ATK Reviews

The Trouble with Can Openers

Can openers seem like simple tools. Why is it so hard to find one everyone likes?

Published Feb. 14, 2023.

We’ve been reviewing can openers for decades, opening thousands of cans over the years with dozens of models. 

The process has often felt like a losing battle. No matter what we picked as the winner, readersand even test cookscomplained. 

So what is it about can openers that is so divisive?

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For one thing, we’ve found that most can openers just aren’t built to last. Their blades dull, the tension on their arms loosens over time, handle grips fall off, or gears rust. We wish it were otherwise, but unfortunately, many can openers are made cheaply, and longevity isn’t necessarily a priority for manufacturers.

But the bigger lesson we’ve learned is that can openers are personal. People have surprisingly strong feelings about these simple tools. Just read the comment section of our current story to get a sense of how serious people are about their favorite can opener.  

Test Cooks Revolt (Kind Of)

It wasnt just readers; it got tense at work too. Every time we choose an equipment winner, our Kitchen Operations team stocks the test kitchen with itwhether it’s a Dutch oven or a spatula. We do this in large part because we truly stand by our work. If we think other people should use this saucepan or this knife, we should be using them too. 

But we also do this because we want to know how our favorites hold up over time. If a tool starts to fail, or the test cooks don’t like it, we will hear about it—and then some. 

Equipment Review

Best Can Openers

Our previous winner billed itself as “magic,” but our test cooks found it confusing to use. We went back into the lab and found a can opener that was intuitive and easy to operate.
See Our Winner

When Executive Editor Hannah Crowley tested can openers in 2015, she conducted extensive user testing and felt confident in her winner, a safety can opener that allowed folks to open cans without creating sharp edges. 

But after a year or two, the backlash started. Test cooks would come around to her desk and toss their can openers on it in disgust. They hated using them, and claimed the openers couldn’t open certain cans. We tested the safety model. They opened all the “problem” cans perfectly fine.

We couldn’t ignore the complaints, though, so we tested again in 2019, choosing a traditional can opener as winner to avoid invoking the wrath of our test cooks and readers. 

This time, we heard from dozens of readers who loved safety openers and vastly preferred them to traditional versions. We also heard from folks who claimed that the current winner rusted or broke or didn’t open cans well. 

We opened countless cans during our search for the perfect can opener.

The Perfect Can Opener Does Not Exist

After all these years, we’ve finally come to an understanding: The perfect can opener does not exist. The kind that’s best for you really depends on what your needs and priorities are when opening cans.

Do you want a can opener that’s familiar and seemingly easy to use? Then you probably want our favorite traditional can opener. Do you want one that will ensure that you never have to fish for a sharp can lid again? A safety opener’s the model for you.

In our newest can opener review, we provide winners in both styles and explain what the differences are. We can’t create the perfect can opener, but we can do everything in our power to report on the ones we test—and educate readers about what their choices are.

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