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Jar Openers

Published July 2015

How we tested

A well-designed jar opener can eliminate the pain and frustration of trying to pry open stubborn lids. We rounded up seven models priced from about $6 to just under $20 and tested them on jars of all shapes, sizes, and materials—from 2-ounce vanilla bottles with tiny plastic lids to 26-ounce jars of tomato sauce with large metal lids.

Basic versions resemble silicone potholders—small pieces of textured plastic that you wrap around the lid for a slip-free grip. Unfortunately, these weren’t much better at opening jars than our bare hands. More complex openers have metal teeth or plates that latch on to the jar and a handle to provide leverage, but these designs also had problems. One model with smooth plates had trouble gripping the lids tightly, while openers with jagged metal teeth tore into the lids (and, in one case, a tester’s hand).

It was clear that traction alone wasn’t enough—the most effective openers also break the jar’s vacuum. One model works like a bottle opener, lifting the lip of the lid slightly to break the jar’s seal with a pop. Once the seal was broken, the lids unscrewed effortlessly by hand. Testers loved its easy-to-use, simple design, but it only works on metal lids less than 1/2 inch tall. (While most metal lids we tried could be opened with the Original JarKey, the company also makes a model that works on larger metal lids that are ½ inch to ¾ inch tall.)

Our old favorite is still our top pick. It sports a handle attached to a perforated bar that slides to grip any size jar, and its two metal prongs can release the vacuum on metal lids or loosen tight plastic lids. Though it takes a few tries to get the hang of it, our winner is a versatile and reliable tool.

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The Results


Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.


Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.


Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.


Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.


Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.


Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.