If you’ve ever found yourself wrestling with a jar of pickles or pasta sauce as the dinner hour approaches, you’ve probably scanned your kitchen for anything that might open that stubborn jar lid. While a second pair of hands, some rubber kitchen gloves or a dish towel will sometimes do the trick, it turns out that there are better options that will let you break a jar seal without the struggle.
In multiple rounds of lab and home kitchen tests, we found that a nifty automatic device called the Robo Twist(available at Amazon) is the best jar opening gadget on the market, able to pop open everything from big sauce jars to small jam jars with minimal effort. Even people with arthritis or weak hands should find it easy to use. If you want something more compact and you have a bit more grip strength, we can recommend our best manual option, the Kichwit Jar Opener (available at Amazon for $9.99).
Here are the best jar openers we tested ranked, in order:
Kichwit Jar Opener
Keeptop Ergonomic Multifunctional Opener Set
Prepworks by Progressive Jar Grips
OXO Good Grips Jar Opener With Base Pad
Kuhn Rikon Strain-Free Gripper Opener
The Pampered Chef Jar Opener
Hamilton Beach Open Ease Automatic Jar Opener
Kiiliss Jar Opener
Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.
The Robo Twist gets our highest rating for a simple reason: it was the only device we tested that easily opened every container we tried, from a wide-mouthed pickle jar to a small jam jar. It even worked on a big pasta sauce jar that, for some reason, was mission impossible for a very similar automatic device.
Here’s how it works: You place the pod containing the motor and two AA batteries (not included) on top of your jar and press the big green button on top. You keep the button pressed down as two outer arms with rubber grips move in toward the sides of the jar or bottle. Then you let go of the button as two inner arms move in to place rubber grips around the lid. Once that happens, the inner arms twist and—voila, every time—the lid opens, often with a satisfying pop. Then you wait a few seconds for the arms to reset to their original position.
The manufacturer says the Robo Twist should work on lids ranging from 1.2 inches to 3.5 inches across, and everything we tried was in that size range. It does not recommend using the device on plastic items, so you may need something else for those mayonnaise and peanut butter jars. The instruction manual suggests you lightly hold the sides of small or tall jars – presumably more prone to spillage – and that seems prudent, really, with any container.
We didn’t use the Robo Twist long enough to say how long the batteries would last or how it would hold up to frequent use, but after more than two dozen openings, it was doing just fine.
If you don’t want fuss with batteries or make room in your kitchen drawer for the Robo Twist, your best option is this gadget. It’s basically an adjustable stainless steel clamp attached to a plastic handle that looks like the top of an old-fashioned corkscrew.
How it works: you place the clamp on top of your lid and turn the handle until the clamp tightens. Then, holding the jar tightly with your other hand, you keep twisting the handle until the lid loosens. It takes a bit of finesse to keep the clamp tightened as you turn it. It also takes some grip strength, in both hands, to steady the jar and turn the handle—but not as much power as we found we needed to use several other options.
The Kichwit opened every jar and bottle we tried with one exception: a lemonade bottle with a top measuring just over 1.5 inches. The clamp was unable to grip this item, even though the manufacturer says it should work on lids from 1 inch to 3.7 inches in diameter. But the gadget gripped every other lid we tried. The easiest lids to open were on slim jars that we could get our second hands around; fat pasta sauce and pickle jars were more challenging.
Hi, I’m Kim Painter, a veteran health and lifestyle journalist who happens to possess the most important quality for testing these gadgets: aging hands. While I don’t have arthritis and I’m reasonably fit, I am old enough to notice the very real decline in grip strength most of us eventually experience.
Julia MacDougall, senior scientist at Reviewed, also put the products through their paces in our lab.
First, our lab tester used each jar opener to open (or try to open) tomato sauce jars, salsa jars, jam jars, pickle jars, and bottles of lemonade, all of which were factory sealed. She noted how hard she worked and whether her hands or arms hurt afterward. She also used a force meter to try to determine which of the jar openers with handles required the most effort to operate.
Then our home kitchen tester tried each opener on a tomato sauce jar—eliminating any that failed that basic test—and then tried the top four contenders on another jar of sauce, a jar of salsa and a jam jar. She noted how hard she worked and whether her hands and arms hurt afterward. The gadgets also were assigned points for ease of storage and apparent quality and durability.
Why Are Jars So Hard to Open Anyway?
You may be wondering, as we were, why it can be such a struggle to get these jars open in the first place. For an answer to that, we checked in with Thomas Frain, senior director of culinary research at Conagra Brands, which owns Vlasic, Frontera, and other popular food brands. He told us that it’s a matter of food safety: certain foods, including tomato sauces and pickles, must be heat-processed and vacuum-sealed to keep air and microorganisms out. Those tend to be the hardest jars to open because turning the lid requires releasing the pressure holding that seal in place. As anyone who has tried to can food at home knows, while that seal makes it difficult to twist off the top of the jar, it ensures that the food inside will last far longer than other storage methods—and still be tasty when you're ready to enjoy it.
And what about food that's direct from a factory vs food that is bought in a store? After our conversation, Conagra offered to send our lab a case of pickles and a case of salsa direct from their factories for our tests. We took them up on their offer and added additional jars to our testing that we bought at a local Whole Foods. We noticed no difference in seal strength between jars that were sent to us directly from the factory versus jars we picked up at the neighborhood store; all jars were equally tough to twist open.
What to Know About Buying Jar Openers
If you have never struggled to open a jar, you are either very young and strong or you don’t eat at home very often. The rest of us have done battle with tightly sealed food stuffs often enough to develop some coping strategies. Even strong young people can struggle. Frain says his own best coping technique is tilting the jar 45 degrees and tapping the base with his palm to create some outward pressure. Or, he says, you can run a metal lid under warm water to slightly expand it. Other folks swear by rubber gloves, knubby towels or whacking the thing with a knife.
But those tricks don’t always work—especially if you are older than 50 or female and statistically likely to have less hand strength than younger folks or men. Add some arthritis, a few tremors or an injury and you might be tempted to give up jarred foods—or start shopping for one of these gadgets.
The biggest dividing line is between automatic, battery-powered, types and smaller hand-powered gadgets. An automatic device is just easier, assuming it works. Anything that lacks batteries is going to require some strength and dexterity, to turn the lid and hold the jar in place. We found some required more effort than we liked and some were just a bad fit for certain lids. But every one of them performed better than the pair of rubber gloves that our home tester swore by in the past.
Other Jar Openers We Tested
Keeptop Jar Opener and Bottle Opener
This set (which also includes a bottle opener we did not test) features a rubber-coated gripping tool with openings for four sizes of lids. The largest opening fit nicely around the 3-inch lid on our tomato sauce jar, but we needed to work to stretch it around a slightly larger pickle-jar lid. To open jars, you hold on to the open end and then rotate the tool while holding the jar—something that might be difficult for people with small hands or weak arm muscles, especially when the tool is stretched wide for large jars. But we found it was easy enough to use on most of the products we tested.
It doesn’t get any more basic than this: a set of two textured rubber pads, one square and one round, along with a thicker ribbed cone. The cone is best for smaller bottles and jars; the pads may give you some extra traction on other lids.
One of our testers was unable to open a tomato sauce jar with any of the pads; the other was able to open one sauce jar but not a second one. The pads worked, with some effort, for most other products. The cone was perfect for opening our lemonade bottle. The best feature of these pads is that you can easily store them in any kitchen drawer—or your pocket, for that matter, if you are on your way to a picnic.
This is a two-part device: a base pad that helps stabilize your jar—a good idea missing from a competitor’s similar product—along with the opening tool. The tool has a short easy-to-grip handle attached to an indented rigid paddle lined on one side with metal teeth. You slide the paddle over your lid until the teeth engage the lid, then rotate the handle to open the jar. We struggled a bit to get this to work with larger lids, but it worked well enough, with some effort, on most products.
This gadget looks promising at first glance: it consists of a long handle attached to a circular mechanism lined with serrated clamps. You tighten the clamps on your lid with the twist of a top knob. Then you turn the handle to open the lid.
But, in use, the device falls firmly into the “your results may vary” category. Our lab tester, like many online reviewers, found it fairly easy to use on a variety of jars, though it did require some strength. Our other tester, like many other online reviewers, found it difficult to use and struggled for several minutes, straining her arm, before finally opening a tomato sauce jar with it—pushing it out of further consideration. Best guess: if you have good hand and arm strength, this may help you dislodge stubborn lids; if you are not so strong, you might want to look elsewhere.
This is very similar to the OXO Good Grips version but with an important difference: it doesn’t come with a pad to stabilize your jar. So you slide the indented paddle with metal teeth over your lid until it grips, then try to turn it while holding the jar with your other hand – something both testers found difficult with large jars.
A caveat: this device can be screwed under a cabinet, perhaps making it easier to use—but we did not try it that way.
This device looks almost identical to our other automatic opener and overall favorite, the Robo Twist. It’s a hand-held battery-powered gizmo with lower arms meant to grip the jar body and upper arms meant to grip and twist the lid. The only clear distinctions are an added release button and slight differences in the shape of the lower gripping pads. We suspect that the pad design explains why both of our testers were unable to open a tomato sauce jar. The lower arms slipped right off the jar every time, never giving the upper arms a chance to grip the lid. That took the device out of contention, even though it opened other jars with ease. But we can’t think of any reason to choose it over the more consistent Robo Twist.
This is another look-alike product that performs less well than a near-twin, in this case, the Keeptop opener. Like the Keeptop, this is a rubber-coated gripper with openings for four sizes of lids. And it has an added feature—a hinge that makes it easy to open and close the circles around their targets. The problem is that, on several different jar sizes, we just couldn’t get a tight, firm grip. That made opening the jars harder and, in the case of the tomato sauce jar, impossible for both testers. If you like this idea, try the Keeptop instead.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.