How to Open a Can Without a Can Opener

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Need to open a can without a can opener? Try these handy methods that incorporate common tools around your home (plus a little elbow grease).

In a pinch? Here’s how to open cans without a can opener

Picture this: You’re in the middle of making dinner and go to open a can of something you absolutely need for the recipe. Suddenly, your can opener breaks, and the can is nowhere near open. Now you’re in a pickle—how can you open a can without a can opener?

Well, we wondered about that too. Turns out, several kitchen hacks exist to help you open a can without a can opener. These hacks will also help if you’re out camping sans can opener. Read on to learn what to do, and then bookmark these food container hacks you probably didn’t know about.

Remember: Safety first

Important safety note: Children should not try these methods, and adults should try them with plenty of caution. Metal cans can develop sharp edges when you try to pry them open, and if you aren’t careful, you could get injured. Also, check your food for small metal scraps after it’s opened, just in case.

Method 1: Use a metal spoon

According to Dorothea Hudson, a kitchen safety expert with US Insurance Agents, all you need is a metal spoon and determination to open a can without a can opener. It’s definitely a handy kitchen shortcut to know. Here are her steps:

  • Step 1: Set the can on the counter.
  • Step 2: With your sturdy metal spoon picked out, grip the bowl of the spoon—not the handle.
  • Step 3: Firmly and methodically, rub the edge of the spoon back and forth along the can edge (be vigorous).
  • Step 4: Keep rubbing until the metal thins and, in turn, creates a small hole.
  • Step 5: Press the spoon into the hole.
  • Step 6: Pry the top to open more by pulling up with the spoon around the edges of the can.
  • Step 7: Continue this prying around the perimeter until the top can be fully peeled back.

Method 2: Use a pair of pliers

Ronald Smith with eatdrinkbinge.com has another method for opening a can without a can opener. For this one, you’ll need pliers. Here’s what to do:

  • Step 1: Grab the can between your thumb and forefinger, making sure you have a firm grip.
  • Step 2: Pinch the pliers along the edge of the can.
  • Step 3: Use the pliers to make one full circle around the top of the can; tighten your grip on the pliers as you make your way around the can, as it will help decrease the chances of injury.
  • Step 4: When you get 1/4 of the way around the can, give the top of the can a good pull.

Method 3: Use a rock

If you’re camping and realize you forgot to pack the can opener, don’t worry: Ted Mosby, founder of CamperAdvise, says you can use what Mother Nature gave you to open a can without a can opener.

  • Step 1: Place the can on concrete or a rough rock, upside down.
  • Step 2: In a scrubbing motion, rub the can back and forth; friction will eventually eat away at the metal.
  • Step 3: Stop when you see moisture on the surface or lid; if you continue, the can will completely wear out and the food will spill out.
  • Step 4: Pry the can open with either a pocket knife or anything hard and thin enough to fit between the lid and can’s edge.

Need a can opener?

While it’s nice to know you can open a can without a can opener, you’ll need to use your time and strength to get the job done. If you’re without a can opener at the moment, or you have an older one, consider getting a new can opener to save yourself the hassle. Future you will be so appreciative!

Next, read up on the things you shouldn’t throw out and how to reuse them instead.

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Kelly Kuehn
Kelly Kuehn is an assistant editor for Reader’s Digest covering entertainment, trivia, and history. When she’s not writing you can find her watching the latest and greatest movies, listening to a true crime podcast (or two), blasting ‘90s music, and hiking with her dog, Ryker, throughout New England.