A can opener is an essential tool in every kitchen because it allows you to easily open metal cans and jars. There are many different types of openers out there, with some of them looking strange enough to leave you wondering how to use them.
Most can openers follow the same principle: you have to puncture the lid of the can and cut along the rim by turning a knob. Sounds pretty simple, don’t you think?
We’ve put together this guide to help you learn how to use four different types of can openers step-by-step. If you’re ready, let’s begin!
You can usually find a traditional can opener in the kitchen drawers of any home. These handhelds can openers pierce the lid from the top with the help of a cutting wheel, and then slice it from the can.
Learning how to use a manual can opener is quite easy, so let’s get started.
Being familiar with the different components of a manual can opener is important to understand the instructions on how to use it. It may look like a simple kitchen tool, but it actually includes four different parts:
The cut lid can be very sharp, so be cautious when working with metal cans. If you prefer a safer option, go for a smooth-edge can opener. (Check out the next section of this guide.)
Smooth-edge can openers, sometimes called safety can openers, operates like a traditional handheld opener, but the mechanism is placed in a way that allows you to cut through the side of the can instead. The notched feed wheel on a smooth-edge can opener should be placed on the lid at the lip, and the cutting wheel goes on the side of the can. This way, the can opener cuts off a thin ring of metal.
As regards the turning knob, some models have it on the side, like traditional handheld openers, while others have it on the top. Most of these openers will have a notch called “lid pliers” that can be hooked beneath the lid to lift it off without risking your fingers.
This kind of can opener is operated just like a traditional one:
However, the Kuhn Rikon can opener is a multitasker that can be used not only to open cans but also crown-cap bottles, screw-top bottles, pull-top cans, and jars. Most models of Kuhn Rikon have one long single handle, instead of the two that more traditional models feature, but you can find those as well.
This tool doesn’t cut the top of the can lid, but rather it slices around the side. We like this one because it leaves a smooth edge behind and reduces the contact between the blade and the food.
Without further ado, here’s how to slice lids off cans using a Kuhn Rikon can opener:
Butterfly can openers look strange enough at first glance that you might think there’s no way that contraption can actually be used to open cans. Well, you’ll be glad to know that these manual openers are actually incredibly simple to use:
Cleaning your manual can opener thoroughly after every use is crucial to prevent food residue from building up. You can wash it with hot water and dish soap, or, if you want to disinfect it, mix a tablespoon (14 g) of bleach with a gallon (3.5 l) of hot water. Spray your can opener with this solution, making sure to coat the wheels, and let it sit for a few minutes to disinfect and soften any gunk. Then, wipe it clean, rinse and thoroughly dry your can opener.
Can opener maintenance is not difficult at all! After washing it with hot water and dish soap, make sure to rinse it well and dry it thoroughly with a kitchen towel to prevent rusting. Before storing it back in the drawer, allow the wheels to air-dry completely by letting the can opener sit with the handles open.
If you don’t want to wet the can opener, there’s another way to clean it. Fold a paper towel into a long piece that can be easily (and carefully!) inserted under the blade. Draw it through to get rid of all the food residue, and repeat for the other blade.
Depending on the type of can, there are a few things you can try, but the easiest and safest method is using a spoon. You should keep in mind, though, that it requires some muscle strength.
Grip the spoon handle with four fingers, resting your pinky in the spoon bowl for more stability. Rub the bowl of the spoon along the crimped edge of the can and wear a hole in the metal that’s big enough to insert the utensil, and then cut all the way around the lid. Pry the lid up as far as you can to simply scoop out the contents and enjoy them.
In the extremely rare case that you find yourself without a spoon, follow these same instructions with a screwdriver, a pocket knife, or even a fork. These are more dangerous, as they have pointed ends and sharp edges, so be careful.
If you’re trying to open a canning jar, here are some useful ideas you can try.
As you can probably see by now, learning how to use a can opener is extremely easy! With some practice, you’ll be opening those metal cans open in just a few seconds. Just remember to keep an eye out for jagged and sharp edges, or go for a smooth-edge can opener if you don’t want to be worrying about accidentally slicing your fingers.
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