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Can Openers

Published April 2019

How we tested

The can opener has evolved from a rudimentary bayonet-sickle hybrid to today's more modern design, which typically has a propeller-like knob called a driving handle that users turn to move a small, circular blade around the top of a can. Traditional can openers puncture the top and remove the metal lid inside the can's rim. Safety can openers cut into the side of the can at the top and allow users to remove both the metal lid and the rim itself; this creates a smoother, and therefore safer, edge.

In our most recent testing, we chose a safety opener as our winner for two reasons: its sleek, comfortable design and easy lid removal. However, we stock the test kitchen with our winning equipment so we can use it regularly and monitor its performance over time, and after a while, we started hearing some complaints about our winning can opener. Our test cooks said that this opener was confusing because they couldn't always tell when the opener had successfully attached to the can. Unlike a traditional can opener that clamps down tightly as it punctures the lid, this model latches on to the side and doesn't give a clear audible or tactile indication that it's properly attached.

Taking these comments into account, we decided to retest. We chose seven popular models—four traditional openers and three safety openers—priced from about $8 to just under $55. We opened cans of varying sizes—from hefty cans of whole tomatoes to petite cans of tomato paste—and found that we definitely preferred one style of opener to the other.

Traditional Openers Were Easier to Attach to Cans

Two of the safety can openers were especially confusing to use because their blades attached to the tops of cans instead of the sides. This meant that their blades sat on the bottom of the opener, blocking our view and making it hard to correctly position them on cans. Once we did it a few times, the process became easier, but it still caused confusion among testers; their comments included “I'm not actually sure how to put this one on,” “Is that right?” and “You might have to give me some guidance here.” A third safety opener—the winner from our previous testing—latched on to the side of a can, so its cutting mechanism was visible and it was slightly easier to position correctly but still not as intuitive as a traditional model.

In light of the feedback we got from test cooks, we decided to place more emphasis on an opener's ease of use rather than its performance. The traditional models were much easier to attach to cans than the safety openers were, and we got clear confirmation they were latched: We could see the blade puncture the lid and hear the hiss of air escaping from the can. There was no confusion.

Some Driving Handles Were Harder to Turn

The driving handle is arguably the most important element of a can opener: It's the part that users have to turn to open the can. As such, it needs to be both comfortable to grip and easy to turn.

The driving handles of the models in our lineup were made of metal or plastic and were either straight or slightly curved, though one model featured a bulbous, semicircular knob. They were all comfortable to hold regardless of material or shape, but there were clear differences in how comfortable they were to turn.

The driving handles of two of the safety openers were especially challenging. “That was really hard!” said one tester of one model's handle. Another opener's handle was deemed “very tight, very hard to turn.” We asked our science research editor what might make safety openers' driving handles harder to turn. He explained that the side of the can is typically a heavier gauge of metal than the can's top and therefore would require more force to cut through.

The driving handles on each of the traditional openers were easy to turn. Our favorite model had a driving handle that was “a little more smooth and comfortable.” At 3½ inches from end to end, its driving handle was the longest in the lineup. This is significant because a driving handle acts as a lever rotating around a fulcrum, and a longer lever imparts greater mechanical advantage. It takes less force to rotate a longer driving handle than a shorter one, which helps explain why our winner was so easy to use.

Safety Openers Were Trickier to Remove from Cans

Two of the safety openers required us to turn the driving handle backward to release the opener from the can, a trick that wasn't obvious to a lot of our testers.

Traditional openers were more intuitive to use: Just pull the handles apart and off comes the opener. However, one traditional opener was more of a nuisance—it had a button that we had to press to attach it and to remove it from the can, which felt like an unnecessary and cumbersome step. Our favorite opener effortlessly detached from cans.

Lid Removal Issues: Bird Beak Pliers, Glue Strings, and Sinking Tops

We really liked that the safety openers removed lids cleanly without letting them sink down into the can. However, there were some minor issues with this approach. A couple of openers featured built-in pliers resembling tiny bird beaks to help pull off lids, but they weren't very useful. As one tester explained, “I don't think I would use these pliers because that was probably harder than just pulling it off myself.”

Another issue: With all three safety openers we noticed stringy, yellow strands stretching from the can to the lid as we pulled the lid off. “It's weird to see the glue,” said one tester, and we agreed. None of this glue got into our food (as far as we could tell), but we'd rather not risk it.

Traditional openers had their own issues as well—the biggest being sinking lids. When draining canned tuna, a sinking lid is a definite asset, but in all other cases, we had to dip our fingers into food to fish them out. One model had a magnet designed to grab lids before they sank, but paradoxically, we ended up pushing the lid further down trying to get the magnet to attract the lid. Overall, there was no perfect lid-removal process for any of the openers in our lineup.

Durability Issues

In general, most models looked like new even after opening lots of cans and being repeatedly cleaned. But, after washing one safety model, water remained trapped in its plastic body. It leaked water as we used it and expelled more when we shook it, but there was no way to ensure all the water was out. We worried about the risk of mold.

The handles of all the traditional models were covered with rubber, and one model's handle cover came loose during testing. The manufacturer said it doesn't use an adhesive to keep the rubber in place, but that “the handle covers are formed to fit snugly on the can opener handles and should require an excessive amount of force to remove.” (We didn't apply excessive force during testing.) We checked the other two traditional models and found we could remove the handles if we pulled hard enough, but they didn't slide off on their own.

The Best Can Opener: EZ-DUZ-IT

In the end, our winner was the EZ-DUZ-IT Can Opener, a traditional can opener. It was easy to use, and its driving handle, the longest of all the models we tested, made it especially comfortable to operate.


We purchased seven can openers ranging in price from about $8 to just under $55. We first used each model to open two cans of black beans to gauge how intuitive the opener was to operate. We then opened 16 more cans in a range of sizes and shapes, including four cans of black beans, four cans of tuna, four cans of tomato paste, and four cans of whole tomatoes to assess how easy it was to attach, operate, and detach each model. We hand-washed each can opener (per manufacturer instructions) five times to test ease of cleanup and durability and asked three users to open a can of black beans with each model to get additional feedback on ease of use. We opened an additional 25 cans of black beans with the winning model to test durability.

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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.