How to Use a Can Opener

Three Methods:Using a Manual Can OpenerUsing an Electronic Can OpenerUsing an Old-Fashioned Can Opener

It’s takes a little bit of time to get the hang of using a can opener. If you haven’t done it before, it can look confusing. But with some practice and know-how, you’ll have it down before you know it.

Method 1
Using a Manual Can Opener

  1. Image titled Use a Can Opener Step 1
    Understand the components of a can opener. Though it may look like a simple tool, it’s actually comprised of three different machine apparatuses. The two long arms that clamp onto the side of the can are the levers. The handle that is used to turn the can is comprised of an axle and a wheel. Lastly, the circular wheel that cuts into a can is called a wedge.[1]
    • The tin can was invented in the early 1800s by an Englishman. It required some skill to open it, and people usually used rocks, chisels or knives to work their way into it. Finally, the can opener was invented in 1858, and the task became a lot easier.[2]
  2. Image titled Use a Can Opener Step 2
    Open the arms of the can opener. Place the metal tooth (the wedge) on the lip of the can. This will automatically align the wheel of the opener to where it needs to be. Firmly squeeze the arms together. With practice, you’ll be able to tell when it’s on right.
    • Until you get the hang of it, you may have to do it several times.
  3. Image titled Use a Can Opener Step 3
    Start turning the handle when it fits securely. Otherwise, it could fly off the can. It is a sharp object, so you want to be careful. This begins to rotate the wheel underneath that then cuts into the can.
  4. Image titled Use a Can Opener Step 4
    Work your way around the rim of the can as you turn the handle. This action pierces the seal, cutting into the can as it moves around the edge of the lid. When it has gone all the way around, the lid will naturally disengage from the opener. Carefully dispose of the cut lid. Enjoy the contents of the container.[3]

Method 2
Using an Electronic Can Opener

  1. 1
    Lift the cutter head up. Place the can against the back top part of it. Position the lip of the can between the wheel and the cutting apparatus.[4]
  2. 2
    Press the cutter head down when the can is in the right position. This will set the opener into motion. It will begin to rotate the can. Hold it as it turns to keep it from tipping.
  3. 3
    Allow the opener’s magnet to catch hold of the can as it’s cutting through. This will cause the lid to raise up slightly. When the lid is completely cut, lift the top of the cutter head. Carefully disengage the can from the opener.[5]
  4. 4
    Remove the lid from the opener’s magnet. Grab hold of it between your two fingers versus pressing the cut part against your fingers. Dispose of the lid. Enjoy the contents of the can.

Method 3
Using an Old-Fashioned Can Opener

  1. 1
    Carefully place the “knife” part of the can opener nearly perpendicular to the edge of the top of the can. Then using controlled force, push the knife part of the can opener down into it. With a little practice, it should slide right in.[6]
    • This type of can opener used to be referred as a “stab push,” and some people still prefer to use it, even over the modern ones.
  2. 2
    Be careful when you do this. If you don’t hold the can tightly, or if the blade of the can opener isn't sharp enough, it could slip. If it’s at the right angle, you could end up cutting yourself. Until you’ve done it a few times, it’s probably a good idea to do it with another person.
  3. 3
    Hold the opener with the blade part down. Now insert the blade into the hole you just made. This time you want it as close to parallel to the edge of the can as possible. Push the blade down again, more gently this time, opening another hole.
  4. 4
    Fit one of the grooves on the stem of the can opener into the edge of the can that is now slightly raised. “See-Saw” the blade up (cutting) and down, moving around the can as you go. The edge of the can will now be rough and incredibly sharp. Be sure to not rest either hand close to the edge. Enjoy the contents of the can. [7]


  • Make sure you use a non-moving worktop.
  • No matter what kind of can opener you use, make sure you have a steady hand, as the blade on the can opener or the lip of the can cut you. If you feel unsure about what you’re doing, you and another person should do it together.

Article Info

Categories: Care and Use of Cooking Equipment