When we originally set out to find the best manual can opener in 2017, we were on the look out for a sharp, safe, easy to grip one, with a classic manual use design. Simple enough, right? You'd think so, but given that our Commerce Editor Emily Johnson has a tomato sauce stain on her ceiling from a can opener gone rogue, we weren't so sure.
We found two winners from that test, both from OXO. But, we thought maybe after a few years, this simple device could have gotten an update. This month, we tested the original two winners (which beat out fourteen competitors) against two new models.
Here are the results. Read below for the best manual can openers. To learn more about our testing method and what we look for in the best manual can opener, scroll to the bottom of the page.
The Best Safety Can Opener: OXO Good Grips Locking Can Opener with Lid Catch
It turns out, our winning manual can opener from 2017 held strong, beating out the competition once again in our 2019 update.
This is a safety can opener. This means that instead of a cutting wheel that cuts through the top of the can, around the edges of the lid, this can opener attaches to the sides of the can and cuts along the body. This type of can opener produces less-sharp edges, and the lid is easier and more convenient to remove. As an added bonus, this particular model has a magnetic piece that catches the lid once it is removed, making it easy to lift the lid off of the can without having to touch any cut edges. It's super, super safe.
This can opener also has a locking mechanism on its handle. This means that you don't have to squeeze the two parts of the handle together as the can opener makes its way around the perimeter of the can. Rather, you lock the opener to the top of the can, then simply use your hand to lightly support the handle as you crank the knob on the side of the opener. It doesn't require any grip strength. It's extremely comfortable to use.
Speaking of the knob on the side, the OXO crank is large and soft, making it very user-friendly. The cutting wheel stays adhered to the can, and the wheel is easy to turn. You don't meet a lot of resistance.
It should be mentioned that Wirecutter found that safety can openers tend to go dull more quickly than conventional can openers. There are also some negative Amazon reviews mentioning that this product is difficult to attach to the can, and that it slips off sometimes. We did not find this to be true in either round of our testing, and are giving this can opener the top spot because it was the easiest and most effective in our test. However, it's something to be aware of. Overall, after using it to open a series of cans, we found this can opener to be easy to use, comfortable, safe, and effective at tearing through metal cans.
The Best Classic Can Opener: OXO Good Grips Can Opener
OXO's more conventional can opener also kept its top spot. If you are concerned that a safety can opener might go dull and would prefer to opt for a classic, conventional can opener, we like the OXO Good Grips variety. Classic openers also tend to be a bit cheaper.
We like this can opener because it has soft, easy-to-grip handles. It also has a larger-than-normal knob on the side, which makes it easy to grab and crank ergonomically with your whole hand. The knob is cushioned and it's comfortable to use. The can opener is sharp and adheres easily to the can without slipping off. A few Epi staffers have used this can opener at home for years, so we know it lasts and doesn't go dull easily. It has no bells and whistles (except for a built-in bottle opener. Party time!), but it's an inexpensive, classic can opener that is built to last. This is the best manual can opener if you're looking for a classic design.
Other Can Openers We Tried
During our latest test of the best manual can openers, we liked the Williams Sonoma traditional can opener nearly as much as the OXO models. It has wide, comfortable rubber-coated handles and an easy to hold turn key. The only downside: it's $3–$5 more than our two winning models, which, while slight, could be used towards a sharp new paring knife or fabulously scrubby sponge.
We also tested this KitchenAid model—it's not a 2019 newbie by any means, but a classic that can often be found on sale for as little as $9. The small, hard turn key was kind of pain to maneuver, though, and sometimes when we tried to clip it onto the edge of the can, the gears would just spin without locking. A quick browse of Amazon reviews shows many other people had the same issue.
We found the Fissler (Cook's Illustrated's top-rated can opener) to be highly effective and extra sharp. It's a safety opener that has blades on the side and a metal bar that props the opener at the correct height for the can (a design that we liked generally—we tried a few models like this). It has an extra-long crank that's bent to form to your thumbs, making it easy to turn. And rather than handles that you clamp together, this model only has one long handle. The metal bar on the side of the opener is what attaches the rotating blades to the can and keeps them secured, making the lid easy to remove. This can opener is also made of high-quality materials. However, at $37 on Amazon, we didn't think its significantly higher price was worth it, since the OXO can openers worked just as well for a lower price.
We also liked this Rosle can opener. It's a safety opener that attaches to the top of the can, rather than the side. It has the prettiest design of any of the models we tested, with a sleek, industrial look (though I wouldn't consider that a critical quality in something as utilitarian as a can opener). It's made of heavy-duty, high-quality metal. Its crank is bent to accommodate your thumb, making it easy to turn. And it's extra-sharp and simple to use. Still this can opener was too expensive to be considered a top contender. Can openers shouldn't be an investment, when inexpensive ones are perfectly effective.
We also liked some safety can openers that we tried from Zyliss, but they were bulkier and made from cheaper plastic materials than other models we tried.
Finally, we tried several can openers from Kuhn Rikon, a company that makes one of our favorite peelers. In general they were overly complicated and difficult to operate. (At one point I actually had to read the directions!)
How We Tested
In our hunt for the best manual can openers, we opened several cans of tomatoes and beans to find out which model was most comfortable to use and most effective.
What We Looked For
1. Is the Can Opener Ergonomic and Comfortable to use?
We wanted a comfortable handle that wouldn't hurt our hands. We wanted a crank that was easy to turn, without our wrists having to go at odd angles. We also wanted to be sure that the cranks always had enough padding (no indented thumbs!)
2. Is the Can Opener Sharp and Effective?
Does the can opener attach easily to the can? Does it stay attached? Does the blade glide easily along the surface of the can? We didn't want to meet too much resistance attempting to cut through the metal. We were looking for a seamless, easy-to-use can opener that didn't require a lot of elbow grease.
3. Is the Lid Easy to Remove after Cutting the Can Open?
Is it difficult and/or dangerous to remove the top of the can from the can opener's iron grip? Is the can opener prone to flinging the lid across the room (see above)? Does the can opener consistently push the lid into the can once detached, causing you to have to awkwardly fish the can out of gross bean liquid, or whatever? (Wow, so much can go wrong here!)
4. Is it Safe?
And some can openers, of course, leave lots of sharp edges where you can cut yourself—lots of ragged bits of metal. We were looking to avoid this! Obviously!
If you want a safety can opener that requires no grip strength and makes the top of the can easier to remove and less sharp, opt for the OXO Good Grips Locking Can Opener with Lid Catch. If you're looking for a classic model, the OXO Good Grips Can Opener is our pick for the best manual can opener.
All products featured on Epicurious are independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our retail links, we may earn a small affiliate commission.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious