Although pull-top cans dominate our shelves, many canned goods still need a can opener. And there’s a high chance you’ll get stuck in a situation where you won’t have this tool by your side. Therefore, learning how to open a can without a can opener or knife is essential. From using everyday utensils to squeezing a can open with your bare hands — there are many unconventional ways to open a can!
Whether you need it in a pinch or during an emergency, here are eight ways to open a can without a can opener or knife. See which unconventional can lid opening technique works best for you.
How to Open a Can without a Can Opener or Knife?
Before diving into how to open a can without a can opener or knife, practice with caution. And never anyone inexperienced do something as dangerous as this. After all, metal cans develop sharper edges when you try prying them open. When careless, you may get injured.
Here are eight ways to open a can without using a can opener or kitchen knife:
🥫 Metal Spoon
The best way to open a can without can openers or knives is with a metal spoon. After all, even if you forget both, there’s a chance you’ll have a sturdy metal spoon somewhere in your kitchen. And as ridiculous as it sounds, this method works well and is fool-proof! It works with the help of friction, consistency, and patience.
You can create friction with a metal spoon to thin out the metal lid of the can. And eventually, you’ll be able to puncture through it and open the can. So, you can see how crucial it is for the spoon to be metal — plastic won’t simply work!
Here’s a step-by-step guide on opening a can using a metal spoon:
- Prepare the can. Place the canned product down on a flat and even surface and hold it in place.
- Get the angle right. Grab a metal spoon and hold it with your unoccupied hand at around a 90-degree angle a bit over the can.
- Position the metal spoon. Have the bowl of the utensil toward the bottom. Meanwhile, place the spoon’s tip against the can’s inner metal lid, with the inner part of the bowl facing inside. And place it on the can’s groove on its lip, where its lid meets the rim.
- Start rubbing. Slowly rub the spoon’s tip on the can’s lip, following a back-and-forth motion in one area. Continue until the friction thins out the metal lid, and the utensil goes through. Repeat this on other small spots until you’ve punctured the metal around the can’s rim.
- Loosen up the lid. After circling the entire can with holes, the metal lid should now be looser. You can loosen it up more by digging the spoon under it and using it to pry the can open upward.
- Remove the metal lid. Grab a thick towel to grab the sharp metal lid and safely throw it away. Be careful and avoid touching the edges as it can cut your hand and fingers!
When doing all these, remember to practice caution, as opening a can with a metal spoon can be dangerous. Although it isn’t as hazardous as when using a knife or other tools, handling the can with care is essential. After all, the metal lid itself is still incredibly sharp! And we know that opening cans can be tedious even with the right tools — what more if you’re using a spoon?
So, keep your hands away from the can’s sharp lid and use the spoon carefully.
🥫 Metal Fork
If you don’t have a metal spoon, the next best thing to use is its partner in crime — the metal fork! Like the former, you can easily use your metal fork to open a can. But this time, it should be more manageable as the fork’s pointed ends make it easier to puncture holes.
Here’s how a step-by-step guide to opening a can with a metal fork:
- Grab your metal fork. Be sure you’re gripping the utensil with your dominant hand around the lowest part of its handle. It provides better control.
- Start puncturing the metal. Place your fork to the inner lip of the can and start stabbing one small area at a time.
- Saw or rock it. Once you see those spots weaken, create fiction following a sawing or rocking motion. Do this until you cut open the metal lid.
- Take the lid off. Reposition your metal fork till its edge is pressing against the tear you’ve made in the can cover. Although you can saw or rock the metal lid, you might’ve weakened it enough so you can slice through like butter.
The most challenging part of opening a canned product with a fork is getting into the rhythm. So, you’ll need some elbow grease and patience to break through something initially required to get punctured with a blade!
If you’re out in the wilderness and have nothing but your cans and multi-tool, you’re in luck! This tiny gadget can save your life. Although you have many options, let’s focus on the swiss army knife, scissors, and metal file.
Swiss Army Knife
Opening a can with a regular knife from a tiny swiss army knife is different. You can open a canned product with the latter by following these steps:
- Prepare the can. Place the canned product on a flat and leveled surface upright.
- Grab your multi-tool. Find the swiss army knife and grasp it in a reverse grip. For better control and result, keep the tool vertical and place its tip against the inner edge of the metal lid. But before you do that, ensure the knife is sharp to make the puncturing part easier.
- Pound it. With your non-dominant hand holding the can in place, start pounding the pommel of the swiss army knife with your dominant hand on the can’s metal lid. Be sure your palm is facing down for maximum force.
- Grab a brick or rock. Use these to help you hammer the small knife into the lid. But remember not to bang the blade too hard as it can damage the multi-tool itself. Aside from that, be careful not to hit your hands as well.
- Punctures. Put your multi-tool knife at the leading edge of the hole you made and repeat the previous steps. Do so until you’ve encircled the edge of the lid with punctures. With the entire metal lid surrounded by holes, it should be easier to pry open the metal lid.
- Remove the metal lid. Once you’ve got the can’s metal lid surrounded by punctured holes, pry the loose lid off of it. I recommend prying it off with the knife as the metal lid can be sharp and might cut your fingers or hands.
If the swiss army knife doesn’t work, explore your multi-tool and find a pair of small scissors. Here is a step-by-step guide to opening a can using a pair of small scissors from a multi-tool.
- Prepare the can. Place the can on a flat and level surface to prevent the scissor blades from slipping off.
- Position the scissors. Put the small scissors with their blades closed point-down on the metal lid of a can, just next to its lip. Ensure your dominant hand holds onto the scissors’ handle to avoid slipping.
- Tap it. With your non-dominant hand, start tapping the scissors to put holes in the can’s metal lid. Do this at least a forearm away from your body.
If your multi-tool has a metal file, you can make your life easier by simply filing down the metal lid. But as this is, it’s not the best option as you’ll end up with metal shavings. And you wouldn’t want to ingest these as it can lead to several health issues. So, only opt for this when your multi-tool doesn’t have a swiss army knife or scissors.
🥫 Axe (Or Any Other Large Blade)
If you don’t have a can opener or regularly-sized knives on hand, you can opt for larger blades like an ax. But even if this is viable, I don’t recommend doing this method if you’re unsure of your skills. After all, one mistake with this can-opening method and you may lose a finger — quite literally.
Below is the traditional way of opening a can with an ax:
- Prepare the can. Place the canned product on a flat and even surface. You can also keep it stable by holding it in place.
- Grab your ax. I recommend holding it by its haft, underneath the blade’s base. Doing this makes slicing through the canned product easier.
- Begin raking. Following a slow but steady raking motion, continue slicing through the canned product. I suggest stopping nearly into the can’s circumference.
- Pry the lid off. Once you’ve reached almost 75% of the can, remove the metal lid upward.
Here’s a how to open a can with an ax or any other large blade with a heel, a supersized blade, or one with a curved edge:
- If your ax or other large cutters have a heel, use this part to make punctures on the metal lid instead of its sharp tip.
- Meanwhile, if you have a larger-than-usual blade that can’t fit on the top of your can’s metal lid, lay the tin on its side and start striking or slicing it from above. And only apply enough force to cut the metal lid open.
- Finally, if your large blade has a curved edge or uniquely-shaped handles, use the hammering method instead. It’s more efficient and safer.
Whichever large blade you’re using, always practice cautiously, as this is one of the most dangerous ways to open a can!
🥫 Tin Snips or Box Cutter
Although it’s thinner and more brittle than your average knife, a box cutter makes for an excellent can-opening alternative. Here’s a step-by-step guide on opening a can using a box cutter:
- Position the can. Place the canned product on a leveled and rigid surface for your safety.
- Grab your box cutter. Puncture the tip of your box cutter through the can’s metal lid. Repeat this process throughout the edges once you’ve made a hole.
- Pry the lid off. You can use a thick rag or gloves to remove the metal lid. Never use your bare hands as you may get injured!
Meanwhile, opt for tin snips if you don’t have any other tool. It’s one of the cleanest alternatives for can openers and knives. And best of all, using tin snips doesn’t put you at risk of spilling the canned product. Not only does this can-opening technique ensures clean results, but it also keeps you safe.
Here’s how you can pry open a canned product using tin snips:
- Prepare the can and tin snips. Put the canned product on a leveled and hard surface and grip your tin snips.
- Start cutting. Cut into the can’s lip using the tin snips little by little. I recommend rotating the can as you cut along the lip for cleaner results.
- Pry the lid off. After cutting at least 75% of the canned product, remove the metal lid off the can.
🥫 Rough Surface
Look around you if you’ve run out of alternative products for prying open a can without a knife or can opener. Please take advantage of your surroundings and search for a rough surface. And as long as you have the strength, brute force, and extensive patience, this method is doable! After all, you will sand down the can’s ridges until its seal breaks.
When sanding down your canned product, be sure you’re doing it evenly down the lid. You can also speed your progress by squeezing the can’s side to place pressure on the metal lid. Once you’ve spotted moisture on the can, you’ve likely opened the can successfully!
So, head to the pavement when things are lost and be creative. If you don’t have any rough surfaces near you, you may also use a hollow cement block or rock. Either way, it doesn’t matter if you gain access to an abrasive service. After all, we’re working here to get friction.
Here’s how you can open a can using your rough surroundings:
- Find an abrasive or rough spot. Find an extensive, flat, and coarse surface.
- Prepare the can. Once you’ve found a place, put the can face down to break its seal.
- Begin scrubbing. Start rubbing the can on the rough surface, all while applying more force over time. Do this until you spot moisture coming from the can. I recommend stopping after scrubbing for a bit to check for moisture buildup.
- Stop once you see moisture formation. If not, you may rub through the lid, spilling the canned product and rendering it unusable.
- Pry off the metal lid. After you’ve thinned out the surface enough, remove the can’s metal lid ASAP. You can use your metal spoon, multi-tool, or any other item I’ve mentioned. Remember not to use your bare hands when handling metal lids as it can be dangerous.
- If possible, squeeze it out. If your can’s metal lid has become so thin, you can try squeezing the contents with your bare hands. It should pop off the metal lid easily.
Aside from surfaces, you can also try using other rough items. Regardless, here’s how to open a can using abrasive things like a rock.
- Prepare the can. Put your canned product on an abrasive and relatively large pig upside down.
- Start scrubbing. Begin rubbing the can following a back-and-forth motion on the rock to create friction and thin out the metal lid.
- Halt once you see moisture. If you’ve spotted moisture formation of your can or rock, stop.
- Remove the metal lid. Pry the lid open but be sure to use a rag or gloves if you’re doing it with bare hands.
Explore your toolbox, and you likely have a pair of pliers. Use this tool to your advantage in opening a can without knives or can openers. Here’s how you can pry open a canned product with pliers:
- Clamp, pinch, and twist the can. Clamp down the outer edge of your can’s metal lid with the pliers. Once you’ve gained control, start pinching and bending the metal lid until it deforms or breaks.
- Worry the pliers. Once you’ve made your first punctured hole, worry the pliers back and forth until it’s wide enough for the tool’s tip to clamp down on the can’s edges.
- Peel the metal lid off. Peel the metal lid off the canned product using the pliers to hold onto the edge.
Aside from regular canned products, the pliers’ method can also work for pull-top cans. All you need to do is hold onto the can’s tab and roll it back using the pliers.
🥫 Bare Hands
The hand method is the last technique for learning how to open a can without a can opener or knife. But as you can tell, this can-opening technique isn’t for everyone! After all, it asks for brute force, immense physical strength, and patience. But if you have no tools or can’t spot rough surfaces, it’s time to be creative and use your hands.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to pry open a canned product using your hands only:
- Start with the dents. Dent both sides of the metal canned product and make the two align as well as possible. Since it can be challenging to dent a can with your bare hands, I recommend striking it on a hard surface. But if you can, crush the metal can with your bare hands.
- Twist it. Get a firm grip on the meta can and begin twisting the top and bottom half in opposite directions. You can use the dents you’ve made as the weak points.
- Snap it in half. Once you’ve gotten in the rhythm, split the can in two!
Note that the hand method isn’t practical for everyday situations as it’s physically exerting, challenging, and messy! You’ll be lucky to get at least half of the canned product. So, only do this during emergencies.
Additional Tips to Make Opening a Can Without a Can Opener or Knife Easier
After learning how to open a can without a can opener or knife, you can make it easier by practicing the following tips. Each should make the process of prying open a canned product a breeze!
✔️ Add Some Grip
Sometimes, all you need to make open a can without the proper tools is to have a tight grip. With this, you should be able to work around the canned product and puncture it easily. And a loose grip can cause the can to move around, making it more challenging than it has to be. So, whatever can-opening technique you’re trying, remember to add some grip!
You can improve your grip by holding the can with a dry rag, plastic wrap, or a small piece of silicone. Either way, place any of these around the can and grab whichever item you use to pry it open. It should keep the canned product in place, giving you a better chance of opening it.
✔️ Make it Hot
Applying heat to the can’s metal lid should help it expand, making it easier to puncture. You can do this by running the can’s cover under hot water until you notice a slight change. Or you can try submerging the entire can into a small bucket of water for half a minute. Remember to use a potholder or dry rag to pick up the lid once you’ve pried it off.
✔️ Do the Water Hammer
The water hammer method is proven to weaken a metal can’s lid. Although primarily used for opening jar lids, it can also help with canned products. Begin by gripping the can with your non-dominant hand with the metal lid facing down. And position the can at least 45 degrees face down.
Once you’ve got the angle down, start slapping the base of your can using the center of your palm. But don’t do it too hard as it can harm your hands. Either way, this technique should raise pressure near the metal lid. As a result, puncturing holes should be more manageable.
How to Preserve Opened Canned Goods?
Only a few consider the aftermath of opening a can without a knife or a can opener. So, to ensure you don’t deal with spoiled food or other waste, here are tips to help you preserve the content:
✔️ Transfer Acidic Canned Goods ASAP
If you’ve opened acidic canned goods like tomato sauce or fruit juice, transfer them ASAP. The immediate exposure to air wears down the can’s iron, making the inside taste terrible. So, now you know why sometimes acidic foods may taste metallic, and this is among the many reasons why!
So, to prevent this, transfer any remaining content into a different container. It helps you preserve the canned product while ensuring your health.
✔️ Add all Leftover Canned Goods into Reusable Containers
Although canned products can last for years or even decades, this is only true when sealed. If you place opened cans even in a fridge, their content can go bad fast. Therefore, transfer the remaining contents into a reusable container.
You can preserve the canned products by transferring leftovers to reusable containers. So, as tempting as it is to let the remaining contents sit in the can, don’t. Not only may it leave a metallic taste, but it may also tamper with the original quality of the canned product.
So, to get the most out of the canned product, transfer leftovers into a nonreactive container. Aside from that, do hygienic practices like washing your hands before, during, and after opening the canned product. Doing so reduces the risks of contaminating it.
✔️ Keep the Can’s Liquid and Brine If Available
If the canned product has excess liquid or brine, don’t throw it away! Instead, transfer the leftovers into containers with secure lids. Doing so helps preserve the remaining contents for an extended period while keeping their original taste and texture.
✔️ Keep the Remaining Contents at the Back of Your Fridge
Aside from reducing air exposure by placing canned food products into airtight containers, it would be best if you also considered the temperature. Generally, these products thrive best in low temperatures. Therefore, I recommend keeping all leftovers at the back of your fridge. After all, this part is where your refrigerator is at its coldest. And it can go a long way in prolonging the remaining contents’ lifespan.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How to open a can without a can opener or knife quickly?
A: One of the fastest ways to open a can with a can opener or knife is using a metal spoon. With enough force, you can use this everyday utensil to break open a can, no matter how big or small. Regardless, you should be able to open a can with this method in no time.
Q: Is it possible to open a can using scissors?
A: Due to its sharp tips and flexibility, opening a can with a pair of scissors is doable. You can use it as a knife with its blades closed, allowing it to pierce through most metal cans easily. But be sure to hold one of your hands onto the handles to stop it from slipping. If not, you may puncture yourself instead!
Q: Can I open a can using a hammer?
A: Opening a can with a hammer is doable and makes things easier. Ideally, this tool would be best with some nails to help put holes into the can faster.
Q: Is it safe to open a can without tools?
A: Although using can openers and other items like knives and spoons make it easier to open a can, you can also do this without tools. You can use your bare hands to squeeze open a can, but it’s physically exerting and can be dangerous!
Q: How can I open a can with my bare hands?
A: Squeeze both sides of the can while holding it upright on a flat, rigid surface. This technique isn’t for everyone as it requires immense physical strength and patience. After all, squeezing open a metal can is no easy task! Start gently and add more strength gradually, as suddenly popping its lid off can cut you.
Learning how to open a can without a can opener or knife is crucial. After all, it will help you in a pinch and may also save your life during an emergency. Luckily, good canned lids comprise a fragile piece of metal that’s easy to puncture or break. Regardless, any mentioned techniques should help you open a can without traditional tools like a can opener or knife. So, explore and see which can open your can!