Does your can opener have a lot of crust and other icky stuff under a dull cutting wheel? Do you require the arm strength of Arnold Schwarzenegger just to open a can, especially one with a dent in it?
If so, while you’re out shopping for your holiday feasts, treat yourself to a new gadget for opening canned goods. But before you buy another old-fashioned manual can opener, consider opting for a “smooth-edge” device. These kitchen accessories, also known as “safety” or “safe-cut” openers, cut though lids easily, last for decades and don’t produce lids with jagged edges.
How smooth-edge gadgets differ from traditional openers
With traditional can openers, pressure from the top and bottom wheels cuts through the inner seam that connects the lid to the body of a can. This leaves the lid with very sharp edges. Smooth-edge tools, on the other hand, open cans from the side. The wheel tucks under the can’s outer lip, so that the entire top of the can is lifted up and off.
The benefits of smooth-edge openers
- No more sharp edges, meaning you are less likely to cut yourself while opening the can and recycling it.
- The lid can’t fall into the can.
- For most models, you don’t need as much hand strength to turn the knob.
- The wheel never touches the contents inside the can, meaning your opener won’t accrue gunk and splashes from food.
- Children and the elderly are less likely to cut themselves.
- You’ve probably been using traditional can openers your whole life, so operating a smooth-edge version may take some getting used to. Fortunately, a slew of YouTube tutorials can guide you through the process.
- Some models, like the Oxo Good Grips Smooth Edge Can Opener, look sleek, but their design makes it hard to see whether the wheel and can are properly aligned.
- Some people complain it’s hard to lift the lid off of a can. Some smooth-edge openers come with miniature pliers that latch to the lid and aid in its removal.
To help you find the best smooth-edge can opener for your needs, we scoured customer reviews on websites and read dozens of articles. Here are a few products that repeatedly get rave reviews.
Tonicstar’s Stainless Steel Safety Manual Can Opener has 273 reviews on Amazon — and all 273 reviewers gave it five stars. Seriously. Not even one person rated it four stars or below. Priced at $13.99, this model is one of the least expensive smooth-edge openers on the market. But that doesn’t mean it’s cheaply made; customers routinely report that theirs have lasted for years.
The OXO Good Grips Smooth Edge Can Opener is included in most “best of” lists from various magazines and websites, including Fine Cooking. Many complain that the chief problem with side-positioned smooth-edge openers is that it’s hard to see where the cutting wheel should align because of the design. This $21.78 can opener solves that problem with strategic placement of the OXO logo to help guide positioning.
Reporters at Wirecutter spent three years evaluating can openers. In addition to interviewing dozens of cookbook authors, they used 23 traditional, smooth-edge and electric can openers to open 60 pounds worth of cans. Their favorite electric smooth-edge opener was the Hamilton Beach Smooth Touch Can Opener. The reviewers wrote: “It works on all can sizes (something that other tested can openers couldn’t do) and conveniently holds the lid in place after opening.” Because this $29 opener takes up counter space and needs an outlet to function, it’s best for people who can’t use manual openers (or who hate using them).
Look, Ma — no hands!
One of Bangrui’s Smooth Edge Electric can openers could be mistaken for a computer mouse. In addition to their innovative design, the beauty of these openers is that once you secure them to a lid, all you have to do is a press a button. The device automatically cuts around the lid on its own. You will need to purchase 4 AA batteries to operate this $29.99 opener, which comes in three colors, but Amazon users swear it’s well worth the cost, especially for those who have dexterity issues.
If you need your opener to work on pull and pop tabs, threaded caps, and flip tops, the Kuhn Rikon Safety LidLifter Master Opener is probably your best option. The $17.86 device, which also opens bottles, comes in a striking red color, so it won’t blend in with all of the steel and black kitchen accessories you’ve stashed in your drawer.