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Equipment Review: Smooth-Edge Can Openers Are A Cut Above

Fine Cooking Issue 77
Photos: Scott Phillips
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My old can opener is slow and stuttering, it stalls out on dents, and the cutting wheel is shamefully gunked up. Yet I’ve always turned a blind eye to its inadequacies. Well, no more. I’ve discovered a new breed of can openers that skirts all of the annoying pitfalls of regular manual openers.

These new can openers, known as “safety,” “safe-cut,” or “smooth-edge” openers, approach the mundane task of opening a can in a rather enlightening way. Instead of cutting into the lid, the opener’s metal wheel pries under the lid’s outer lip so that the entire top of the can lifts up and off. That might not sound like a big deal, but it leads to several significant advantages.

Of course, with new designs come new challenges. Smooth-edge openers attach quite differently from regular can openers. All of the models tested for this review came with instructions that were worth taking the time to read. Our top choices were, in part, selected for their greater ease of attachment.  After a few uses, attaching and detaching did become second nature. Also, if you’re in the habit of pressing the lid into the can to drain off liquid, well, that’s not possible, so you might keep your old standby for canned tuna.

The short learning curve to operating these new openers is worth the greater ease of use (and the Band-Aids that they’ll save you over time). Heck, they almost make me wish more good things came in a can.

What to look for

After testing 11 models, we don’t recommend buying just any smooth-edge can opener. Our favorites had knobs positioned parallel to the side of the can, like a traditional can opener. Turning the knob from the can’s side significantly reduces strain to your wrist and elbow, and on most models, this design allows you to see if you’re properly attaching the opener. Some models come with pincers so that you can remove the lid without even touching it, but with the can’s smooth edges, we didn’t find the pincers necessary.

In addition to the models discussed below, we tried the following smooth-edge openers (listed alphabetically): Kuhn Rikon’s Deluxe Safety LidLifter, Slim Safety LidLifter, and Safety LidLifter; Leifheit Safety Can Opener; Tupperware E-Series Can Opener; and Zyliss Safe Edge Can Opener.

Top pick

1. Rösle Can Opener
$35 at Cookswares.com 

The sleek design doesn’t compromise the strength of this opener. It’s among the easiest and most comfortable to turn, with divots in the turning handle for aided grip. Attaching to the can is pleasantly simple, and it stores most compactly.

Runners-up

2. Orbi SafeCut Can Opener by Good Cook
$12.99 at Laprimashops.com 

This opener has an ergonomic design that helps reduce strain. The grip is soft and the tension of turning the knob among the least forced (on par with Cuisipro). It’s also easy to attach.

3. Oxo Good Grips Smooth Edge Can Opener
$19.99 at Kitchenkapers.com

This model opened cans with the least amount of resistance. The large, soft-grip knob and thick, no-slip handles make it easy to grip. Although you can’t see where the cutting wheel should align because of the design, the Oxo logo on the handle helps guide positioning.

4. Cuisipro Can Opener
$25.95 at Cutleryandmore.com

This opener is easy to attach and nicely balanced. It takes more effort to turn than the Rosle and Oxo, but, compared with other safe-cut openers, this is one of the best.

Big advantages to smooth-edge openers

No sharp edges. The cutting mechanism smoothes the edges of the lid and the can, so you can lift the lid off with no worries of cutting yourself. (Manufacturers warn that if you roll the opener too far past the starting point, you might compromise the smooth edge, but I did this more than once and found it mostly just roughens the edge, like a snag.)

The lid doesn’t fall into the can. No more fishing out fallen lids.

No more gunky cutting wheels. The cutting mechanism never touches the can’s contents, so there’s no risk of cross contamination.

Plows through dents. These openers tend to do their job flawlessly, even when a can is dented.

A lid removed with a smooth-edge opener (left) has no jagged edges.

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