What to Look for in a Can Opener

Once you’ve started storing food, one of the most important tools in your arsenal will be a can opener. Without a can opener, you won’t be able to get in to your food.

Why is finding a good can opener so difficult?

When it comes to can openers there are no universal standards. Like everything else in the kitchen (except maybe the wooden spoon), it's been improved upon and different variations have been made ...

With so many different models to choose from it's hard enough to decide which type you want, let alone which brand within the idea. Can opener shopping is not unlike shoe shopping. Although some enjoy it, most folks define it as hell. All the good ones are too expensive and within the board definition of shoes there are dress shoes, athletic shoes, snow boots... well you get the idea. The only difference is when shoe shopping you at least get to try things on before you buy them!

With can openers your purchase is always a shot in the dark (outside of reading online reviews). How do you go about finding the right one? Do you always end up disappointed?"1

Important can opener features
Since there are so many options with can openers here are some of the important ones:
Stainless-steel blades and carbon content. Stronger blades and gears will make a can opener to last longer.
Comfortable handles. Make sure that the can opener has non-slip, rubbery handles. Make sure you hold it before you purchase it.
Long handles. Longer handles will provide you with more leverage and you’ll need less strength to grip the can.
Side-cutting. When you purchase a side-cut can opener, it leaves smoother edges. Since the can opener cuts just below the rim of the lid, around the side of the can, it usually leaves no sharp edges.
Manual can openers. Manual can openers can typically open any size of can. If you’re going to purchase an electric can opener, make sure that all of your cans work with the electric can opener.

Other features & options to consider
Built in features. Some can openers have knife sharpeners, bottle openers, knives, etc. There are a ton of other features available that are possible in can openers.

P-38s. These army-invented can openers are also known as “John Waynes” or “Dead Dukes.” They might be a little hard to come by but they are pretty small and simple. They also fold flat and are very easy to store. Here's a video of how they work:

1. The Kitchn. "Why is Finding a Good Can Opener So Difficult?" Available online at http://www.thekitchn.com/why-is-finding-a-good-can-open-141715

13 thoughts on “What to Look for in a Can Opener”

  • RJ

    The old trusty SwingAway manual can opener is the only one I will buy. At around 8 dollars, they're not too expensive, and they are heavy and nearly indestructible. The blade is sharp, the mechanism works well, and they have a nicely shaped handle that you rotate, as well cushion on the squeeze handles.

  • Greg

    P-38 can openers are available in every Army Navy store, and website. Can cast as little a $0.20 ea.
    http://shop.sportsmansguide.com/net/search/eSearch.aspx?SearchTerms=p38&eMode= 100 for $19.97

    Tupperware has a nice manual opener also

  • Bill Frye

    My 1st P38 that I received back in 1965 while in the US Army is on my key ring and it still works very well.

  • Lisa

    Be sure to select a P-38 or P-51* U.S. military can opener with the name "U.S. Shelby" stamped on it (as in the photo above). Otherwise, you may find yourself with a low-grade knock-off that doesn't perform reliably when you most need it.

    The most compact can openers around. They don't weigh a thing. Great EDC item. A good idea to get extras for your various emergency kits, too.

    * The P-51's are slightly larger than the P-38's. Those with bigger hands may prefer the P-51's, or find them generally easier/faster to work open a can with than the smaller P-38's.

  • Eliozabeth Thompson
    Eliozabeth Thompson February 10, 2012 at 12:20 am

    Do you offer this as a purchase item?

  • Rick

    The P51 is commonly mis-labled in stores as the P40
    Greg above left a good link for the sportsmans guide that has both available.

  • Bud

    I have an old hand can opener that started to get a bit rusty. So went to walmart and bought a new one (made in China) it failed on the first can. Took it back...3 can openers later, gave up. I went on line and found the ONLY opener made in the USA. Bought two and no more problems. Just like my old one.

  • Beth

    I always loved my manual opener until my son cut his finger, since then I have placed my trust in an electric can opener

  • Name

    Bought my first electric can opener 5 years ago and it is great.

  • Glennon

    I also have a P-38 on a key chain that I've had since 1967 and it still works great. Since my hands have aged faster than the rest of me, so my go to emergency opener is the P-51 version, which was created to open a cans by the case. It is much larger and easier to use. They are both great pieces of kit!

  • Andrew Galloway

    It's important because you need to find a durable and hygienic Can Opener to make sure that everything you and your family is eating are clean. Good thing I got one from Kitchen Ace. I bought this a year ago and I can say that the quality of there product is really amazing.

  • Sonja Cook

    My husband and I have purchased several of the EZ-DUZ-IT can openers. They are made in America and for less than $10 a piece, they are wonderful to use. We use one on a daily basis and have several stored for our food storage use. This coming Christmas, we plan to give every family in our church one.

  • fauna

    I would like to know which can opener is made in the U S A from the comments above...Swing A Way used to be (now?) Growing up the Swing A Way we mounted to our cabinets never broke down. Now I use a quite a few #10 cans and they will wear out an opener quite fast (within a few cans). I have heard a recommendation for a Swing A Way sold by "Thrive" that is a long handled version for #10 cans....I am interested in other comments on this one in comparison to the commercial #10 can openers that range from 80-440 dollars each. thanks all!

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