While whipping up a quick weeknight dinner, you grab a jar of marinara sauce to go along with your spaghetti bolognese, but can’t seem to get the it open and there’s no one with a strong grip nearby to help you unlock it from its stuck state. Plus, after a few tries, your fingers and wrists are aching. To the rescue: experts reveal how to open a jar with ease.
Why some jar lids are so hard to open
“The main reason that jars are hard to open is because of the vacuum seal that is formed when hot food cools inside of a jar,” explains food blogger, Colleen Milne of The Food Blog. “This makes the jar oxygen-free and keeps the food from spoiling, but can consequently make a lid difficult to twist off.”
If you’re struggling with a jar of food you’ve opened in the past, stuck on food is likely the culprit.
Also, as we age, we deal with decreased grip strength, joint and muscle weakness and inflammation which can make opening any type of jar that much more of a struggle.
Easy keys to opening wide-jar lids with little exertion
The key to opening new jars of vacuum-sealed sauces, pickles, syrups and more, according to Milne: Breaking the seal. Below, you’ll find easy methods:
Gently tap the lid onto a hard surface
“My first try at opening a jar always involves tapping the edge of the lid on a wooden cutting board while rotating the jar in a circular motion,” says Milne. “This usually works to break the vacuum seal inside the jar so the lid can be easily twisted off.”
If the lid is still too tight to open after either method, Milne suggests running the lid under hot water for 1 minute, as the metal lid should expand with the heat, making it easier to open the jar.
When tapping doesn’t work, enlist some extra gripping power
Milne says the most convenient way to open a stuck jar is by using a rubber jar gripper (Buy on Amazon, $6.93), since its tacky texture sticks to the metal lid to create a better grip, which is especially helpful for people with carpal tunnel, wrist injuries and arthritis.
Alternatively, you can enlist the help of plain old rubber cleaning gloves — just slip them on and try twisting the jar lid counterclockwise. The rubbery texture creates a similar traction as the rubber bands to help dislodge the lid.
Or try rubber bands! Milne suggests securing a thick rubber band or two or three thinner bands around the lid, then twisting counterclockwise. The easy-to-grip material will provide just enough traction for your fingers so you can pop the lid open with ease.
Another surprising, yet effective DIY jar gripper? A halved tennis ball
Simply cut a tennis ball in half carefully using a box cutter, then place the open end of one half over the lid. Grip tightly and give it a twist. The friction from the halved ball’s rubber will help give you a better grip to prevent slipping. (Click through for more brilliant uses for tennis balls.)
Jar still won’t budge? Gently lift the lid with the butter knife
When a jar lid just won’t budge after tapping or twisting, McClellan carefully wedges a dull butter knife between the lid and the top of the glass jar, then lightly presses up and out. This allows a bit of air to get into the vacuum-sealed jar, making the lid easy to twist off.
How to open a smaller, ketchup bottle-sized lid
Pliers are the perfect size for grabbing hold of a tiny lid, says Paula Rhodes, homemade food blogger of SaladInAJar.com. She recommends closing a pair of pliers carefully around the lid, then giving it a quick twist.
How to re-open a jar that is stuck because of food
Try inserting the jar into a bowl of warm water for a few minutes, says McClellan. The heat should soften the dried-up bits that made it tick so the jar is easy to re-open.
How to prevent a jar lid from getting stuck once you close it
“If a jar lid has already been opened once before and becomes stuck again, it may be from food that’s dried between the rim and the inside of the lid, acting like a superglue,” says Rhodes. To prevent this sticky situation from happening in the first place, rub ¼ tsp. of butter onto a soft cloth and swipe it around the lip of the jar and the inside of the lid before closing it. The oily film will repel food drips and ensure the lid stays lubricated.
Looking for more easy life hacks? Check out these stories!
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