Our Top Pick for 2018: Hamilton Beach Smooth Touch Can Opener
Read our full review.
It might surprise you to learn that canned food was invented almost five decades before anyone invented a practical can opener. The recommended method for opening cans was a hammer and chisel. Electric can openers made their debut in the 1930s, but these early models saw little success as they were costly and far from compact. It was another 25 years before consumers began to embrace the electric can opener. The Udico Corporation introduced a combination electric knife sharpener/can opener in 1956 at the start of the Christmas shopping season, which may have contributed to the immediate success with which the product was met. Since 1956, manufacturers have been constantly redesigning their electric can openers to make them easier to use, more versatile and more aesthetically pleasing. However, despite the competition, some manufacturers have engineered superior products.
Let’s Have a Quick Look of Our Top 4 Picks:
|Hamilton Beach (76606ZA) Smooth Touch Electric Automatic Can Opener with Easy Push Down Lever, Opens...||7,656 Reviews||$29.85||Buy on Amazon|
|West Bend 77203 Electric Can Opener, Metallic (Discontinued by Manufacturer)||2,371 Reviews||$95.00||Buy on Amazon|
|ZYLISS Lock N' Lift Can Opener with Lid Lifter Magnet, Gray||6,585 Reviews||$14.99||Buy on Amazon|
|EZ-DUZ-IT Deluxe Can Opener with Black Grips||4,255 Reviews||$9.99||Buy on Amazon|
#1. Hamilton Beach Smooth Touch Can Opener
It is perhaps no surprise that the best can opener is manufactured by Hamilton Beach. After all, this is a company that was founded in 1910 for the express purpose of producing small appliances for home use at a time when virtually all electrical devices were limited to commercial use.
The Hamilton Beach Smooth Touch Can Opener continues the company’s legacy of offering durable, innovative products. The design is sleek and thoroughly modern, and it is black and chrome to coordinate with any kitchen décor. The ergonomic oversized lever requires just light pressure to operate, making it ideal for those with limited grip strength or mobility, such as users with carpal tunnel syndrome or arthritis.
Unlike traditional can openers, the Smooth Touch blade does not cut into the top of the can; the lid is removed from the side, leaving a smooth surface without sharp, jagged edges. This design makes it safer to handle the lid, but it also means that the blade has little or no contact with the contents of the can. Traditional openers feature blades that penetrate the top of the can, resulting in the liquid within the can getting onto the blade and leaving an unsanitary residue that can be deposited in the next cans that are opened. Furthermore, because the lid remains in place until it is lifted free, sloshing and spills are eliminated.
Many electric can openers can handle only cans of certain sizes. The Smooth Touch works equally well on small cans — such as those used for tuna or tomato paste — and the large cans, such as vegetables branded as “family sized” or the oversized cans of fruit. This Hamilton Beach opener will even work on pop-top cans, which can be difficult and messy to open, requiring you to pry the ring into position before wrestling the lid free.
The Smooth Touch features a compact design to help you maximize your counter space. The unit measures just over 5 inches in depth, 10.2 inches in height and 4.67 inches in width. When not in use, the cord can be tucked into the back of the unit to make it more convenient to store the opener inside a cabinet or to give the kitchen a neater, more organized appearance.
To use, simply pull the activation lever up into the unlocked position. Place the can so that the rim is beneath the cutting mechanism. Depress the lever and hold until the can has completed a full rotation. Raise the activation lever to remove the can. The can opener does not have an automatic stop feature, so you must stop operations manually by releasing the lever. Hamilton Beach recommends stopping operations after one full rotation to reduce wear and help prevent the formation of metal slivers.
Hamilton Beach provides a one-year limited warranty on Smooth Touch units sold and used in Canada and the United States. During the warranty period, the company will replace or repair any unit that has a defect in workmanship or materials. However, you are responsible for paying the shipping costs to return the defective unit as well as the costs related to receiving your new or repaired unit. You must also provide proof of the purchase date, so saving your original sales receipt is recommended.
Now that you have the facts, you might be interested in what people who have purchased the Smooth Touch have said about the can opener. The following reviews are from Amazon.com; of the more than 4,700 reviews, 80 percent gave the Smooth Touch a 5-star rating, bringing the overall rating to 4.7 stars out of a maximum possible rating of 5 stars.
John B. rated the Smooth Touch at 5 stars and was especially impressed that the design prevented food from being left on the blade.
Don F. was impressed with the size, appearance, weight and operation of the unit, declaring it the “best can opener ever.” However, he reduced his rating to 4 stars as he found a thin sliver of metal jutting out at the top of a can and perpendicular to the can’s contents.
Sally M. cited the lack of a magnet as her reason for giving the Smooth Touch a 2-star rating. She stated that she had bought the can opener for a relative with arthritis in his hands, but the lack of a magnet meant that the top remained on the can and was difficult for him to remove.
Sherry D. gave the can opener 4 stars, stating that it worked great. However, she considered it a drawback that the unit did not allow the can’s lid to drop inside the can so that she could press it to drain products such as tuna fish.
However, not everyone considered the inability to drop the lid inside the can to be a drawback. Gail D. gave the unit 5 stars, and one of the reasons she liked it was that the lid fits back onto the can if she does not need to use the entire contents immediately.
#2. West Bend Electric Can Opener
West Bend began as a manufacturer of aluminum cookware and water dippers in 1911. Although West Bend was not the first to launch a line of electric can openers, the company has certainly made up for any lost time.
West Bend’s designers have created a stylish, sleek can opener with a decidedly modern flair. Tapered sides terminate in an extra-wide base that prevents tipping. You can choose from a black or metallic finish to coordinate with your other appliances.
Looks, however, are only part of this unit’s appeal. It stands almost 10 inches in height, allowing you to open even tall cans without repositioning the machine. Once the can has been opened, the machine shuts off automatically, holding the can in place until you remove it. The magnet keeps the lid securely attached to the can opener, so you need not worry about the lid falling into the can. The cord can be stored inside the base for convenience.
The West Bend unit is also offers additional functionality beyond opening cans into a space-saving design that measures approximately 6 x 5 x 10 inches. On the back of the unit, you will find a built-in bottle opener and handy knife sharpener. The knife sharpener is not electric, requiring the user to pull the blade through the knife slot several times to sharpen it. The knife slot is not designed to sharpen serrated blades.
Another nice feature about this can opener is the ease with which it can be cleaned. The cutting head is detachable and can be cleaned in a dishwasher’s top rack or washed in warm water to which a few drops of liquid dish detergent have been added. To clean, unplug the can opener, press the release button located on the machine’s top and pull the cutting head straight out from the machine. With the cutting head removed, you can access the area behind it for cleaning; simply wipe with a damp rag or sponge. To replace the cutting head, slide it back into position and press gently until you hear a click signifying that the release button has returned to its proper position.
Unlike many other electric can openers, the cutting head on the West Bend is replaceable. You may have to order the part directly from the company, however. The can opener comes with a one-year limited warranty. You will need to provide a sales receipt showing the date of purchase, and the company does not accept hand-written receipts.
Reviews of West Bend’s can opener have been mostly positive. On Amazon, 2.760 purchasers have assigned an average rating of 4.2 stars; 70 percent gave the can opener a full 5 stars. Following are some sample comments that buyers made about the can opener.
User Mixdplate related that the West Bend had no problem opening the cans of tomatoes weighing up to two pounds. The unit held the can securely in place after it was opened.
Several users recommended removing the paper labels from cans before opening to ensure smoother operation of the can opener.
Many purchasers expressed admiration for the beautiful design. R. C., for example, found it reminiscent of items in New York’s Museum of Modern Art and rated it 5 stars due to both appearance and functionality. Another user, JGS350, also rated the can opener with 5 stars for its clean design and ease of operation.
Numerous reviewers included comments assuring shoppers that this was the can opener to purchase. D. Tucker stated that it was “as close to perfect as I have ever owned” and told readers, “Do not hesitate to buy this can opener.” User Sugarpea said it was “by far the best” of the 10 or so electric can openers she had owned during her life. Carolyn O. proclaimed that the West Bend was the best can opener she had ever owned since receiving her first 40 years ago as a gift.
On the negative side, several reviewers gave the West Bend one star. The need to position the can “just right” was a leading reason cited for their dissatisfaction. Another reason for the low ratings was the opener’s tendency to tear labels, clogging up the works. A few reviewers stated that the plastic button that activated the cutting device broke within the first 18 to 24 months.
#3. Zyliss Lock N’ Lift Manual Can Opener
Since the first manual can opener was introduced in 1858, inventors have competed to find a design that was easier to use, safer and more efficient. Some designs were better than others. There were styles that were quite effective at opening cans but required more grip strength than many people, especially seniors and children, could apply. There were styles that required little strength but frequently slipped off the can during the process. Other styles stayed in place but had gears that were difficult to turn.
Fortunately, with the Lock n’ Lift model, Zyliss has brought the manual can opener into the 21st century. The company, which has been creating kitchen gadgets since 1948, is known for its innovative designs, and the Lock n’ Lift is no exception.
From an appearance standpoint, the Lock n’ Lift is different from the traditional manual can opener. It has a curved ergonomic handle that reduces hand fatigue. Shoppers can choose an all-white model, or they can select a red and white or green and white model if they prefer to add a splash of vibrant color to their kitchens.
Naturally, the true test of a can opener is how efficiently it opens cans. Zyliss designed a can opener that locks into place regardless of the can’s size. The metal cutting mechanism turns smoothly to remove the can’s lid in mere seconds. A magnet on the front of the opener lifts the lid to make disposal safer and easier. The handles can be spread wide to make it easier to clean the cutting mechanism. Furthermore, Zyliss backs the product with a five-year guarantee.
To use the Lock n’ Lift, simply position the top of the cutting mechanism on the lid of the can near the rim. Lock the handles in place by pressing them together. Rotate the lever to open the can. Press the red button on top of the can opener to release it from the can. Press the magnet lever to release the lid. Rinse or wipe the cutting mechanism to clean after use.
The Zyliss can opener weighs just 0.3 pound. It is approximately 7.5 inches long, 3.5 inches high and 2 inches deep. Compared to other popular manual can openers, the Lock n’ Lift is slightly smaller and typically lighter than most.
Whether they were looking for a backup for their electric can openers, a manual opener to use while camping or just preferred to avoid the noise of an electric, 77 percent of the reviewers on Amazon.com gave the Zyliss a 5-star rating. Here is a sampling of the comments they have posted.
Doreen H. gave the Zyliss 5 stars, remarking that it was easy to use even with carpal tunnel syndrome.
However, Gulfcoaster, who has arthritic hands, found this can opener more difficult and harder on the hands than “ordinary” can openers, resulting in a 2-star rating.
Douglas T. also rated the Lock n’ Lift at 5 stars. He reported that it even opened the rectangular cans of sardines with ease, adding that the Zyliss can opener was especially good for seniors.
More than one reviewer expressed their displeasure with the magnet. As D.B.S. reported, the magnet cannot attach to the lid until the opener is released, which allows the lid to fall into the can. Amzoo gave the can opener 3 stars, reporting that the can opener worked well but the magnet had no lifting power.
#4. EZ-DUZ-IT Deluxe Can Opener
If you are looking for a heavy-duty manual can opener that is made in America, the EZ-DUZ-IT may be just what you are seeking. This is a swing design opener with oversized handles for a more comfortable grip. The gear-driven cutting mechanism provides smooth, even operation, while the carbon-steel blade makes opening cans faster and easier.
However, it should be noted that carbon steel does not have the rust resistance of stainless steel. This means that the can opener should not be placed in the dishwasher or left to soak in dishwater. After use, wash and dry by hand before storing.
The EZ-DUZ-IT is heavier than many swing-type can openers, weighing in at 11.2 ounces. Part of this difference is due to the use of heavy gauge steel by the manufacturer. The can opener is 2.13 inches by 7.25 inches by 1.88 inches, so its measurements are slightly smaller than some of the competition’s products and slightly larger than others.
Reviews of the EZ-DUZ-IT on Amazon show that 80 percent of the purchases rated the can opener with 5 stars, the highest rating possible on the site. The average rating, based on 2,935 reviewers, was 4.4 stars. Here are some of the most helpful reviews posted by actual users.
Multiple reviewers compared the EZ-DUZ-IT very favorably to the original Swing-a-Way openers that were made in America and lamented the decline in quality when Swing-a-Way moved its manufacturing facilities overseas.
Several posts expressed concern that they may have inadvertently purchased an inferior counterfeit, so buyers should make sure that they deal with a reputable supplier.
K.C. calls the EZ-DUZ-IT “the best can opener you can buy,” while Scot W. states that it is “hands down the best opener.”
The quality of the construction was praised by multiple reviewers. For example, Luis D. states that it features build quality “from an era long, long ago,” and John W. posted that it was “made like they made ’em for Grandma.”
Other reviewers found the ease-of-use to be the most impressive feature of the EZ-DUZ-IT. Usability wrote, “I have never had an easier can-opening experience.” MyHobby reports that “it glides easily.” J.R. stated that it was “so smooth … shocked how well it works.”
Purchasers disagreed on whether this is a good can opener for people with limited hand strength or issues such as carpal tunnel or arthritis. “Cookie Monster” gave the EZ-DUZ-IT the highest possible rating, stating that it was “a breeze to use” even with severe carpal tunnel. MG, who has arthritic hands, also rated it at 5 stars, stating, “I was able to open different size cans with ease.” Mary Ann, however, considered the opener to be worthy of only 2 stars, commenting that the knob was not easy for an “aged hand” to turn. Barby Ann shared a similar sentiment, noting that it was “painful for my arthritic hands.”
The amount you are willing or able to spend on a can opener naturally deserves consideration. Electric can openers typically cost significantly more than the manual type. However, if cost is an issue, you might want to compare prices at a number of online retailers as well as at your local stores.
Ease of Use
For many, whether a can opener is easy to use is of critical importance. This is especially true if the operator has any type of issue with his or her fingers or wrists. However, operating ease can also be important if several cans will typically be opened in rapid succession, such as when feeding multiple large pets or preparing a dish requiring numerous canned ingredients.
The cutting mechanisms on can openers can quickly accumulate an unsightly — and potentially unsanitary — amount of dried food. Some can openers are difficult to clean thoroughly as they offer limited access to the cutting blade. Other styles can be safely washed in a dishwasher, but others require washing by hand.
Whether the opener is manual or electric, if it will be visible when not in use, its appearance can be important. Both types of can openers are available in modernistic styles as well as traditional designs. Choosing a style that best suits the kitchen’s “personality” is possible, but it may take a bit of effort to find the perfect can opener.
If purchasing an electric can opener, make sure that it will fit in the desired space. It will need to be near an outlet, and if it is to be placed near the back of the counter, it must fit beneath any overhead cabinets. For a manual can opener, you might want to make sure that it will fit in your drawer tray or utensil caddy.
Conclusion (Wrapping it up)
Can openers today come in a wide variety of styles and types. As you probably noticed when reading reviews, no single can opener is ideal for every person. However, the variety available greatly increases the chance that you will be able to find a can opener that you consider ideal for you.