Canned foods are a reliable shortcut to deliciousness. From canned beans in a comforting chili, to canned tomatoes in a classic red sauce, to canned green beans in a homey casserole— canned goods are the building blocks of many an easy weeknight dinner, and our pantry is never complete without them. While we love the ease that canned foods bring to our meals, figuring out how to open a can without a can opener (especially if it doesn’t have one of those handy pull tabs) can be a real pain.
Can openers are known to be tricky to operate, especially if you’re using an old school one rather than a pricier ergonomically-designed model. Plus, if you have joint pain, using a can opener can feel like even more of a chore than it should be. You might be wondering how to open a can without a can opener. Is there actually a way to do it, without injuring yourself and/or the can in the process? Yes! There are a number of brilliant hacks. We’ve gathered some of the most effective and expert-endorsed tips, so you can enjoy those canned ingredients as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Why you would need to open a can without a can opener
There are a number of reasons why you might want to open a can without a can opener. These include the aforementioned joint pain (a very real issue as we age!), as well as the possibility of finding yourself somewhere without a can opener (say, when you’re traveling, camping or bringing a canned good to a friend who may not have an opener handy). Or maybe you’ve just misplaced your can opener, or just want to learn a neat party trick. No matter your needs, learning how to open a can without a can opener is a smart idea.
Here are four proven ways to open a can without a can opener, according to pros who’ve used the tricks themselves.
The classic method: Try a spoon or knife
Spoons and knives aren’t just used to eat the tasty ingredients inside the can, they can also be used to open the can itself! Thanks to its simplicity and use of tools you’re sure to have in your kitchen, the spoon or knife technique is the most classic can-opening hack.
Dave Bringer, a home appliance and kitchen expert at Bringer Appliance Repair and frequent camper in Louisville, Kentucky, says this is his go-to trick: “You can use the sharp edge of the spoon or the knife to puncture and then gradually work your way around the lid to open it.” Just make sure to be patient, and if you’re using a particularly sharp knife, be cautious of the blade.
See how to open a can using a spoon:
See how to open a can using a knife:
The bottle opener trick
Planning to enjoy a drink with your canned meal? Don’t put away your bottle opener! You can also use it for cans. Lindsey Chastain, a Skiatook, Oklahoma-based writer and homesteader who runs the blog The Waddle and Cluck, says using an old-school bottle opener is her favorite way to open cans in a pinch. “Take the pointed edge of the bottle opener and, using the edge of the can for leverage, push the tip down into the top of the can,” she explains. “This will create a hole to pour the ingredients out of the can. You can also continue to make holes around the top of the can to increase the size of the hole if needed.”
See how to open a can using a bottle opener:
No kitchen tools handy? Try a screwdriver
Screwdrivers aren’t just used for home improvements. You can also open a can with them in place of a can opener. “A screwdriver can be used like a lever to pry open the lid,” explains Chastain. Don’t have a screwdriver? You might try using a pair of scissors or even a key to pry open the lid, says Bringer.
See how to open a can using a screwdriver:
If you’re outside with no tools: Try a rough surface
Should you find yourself outside without a can opener, knife, bottle opener or screwdriver in sight, you may think you’re out of luck. Not so, says Bringer: “You can rub the top of the can on concrete or another rough surface until the lid weakens enough to pop open.” While this technique may sound strange, it can work in a pinch.
See how to open a can using a rough surface:
Be careful with your can!
If you’re trying to figure out how to open a can without a can opener, it’s important to be patient and keep safety top of mind. Once you’ve managed to open the can, be careful of the lid’s sharp edges, and make sure to handle any sharp tools, like knives, with care. Bringer also points out that any unconventional object being used to open a can should be cleaned before and after opening to keep things as sanitary as possible.
Even if you don’t need to open a can without a can opener right away, it’s still a good to know how to do it. “Being able to open a can without a can opener can be crucial in emergencies or when you find yourself without the proper tools,” says Bringer. “I’ve personally been in situations while camping or during power outages where this skill came in handy.”
Learning how to open a can without a can opener is a good trick to keep in your back pocket — and hey, no matter what the situation, your friends and family are sure to be impressed by your resourcefulness!
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