Kitchen & Cooking

Here's how to open a can without a can opener

No can opener? Reach for some silverware.

How to open a can without a can opener Credit: Getty / eclipse_images

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Stuck with a can and no opener? Thankfully, you’re not the first person to ever be in this situation. Whether you’re camping and forgot your opener or just discovered your electric can opener is dead, don't despair! It’s still possible to break into that delicious can of food.

Do we prefer to use a can opener? Of course. They’re faster, safer, and easier to use. However, when you don’t have one available and have to open a can, try these steps.

Step 1: Grip the spoon

Grab a spoon from your silverware drawer. Yes, you're really going to use a spoon. Grip the wide part of the spoon firmly in the palm of your hand—your thumb should be in the concave side—leaving about 1 inch of the tip exposed.

Step 2: Create a dent

Pick a spot along the edge of the lid, and press firmly with the spoon. This should create an initial indent.

Step 3: Open up a hole

From your indent, press firmly along the left, then move around the right. Move back and forth—like you're scrubbing out a stain—over an area of about an inch. As you keep pressing and moving, a hole will open up.

Step 4: Start cutting

Use the spoon to start cutting away the edges of the can, pressing firmly and moving slowly around the lid.

Step 5: Pry the lid up

Once you’ve made it all the way around, use the tip of the spoon to pry open the lid! Voila—delicious, cold canned beans await.

Other ways to open a can without an opener

Chef's knife to open can
Credit: Mercer

Once you're done chopping tomatoes, use your chef's knife to open canned foods.

Using a spoon isn’t the only way you can open a can without an opener. Depending on which tools you have around, you may be able to use other objects at your disposal.

  • Pocket knife: If you’re camping, this is probably your best bet. Hold the knife vertically over the can (pointy side down), and using the palm of your free hand, give the handle a firm whack. You’ll create a small puncture—repeat this process and create a series of small punctures around the lid, then connect them with a gentle sawing motion. When you've made it all the way around, pry the lid off with the tip of the knife.
  • Chef’s knife: A chef's knife is one of your best options if you’re in the kitchen without a can opener (or a spoon). Using the base of the knife—the jutting edge right near the handle—puncture a hole in the can. Slowly drag the base along the edge of the can in one motion, then pry the lid off with the tip of the knife.

Don’t forget to be safe!

Manual can opener
Credit: KitchenAid

Manual and electric can openers are much safer than using silverware.

Can openers are great tools because they keep the edges smooth and blades far away from your fingers. Using other kitchen tools like knives or spoons will require quite a bit of force and create jagged edges—both of which could hurt if you're not extremely careful.

Bottom line? Move slowly and exercise caution when channeling your inner survivalist. And invest in a new can opener ASAP.