How To Open A Can Without A Can Opener

How To Open A Can Without A Can Opener

How To Get By Without A Can Opener

Can openers are convenient, and they’re found in pretty much every home, but how do you open a can without a can opener?

There are plenty of situations where you might find yourself trying to crack open a can of food, but the convenient tool that you’ve grown to rely on just isn’t available. For instance, a power outage might turn your electric can opener into a glorified paperweight. If you go camping and forget your hand cranked can opener, you’ll have to rely on other methods, too.

Luckily, there are quite a few ways to bypass using one altogether. Some of them pose safety risks when done improperly, and some can be tedious, but they all work. To help you get into those pesky cans when your can opener is nowhere to be seen, we’ve listed 5 different ways that you can open cans without a can opener.

1. Use a Spoon

We’re going to start this list off with the safest method possible. It’s better to avoid risks when possible, and even though using a spoon is the slowest method, it’ll keep you from potentially cutting yourself.

You’ll need to use a metal spoon for this method. Unless you live in a household that only uses plastic dinnerware, you shouldn’t have a problem finding one. Even though can lids are made from very thin metal, they’re still hard enough to survive being rubbed with a plastic spoon.

Position It

You’ll need to position the tip of the spoon along the rim of the can. That’s where it’s sealed at, and it’s the weakest point of the lid. Hold the spoon vertically, and keep the inside of the spoon facing towards the middle of the can.


Start rocking the spoon back and forth a bit while you apply a bit of pressure. It might take around 20 seconds to push through the seal in the can, but it will eventually make its way through.


Once you have one hole formed in the lid, you need to move your spoon over a little bit and position it again. Then, you just do the same thing. Since you’ve already weakened the seal, the rest of the lid will open a lot quicker. Just keep moving your spoon around the lid until you’ve loosened it entirely.

Pry It Off

This step is self-explanatory. Insert the tip of the spoon into the can, and pry the lid off gently. Don’t try to apply a lot of pressure or flip your can around. The lid won’t hold your food anymore, and you’ll end up with a mess.

2. Using a Rock

This is the second safest method that you can use, and it’s best for when there’s no can opener around, and the other methods aren’t plausible. It’s not as safe as a spoon because you risk contaminating your food with a rock, and you might shave metal into your canned food. Those risks aren’t as bad as they sound, though. Just make sure that you look out for chips of metal when you empty your can.

Find A Suitable Rock

You want a rock that is flat and coarse. A sidewalk or a coarse porch foundation will also work very well. This method works because of friction. So, don’t use anything smooth to do this.

Position The Can

All you want to do for this step is place a can upside down on the rock you found, and you want to grip the end firmly.

Start Rubbing

Now, you can start opening the can. It’s extremely simple to do. Just rub the can back and forth while applying a little bit of pressure to the bottom of the can, and you’ll eventually see liquid starting to pour out. Once you see liquid on the rock or can lid, immediately stop rubbing. You do not want to shred the entire lid off while it’s upside down.

Open It

Finally, grab a thin object that can withstand prying the lid off. The seal won’t be entirely destroyed. So, you will have to use some pressure. We recommend using a pocket knife, screwdriver, or any other piece of thin metal. All you have to do is slip it in and pry the lid off.

3. Use a Chef’s Knife

Chef’s knives tend to be fairly expensive, and they’re quite large. We don’t recommend using this technique unless you practice it safely. Also, keep in mind that you’ll be dulling or folding the edge of what is probably the most expensive knife in your kitchen. So, it might be a better idea to choose a different method.


Standard chef’s knives are usually about 7 inches long. As you can imagine, a blade that long poses quite the safety risk when it’s mishandled. So, we’re going to teach you how to hold it safely before we move on to the tutorial.

You’ll be using the heel of the knife to do all of the work during this tutorial. The heel is the end of the blade furthest from the tip of the knife, and it’s the sturdiest part of the knife’s edge.

To ensure you can control the heel properly, you want to hold the knife with the heel lined up with the center of your palm. That will give you the most control over the knife, and it’ll help keep you from slipping while using your knife as a can opener.

Keep your fingers away from the blade. Your fingers should be firmly wrapped around the handle, and your thumb should rest stiffly against the flat part of the blade or the spine of it.

After you hold it like that, the rest is fairly simple. Just don’t point it in the opposite direction of you, and rotate the can as you open it. Don’t rotate the knife to make new holes.

Making The Starter Hole

Once you have a proper grip on your knife, place the can on a table or other sturdy surface, and put the tip of the heel along the edge of the can. It should be resting against the raised lip of the can if you positioned it properly.

Now, use your offhand to help you apply a reasonable amount of pressure to the back of the blade, and rock the blade back and forth. It should push through the can fairly quickly.

Continue To Break The Seal

Now, rotate the can and position the knife again. As we said in the safety section, you don’t want to move the knife around the can.

Place the heel back onto the edge of the can about a centimeter away from the starter hole, and repeat the same process you used for the starter hole. Repeat these steps until you’ve broken the seal along the entire edge of the can.

Pry It Open

While it’s not usually recommended to put your knife edge through anything harder than food, you’ll have to do that with this method. You should have fully broken the seal during the opening process. So, you shouldn’t damage your knife if you’re careful.

Slip the knife edge under the lid, and gently pry it off. If it requires more than a slight amount of pressure, recheck the seal to make sure you didn’t miss a spot.

4. Pocket Knife Method

Did you know you can use your pocket knife to open a can? This is especially useful if you’re out camping or away from your kitchen for another reason. However, make sure your knife doesn’t have one built-in before you do this method. A lot of multi-tools and pocket knives with multiple blades have can openers built-in. You don’t want to ruin your knife edge if you have a manual can opener available on the same tool.

This one is a little dangerous, too. So, practice caution if you use it.


Unlike the chef knife method, you’ll be using the entire blade to punch through a can’s lid with your pocket knife. For that reason, there are a few safety rules you need to adhere to.

First, don’t use a folding blade that doesn’t have a good lock. Slip-joint pocket knives can easily fold on your fingers, and knives with poor-quality locks can fail during this task. If you happen to carry a small fixed blade, that will work best for this task. Proper finger guards are an added bonus if you use a small fixed blade.

Make sure your hands aren’t sweaty or wet with anything else before you do this. It’s very easy to slip.

Don’t use a lot of pressure, either. Can lids are very thin, and they don’t require a lot of force to open.

Position Your Knife

This method requires you to gently slap the handle of your knife to force the blade through the can’s seal. It’s needless to say that, that can be fairly dangerous. So, follow this step carefully.

You want to put the tip of your knife between the lip of the can and the edge of the lid like you do with all of the other methods. However, you want hold the blade perfectly vertical to keep it from slipping.

Wrap your hand around the handle, and grip it as firmly as possible. Keep the knife vertical throughout the entire process.

Punch A Hole

Once your knife is in position, use your offhand to gently tap the butt of the knife. Don’t use a lot of force, or you can make the knife slip and hurt yourself. It doesn’t require a lot of force anyways.

After a couple of gentle taps, you should end up breaking through the seal. As with every other method, you just have to rotate the can a little bit, and then you can punch another hole. Keep doing it until the lid’s seal is fully broken.

Pry It Off

This is the exact same method used for the chef’s knife tutorial. Just slip the blade under the lid, and pry it off gently.

5. Use a Key

Open a Can using a Key

Our keys are very rarely out of our arm’s reach. After all, we rely on them to get into our houses, start our cars, or open our fancy jewelry boxes. So, you’ll be happy to know that you can use your keys to open cans without a can opener.

It’s very similar to the spoon method, but this method is a bit slower, and it won’t be very comfortable with most keys. You just don’t get a lot of material to hold onto with a little key. However, it’ll work if it’s all you have available to you, and it’s a lot safer than jamming a knife into a can.

Position It

Hold the key with your thumb and your index finger, and push the tip into the edge of the can. It might be hard to do if your key is thick, but it will work.

Rock The Key

Rock the key back and forth like you did during the spoon tutorial. You’ll have to apply more pressure, and it won’t be very comfortable for your fingers. Like every other method, you’ll just have to rotate the can and continue making holes. When you’ve broken the seal around the entire edge, use the key to gently pry the lid off.


If you were wondering how to open a can without a can opener, you now have 5 different methods at your disposal. If you choose to use one of the more dangerous methods, do so at your own risk, and do it as safely as possible.

You probably won’t need to use these methods often, but we’re sure you’ll be happy you learned them when the power goes out, or if you forget your trusty can opener at home during a camping trip.

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