How to use a can opener

How to use a can opener

  • Post category:Cooking / Home
  • Reading time:4 mins read

Canned goods have been around for over 100 years at this point, yet opening a can isn’t as intuitive as it seems. When such amazing wonders await, like soups, tuna, vegetables and even bacon and bread, getting into those cans is a vital life skill. Luckily, we’ve got you back with simple, step by step instructions of opening a can with a simple hand-held can opener. We’ve even thrown in a few notes about older hand-operated openers and electric openers. 


Place the blade of the can opener on the inside lip of the can. Apply equal pressure to both handles of the can opener until the blade cuts through the top of the can (you should hear a popping sound). Keep pressure on both handles with one hand while turning the crank on the can opener with the other. The crank should push the blade around the can, cutting as it goes, until it ends up where it started, separating the top of the can from the base. Set the can on a flat surface or hold with your hand before letting the pressure off the handles, so as not to drop the can and its contents on the floor.

What you’ll need

Tools and items

  • Can that doesn’t have a built in way to access what is inside
  • Can opener


  • Bowl
  • A strainer or a coldendar

It’s really simple, but…

With one everyday kitchen tool and a little bit of know-how, opening a can is simple. With that said, there are a few variations to opening cans that are worth pointing out. First, a lot of modern cans come ready to be opened, with a pop-top or peel-back lids – think soda cans and some soup cans. For these types of cans, you do not need a can opener.

Most cans have a clear top and bottom, and most brands will place labels in such a way so you can tell which end is which. If you can’t tell (like, if the label is missing), the side you should be cutting into has a small, ⅛” lip before you get to the flat lid. That lip is what the can opener will use to guide the blade for cutting. 

There is some variation in can openers (though not as much as you might think). Most modern manual can openers are simple tools that have two handles or levers that are held together like a pair of pliers, a crank and a cutting knife or blade.

Older can openers might look like a horrific tool at your dentist’s office, with a curved blade with a wedge or lip attached to a handle that is designed to cut through the top edge of the can and be worked around the edge of the can or they can look like a mini version of a modern can opener without anyway to apply pressure to the tool. These can openers went out of style decades ago, partially because they can be dangerous and partially because they are just dang hard to use.

Lastly, many people have electric can openers. These kitchen appliances do all of the work of opening a can , but in the same way as a manual can openers, but the can is attached to the appliance using a magnet.

How to use a can opener

  1. Please your can on a flat surface (like a countertop), right side up
  2. Open the handles of the can opener and place the blade of the opener so it is touching the inside lid of the can. The non-cutting wheel should be on the outside of the can.
  3. Close the handles with one hand. You have to apply enough pressure so the blade cuts through the top of the can
  4. While still applying pressure to the handles with one hand, turn the crank with the other. If enough pressure is applied, the blade should cut through the top of the can as you turn the crank.  TIP: Sometimes it helps to lift up the can from the flat surface to give the can a smoother crank and to create some additional resistance in the top of the can for cutting.
  5. Continue cranking until you are reached your starting point and the lid should be fully separated from the can
  6. Make sure your can is back on a flat surface to prevent anything from spilling
  7. Carefully remove the lid – it can be sharp
  8. Depending on what is in the can, you may want to empty the contents into a bowl or a colander if you need to rinse your canned goods.

You did it!

And that’s it! Now that you can open a can, why not learn how to make some soup?

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