What are the Different Types of can Openers?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Can openers are found in just about every type of kitchen. Homes usually rely on the manual can opener that fits neatly into a drawer, or a simple electric can opener that is meant for use with standard size cans of food purchased at the local grocery store. Restaurants and cafeterias tend to make use of larger industrial size can openers that are capable of handling cans that house five or more pounds of food. Basically, there is a can opener for just about any type of culinary setting.

Electric can openers are designed to sit on a kitchen counter.
Electric can openers are designed to sit on a kitchen counter.

The function of the can opener is very simple. In all incarnations, the purpose is to open cans of food, usually by removing the lid or top from the body of the can. This is usually conducted in a manner that minimizes the chances of the operator sustaining a cut or injury to the hands while opening the can, and also minimizes the chances for any metal shavings from the can to drop into the contents.

The most simplistic of all can openers is the manual type. Usually composed of stainless steel, the manual opener usually features two simple arms. One arm is created with a small but sharp blade that is used to puncture the top of the can along the rim. Squeezing the two arms together makes puncturing cans an easy task. The arms also sport a simple flywheel and handle design that make it possible to rotate the can. As the can rotates, the blade continues to expand the puncture, severing the lid from the body of the can.

A manual can opener may be constructed completely of stainless steel, or feature a combination of steel and plastic handles. Both types may be washed by hand or placed in a dishwasher for cleaning.

Electric can openers take the process to a new level. Most of these models are constructed to set on the kitchen counter. The can is placed under the blade and a handle allows the operator to puncture the can by depressing the handle and blade. The handle also activates rotors that turn the can, allowing the blade to sever the lid from the can with ease. As a bonus, electric can openers are usually equipped with magnets that grip the metal lid as it is released from the can.

The body of an electric can opener is usually composed of a hard plastic that can easily be wiped down with a damp cloth. Some models allow for easy removal of the blade and handle for washing. During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, electric can openers that could be mounted under the cabinets that float above the kitchen counter were introduced as a space saving option.

Industrial models of both the manual and the electric can opener are often used in restaurant kitchens. These larger manual openers are usually mounted to a chopping block or counter, and may include an adjustable body that allows the device to accommodate cans of all sizes and shapes. In like manner, larger electric can openers may be fixed in place and provide an easy means of opening even large institutional cans.

Pricing for can openers range from the very inexpensive to models that are extremely costly. Generally, it is possible to obtain a reliable can opener for home use from any supermarket or discount retail store. Industrial models are often sold at restaurant supply houses.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


I had one of those electric one touch can openers and I thought it would be great. It worked for about six months, and then I started having to hold on to the can while it opened, and then it wouldn't cut the lid off completely. First world problems.

I found a good, sturdy manual can opener with comfortable handles and I'd just rather have that. My only issue is wondering whether the blade can be sharpened if it gets dull. I've used can openers with dull blades and they are not fun at all.


Electric can openers just don't last that long. I like the old fashioned kind. I found one at an old time hardware store that mounts on the wall and has a crank you turn to open the can. It comes apart for easy cleaning and can be immersed fully in water. I usually scrub the wheel blade with an old toothbrush.

Those can openers last absolutely forever and they're so much easier to use than the handheld kind. I got tired of replacing can openers every three or four years, so I got the wall mounted one and it's been 10 years and it's still doing just fine. You have to search for these, but in my opinion, it's worth the effort.

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