Can I learn to trust again?
November 26, 2012 2:29 PM   Subscribe

How do I find a can opener that doesn't suck?

I was picking up new stuff for my new apartment, and I grabbed the traditional Swing-A-Way manual can opener. I'm all for simple design that just works, no re-invented mouse trap needed. You know? Can opener purchased. Done.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving morning. I'm going to town in the kitchen. A recipe calls for four ounces of evaporated milk. I reach for the can of milk. I reach for my new can opener.

And that is where my existential crisis began. Because, you see, my brand new, trusty, "keep it simple" Swing-A-Way totally failed.

It failed so thoroughly that at first, I wondered if I had picked up a Swing-A-Way knockoff. No. I wondered if maybe I'd grabbed the left-handed version, so I tried to reverse it. No. Then, as I was fiddling with it, the plastic grips on the handle started sliding off! Total can opener meltdown!

Needless to say, I'm in the market for another can opener. But I already bought the exact sort of can opener everyone is going to tell me to get. And it failed. So... now what?

What is your trusty "It Just Works" manual can opener? Should I just buy another Swing-A-Way and hope this was a fluke? Does a jump in price from the $5 Swing-A-Way to a $20 Oxo make a real difference? Is there some other brand that's more reliable? Hope me find my one true can opening love, Metafilter!
posted by Sara C. to Home & Garden (36 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't had any trouble with my Ikea can opener for 5+ years, though it is starting to get a bit dull. I'll probably replace it with an Oxo.
posted by supercres at 2:33 PM on November 26, 2012

I have the OXO top can opener. I have a lot of OXO products and really like them (I like them only second to my SimpleHuman products, but SimpleHuman doesn't make can openers). My regular can opener (from Walmart, not OXO) has rusted multiple times over, but this one is still sharp. Plus, with a top can opener, you won't accidentally cut yourself.
posted by ethidda at 2:34 PM on November 26, 2012 [10 favorites]

It's not manual, but if you're going to spend $20 on a can opener, do yourself a favor and try the one-touch can opener. It doesn't take up any space on your counter.
posted by sixpack at 2:34 PM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Tupperware, bought it five years ago, never looked back. It's a top can opener and dishwasher safe.
posted by Snazzy67 at 2:36 PM on November 26, 2012

After our last Swing-A-Way bit the dust, mr. hgg came home with a KitchenAid opener. At the time I thought, "KitchenAid?? That's overkill," (though they aren't really that expensive). It's been a few years now and it still works well. Crappy ones are so frustrating!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:36 PM on November 26, 2012

I second the OXO top can opener. Had mine for many years with three minor complaints:
1- Sometimes I have to turn around the can twice to cut.
2- I've encountered a few cans that have some extra adhesive there making the lids a little more difficult to remove.
3- No one that comes over knows how to use it...

Definitely would buy again if I needed one.
posted by Jacob G at 2:37 PM on November 26, 2012

We like our WMF Profi Plus. It has a few advantages. None of the parts touch the contents of the can, so it doesn't get dirty. If it does, it's seamless, dishwasher safe stainless steel. Nothing to rust or slip off. It doesn't leave any sharp edges on the lid.
posted by jedicus at 2:37 PM on November 26, 2012

I love my Kuhn Rikon Safety LidLifter. I have a non-auto version. It is a different kind of can opener. Instead of cutting jagged edges in the can lid, it unseals the lid from the can and then has a tool you can use to lift the lid straight out. I never want to use a conventional can opener again.

Full disclosure: my girlfriend hates it.
posted by grouse at 2:38 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

We got this toucan can opener as a gift two years ago and it's still going strong - you can't really use it the wrong way around because the handles are asymmetric. Plus it just brightens the whole can-opening experience.
posted by muddgirl at 2:40 PM on November 26, 2012

Don't buy it new, you will never know what you're going to get. They must have changed manufacturing quality.

Get one at a second hand store. If it made it to the second hand store, it has already seen use and still works, and will continue to. Doesn't matter the brand. If you're paranoid that someone donates their can openers when they break, instead of throwing them away, you can take a clean empty can that you've already used and open the bottom edge as a test.
posted by brenton at 2:41 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've had an Oxo one (if not that exact one, one that looks just like it) for ages and it works. It's so well-designed that my kids can use it, if I get it started.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:41 PM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Butterfly can opener. This sort. I can't recommend specific manufacturers, but there's one 25+ years old in our kitchen drawer. No cutting wheels, just one knurled one for can grip. I trust no other.
posted by lokta at 2:42 PM on November 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm pretty happy with my OXO, we've been using it for at least 5 years w/o any problems. Ours is the standard steel can opener, not the smooth edge one. I got the OXO as a replacement for a Swing-a-way* because the handles of the later were making my puny fingers sore.

*Amazon reviews of the Swing-a-way blame a move to China for the decline in product quality. There's mention of a can opener called the EZ-Duz-It as the true SAW successor.
posted by jamaro at 2:44 PM on November 26, 2012

I had a Swing-A-Way fall apart on me, too! I've had the soft-handled Oxo linked by The corpse for several years now; works like new, pleasant to use, enthusiastically recommended.
posted by kmennie at 2:46 PM on November 26, 2012

Uyep: OXO smooth edge.
posted by trip and a half at 2:48 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by caryatid at 3:24 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mine was a hand me down from my grandma - after 30 odd years it is still going strong! No idea of the brand sorry. Maybe you could scour second hand stores for something solid? Bonus is that it will be cheap so if it fails, no biggie.
posted by latch24 at 3:55 PM on November 26, 2012

When our old fashioned butterfly type can opener wore out, I bought this OXO from Target. It is easy to use, does the smooth edge thing.

I'm philosophically opposed to electric can openers. I don't need to increase my carbon footprint to open cans, and when the apocalypse comes, I'll need a manual can opener.
posted by jeoc at 4:05 PM on November 26, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all the quick responses!

I'm heartened to know that there is a reason for the Swing-A-Way fail. My main frustration here is the feeling that up is down, black is white, the sky is green, the grass is blue, etc. Knowing that the company moved operations to China, while annoying because that's bad, at least rests my mind at ease that I won't get burned with my next can opener choice.

The chorus of support for Oxo is causing me to lean in that direction. I'm generally a fan of their products, but in this case kind of felt like maybe they are reinventing the wheel too much. If folks like them, though, who am I to argue?

Jeoc explained my sentiments about electric can openers exactly. Why have two can openers, one of which will be superfluous in an emergency, when I can have one can opener that is universally useful?

I am also playing with getting the "EZ-Duz-It" can opener, which is apparently the successor to Swing-A-Way since they outsourced, or possible saying fuck it and ordering a P38 from a military surplus place.
posted by Sara C. at 4:12 PM on November 26, 2012

posted by michellenoel at 4:14 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I really like my OXO can opener that I got last year. I don't have any kind of general love for OXO products, but I like the can opener in particular because other openers I've used through the years have felt awkward to handle, and this one feels comfortable. Most importantly, it is good at cutting through cans without steering me in some weird direction that I have to keep fighting. I used to hate opening cans, but now it is a JOY.
posted by wondermouse at 4:20 PM on November 26, 2012

I would stay away from the weird plastic bulbous OXOs and go for this OXO. It's the best.
posted by scose at 4:30 PM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Nthing OXO (I have a normal version, not the smooth edge kind.) It's a little rusty now, but it's lived through four years of undergrad plus being in storage plus multiple years of mishandling by well-meaning roommates. Extremely comfortable on the hand.
posted by jetlagaddict at 4:31 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

This Zyliss one was the answer to multiple manual ones going in the trash. I have had this one now, for seven months without a single issue. I will never go back to any other sort of can opener.Zyliss can opener.
posted by SuzySmith at 5:23 PM on November 26, 2012

Was this a 4 oz can? Most can openers I've used are really bad at opening cans with that small a diameter. I've found this to be true with both the basic KitchenAid can opener and the fancier OXO smooth edge ones. Ironically, I've found the basic butterfly can opener that lokta liked to be best for those kinds of cans.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 5:30 PM on November 26, 2012

Response by poster: No, it was a 12 oz can, and the problem wasn't on the level of "not doing too good a job", but more like "this can opener is a paperweight".
posted by Sara C. at 5:32 PM on November 26, 2012

had a swing away, when it got way too nasty for words (mostly the grips), replaced it with an OXO top cutter thinger. love it.
posted by koroshiya at 5:34 PM on November 26, 2012

It may not be ideal for everyday use but a P38 or P51 would be a good backup in case of can opener meltdown or zombie apocalypse.
posted by islander at 5:36 PM on November 26, 2012

I also have a Kuhn Rikon lid lifter type, but mine is this model. I bought it for about half that price at TJ Maxx, of all places. I have never really thought it was a problem before, but I really like having the kind of can opener that doesn't leave sharp edges on the can edge or lid. It makes my recycling bin much less treacherous!
posted by apricot at 5:53 PM on November 26, 2012

I don't buy OXO (anymore) due to their apparent business decision to shill their name out for every piece of shit possible, and my SAW is 15 years old and still good (though the grips do slip), so I'm gonna vote for the Ez-Duz-It above.
posted by rhizome at 6:08 PM on November 26, 2012

Another OXO user. Get the one scose recommends (I have that one too) and there is no worry about reinventing the wheel. It just does the job.
posted by bricoleur at 7:42 PM on November 26, 2012

I also have a Kuhn Rikon top can opener, and I absolutely love it. I don't understand how I used to use the old kind with the blade that got all gunked up with every random remnant of food - ick!! The top can opener still looks pristine after two years and I've yet to meet a can size that it doesn't open with ease.
posted by gatorae at 8:09 PM on November 26, 2012

I had no idea they were so dear, but at my house, our sole can opener —others have been tried, but none lasted— is the Ekco Miracle Roll #881. New ones are available from Amazon for $15, though I can't speak to the quality of manufacture. Mine says Made in USA and is at least 20 years old. It's compact, ferrous, and has never failed me.
posted by mumkin at 9:33 PM on November 26, 2012

Normally I like OXO stuff, but if you really want the best can opener, which is not only sleek and sexy and small in form factor, but also works like WOAH, then you want the Zwilling J.A. Henckels Twin Pure Can Opener.

Bought one years ago, and it is simply beautiful. Works like a charm every time, and no more sharp edges on the lids, which fit neatly back on the cans to boot!
posted by Grither at 4:38 AM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding Zwilling Henckels. It's a dream.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:19 AM on November 27, 2012

My vote goes to the Kuhn rikon line of can openers. There are several varieties, including lefty versions, and it is really enjoyable to have the safety lid cutter. Not only does it mean the can opener doesn't need to be washed after every use (it cuts around the outside edge of the can), I can also use the cut top as a makeshift lid in the fridge, say, for the can of dog food. It's a high-quality product, and I say that as someone who's used the oxo version and found it wanting (used a friend's at Thanksgiving--had to go around twice and pry very hard at the lid, two things I've never had to do with my Kuhn rikon). Pricey but I can't imagine needing or wanting another one for a long, long time.
posted by therewolf at 10:00 AM on November 27, 2012

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