Kitchen & Household

You've Been Using Your Can Opener Wrong This Entire Time

You don't have to deal with really sharp edges and stuck lids.

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You're using your can opener wrong.
James Martin/CNET

This story is part of Try This, CNET's collection of simple tips to improve your life, fast.

The manual can opener has been around since the middle of  the 19th century, and yet it seems that I have yet to master it. I've opened quite a few cans in my time, but I always have pesky issues to deal with: Maybe it hasn't completely cut the lid all the way around and I have to pry it up with a fork or a finger, or I've cleanly cut the lid but it falls into the can so I need to fish it out when I dump the contents. Either way, it's not ideal -- but it turns out I've just been doing it wrong.

The way most people (including myself) use their handheld can opener is by using it vertically, with the turning knob sitting on the side of the can. 

This method absolutely gets the job done, but there's another way to do it that won't result in sharp edges or needing to use your fingers to remove the lid from inside the can. Here's how to do it. For more tips, here's how to pit an avocado without ending up in the ER and how to make a chocolate mug cake.

@cnetdotcom Now this is how you open a can #trythis#lifehack#kitchenhack#canopenerhack#canopener#fyp♬ original sound - Ian Asher

What kind of can opener are we talking about here?

Before we start, there are several types of can openers for the kitchen, which more or less all serve the purpose of opening up a can. However, for this tip, we'll be working with your run-of-the-mill, hand-operated can opener, which you probably have sitting in a kitchen drawer. This type of can opener-- known as a bunker can opener -- has two plierlike handles, a cutting wheel and a knob you turn to rotate the wheel around the can.

A bunker can opener.

Nelson Aguilar/CNET

Here's the right way to use your can opener

Now that you've got the correct can opener in hand, it's time to open a can -- the correct way! Instead of putting the knob on the side of the can and puncturing the lid from the top, rotate the can opener so that the handle is parallel with the lid, facing up, and the cutting wheel pierces the side of the can, right below the lip of the can. Now just rotate the hand right above the lid until the lid is completely removed from the can, which means it'll probably be stuck to the can opener. You can check out the photo below for guidance. 

The can opener pierces the side of the can and sits horizontally on the top of the lid.

Nelson Aguilar/CNET

The first time you use this method, you may have a little trouble starting because it requires a little more oomph to cut through the side of the can, but you'll soon get the hang of it. 

Why use your can opener this way?

The best reason to use this method is because it prevents the lid from falling into the food and contaminating it, especially if it's dirty. With this method, as soon as you finish opening the can, the lid is stuck in your can opener, which you can then simply lift up and place on the side. Also, this method creates fewer jagged edges, in case you need to handle the lid with your hands.

One thing to be careful about: Because this method removes more of the lid than the traditional way, you may have a bit of leakage if the can is topped off with liquid. However, this shouldn't be a problem if you're dealing with solid food.

If you find you prefer this method, you can even buy a can opener specifically designed to cut the side of the can.

For more tips, here's a 5-minute trick to help you fall asleep each night and how to make a chocolate cake in minutes.