electric can openers come with removable cutting wheels, so that you can replace the cutting wheel when the original one becomes dull. A dull cutting wheel will not open a can, and unless you can replace the cutting mechanism, you'll end up having to buy a new unit.
  • If you foresee having to open many cans at any given time, then an electric model will save your hand from becoming sore after operating a manual can opener.


  • The cutting wheel of any can opener can become caked with food reside that can easily become rancid and infect newly cut cans with harmful bacteria. Make a habit of frequently washing your can opener's cutting wheel, to keep your food from becoming uncontaminated.
  • The lids from opened cans can be very sharp; always handle them carefully and dispose of them safely.

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Categories: Tools