How To Open a Can Without a Can Opener

All it takes is a metal spoon and some elbow grease.

Picture this: you've just returned to the cabin you're renting with your friends after a full day of skiing on the slopes. Chill-ridden and ready for your favorite can of soup, you search high and low in every cabinet for a can opener but to no avail. You're left wondering: "How do you open a can without a can opener?" Although takeout may start to sound like an inevitable option, you should know there are several ways to open a can without a can opener.

If you ever find yourself in such a tricky (and hungry) situation, here's a little tutorial to brush up on some survival skills. While it's possible to open a can with a rough surface or a pocketknife in a pinch, we'd rather involve fewer sharp edges. We've found a safe, easy solution to opening a can without a can opener. So, consider using another standard tool in your cutlery drawer instead of prying the can open with a knife.

The Secret Weapon? A Metal Spoon

That's right: You can open a can with only a metal spoon. You likely have a metal spoon in your kitchen even if you find yourself without a can opener. This simple hack is foolproof. It may sound ludicrous, but with a bit of friction, the spoon's metal thins and cuts through the metal of the can lid. Using a metal spoon for this trick is crucial: plastic won't work.

Even with the proper tools, opening a can is often quite dangerous—the aluminum lid is deceptively sharp and, if you're not careful, can easily incur deep cuts. That danger only multiplies when you don't have a helpful can opener to keep your hands at a safe distance from the can's razor-sharp lid. Although a metal spoon poses less threat than a sharpened knife, it's still important to handle the can carefully, as the top is still quite sharp.

How to Open Metal Can with Spoon
Emily Laurae

How To Open a Can With a Metal Spoon

  1. Set the can down on a steady table or countertop, holding it firmly in place.
  2. Use your other hand to hold the spoon at a 90-degree angle over the can. The bowl of the spoon should be towards the bottom. Position the tip of the spoon against the inner lid of the can, with the inside of the bowl of the spoon facing in. Set the spoon in the groove on the lip of the can where the lid meets the rim.
  3. Rub the tip of the spoon on the lip of the can. Work it back and forth over a small area until the friction thins the metal and the spoon rubs through the lid. Next, move the spoon to another small area until you've covered the metal around the can's rim. Once you've circled the entire can, the lid should be loose.
  4. Dig the spoon under the lid and use the spoon to pry the top upwards. Be careful not to touch the edge of the lid with your finger, as it will be very sharp. Use a towel to protect your hand and dispose of the lid.

Although we prefer the safest methods available in these situations, we realize that sometimes a metal spoon might not be handy. Here are two more backup ways to open a can without a can opener.

How To Open a Can with a Pocketknife

Say the situation is even more drastic, and you're on a hike with no metal spoon, but you have your trusty pocketknife. Don't fret. You'll still be able to enjoy that can of soup you packed. Although this method is definitely more dangerous than opening a can with a metal spoon, desperate times call for desperate measures.

Hold the can steady in your hand. On a flat surface, start by poking the tip of the knife through the top of the can. Continue poking holes around the edge of the can top until you can pry the lid from the can.

How To Open a Can with Household Tools

Maybe you aren't on a hike, but your house is still devoid of a can opener. An alternative to a metal spoon is searching through your toolbox. Find a box cutter, pliers, or a screwdriver and use these tools to puncture the can's lid. You want to be careful when using these tools, like the pocket knife method.

How to Open Can with a Rock
Emily Laurae

How To Open a Can with a Rough Surface

A can opener, metal spoon, and pocketknife all out of the question? While it may appear that you'll have to survive off the granola bars you packed for the rest of your camping trip, you're not totally out of luck. There's one more way to open a can without a can opener that takes a lot of brute force and patience.

Find a rough surface, like a rock or a concrete slab, and use it to sand down the ridge of the can until it breaks the seal on the top. Be sure to rotate the can so that you're evenly sanding down the top. Have an extra t-shirt or sweat rag ready to catch and clean off the top when it finally pops. Squeezing the sides of the can every so often also helps put pressure on the top seal. Once there's moisture on your makeshift sander, you've struck (liquid) gold, and the can's seal should be open.

Voilà! You've accomplished the impossible—you've opened a can without a can opener. While we may not be tossing away our can openers, these handy tricks will work in times of dire need. Show off these serious survival skills on your next camping trip or when Nana can't seem to find her can opener but needs that canned cream-of-mushroom soup for her Thanksgiving Green Bean Casserole.

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