How to Open a Can Without a Can Opener

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Has this happened to you? You’re getting ready to open a can of tomatoes when you learn that your can opener is missing, and you don’t have a Swiss army knife on hand. What do you do?

You could forget the whole thing and see what else you have that you could make, but you’re not going to quit that easily. You could buy a can opener if you’re close to a store and time. In moments like this, knowing how to open a can without a can opener is essential.

The good news is that there are several ways to open canned food without a can opener. The most important thing to remember is that the lid of the can is a very thin piece of metal, and it’s designed to be opened. Most utensils are thicker and stronger than the metal of the can’s lid, and you only need something a little stronger to pierce the surface.

So, what are the best methods for opening cans without a can opener, and how can you use them at home and when camping?

Best Method: Using a Spoon

Here’s how to open a can without a can opener if you have a spoon handy:

  1. Put the can down on a countertop or flat, sturdy surface, and hold it firmly in place.
  2. Using your other hand, hold the spoon at a 90-degree angle above the can with the spoon’s bowl pointed toward the top of the can. Position the tip of the spoon against the inner edge of the can’s lid, with the bowl of the spoon facing inward.
  3. Set the spoon in the groove of the lip of the can where the rim meets the lid.
  4. Rub the tip of the spoon against the lip of the can, working it back and forth over a small area until the metal thins and you break through the metal.
  5. Move to another section and repeat the steps above.
  6. Repeat steps 1-5 around the entire can until the lid is completely loose.
  7. Dig the spoon under the lid and pry up the top.

Note: Make sure that you’re not touching the outer edge of the lid because it will be very sharp.

This is the safest method because it doesn’t involve a sharp instrument to cut open the can. However, it does require quite a bit of time to get the can open. So, if you don’t have a metal spoon handy or don’t have enough time available, here are a few other methods that you can try.

Alternative Method: Pocketknife

If you don’t have a metal spoon, but you have a pocket knife or survival knife, here’s how to open a can without a can opener:

  1. Hold the can in one hand on a flat surface.
  2. Poke the tip of your knife through the top of the can.
  3. Continue poking the knife through the lid of the can around the can.
  4. Pry up the lid.

This method is the quickest out of all the methods we cover, but the sharp edge of the knife can be dangerous if you don’t open the can on a flat surface or if you aren’t careful. You can also try this method with a flathead screwdriver or fork in a pinch.

Alternative Method: Rough Surface

If you don’t have a metal spoon or a pocket knife, here’s how to open a can without a can opener using a rough surface:

  1. Locate a rough surface, such as a slab of concrete or rock.
  2. Use the rock to sand down the edge of the entire lid of the can until it breaks the seal.
    • Ensure that you’re rotating the can so you’re evenly sanding down the top.
    • Have an extra rag ready for when the top finally pops off.
    • Squeeze the sides every so often to add some pressure to the top seal to help break the seal faster.
    • Once you notice moisture on the rock, the seal has been broken.
  3. Remove the lid from the can using a small knife, pocketknife, spoon, butter knife, or similar tool. Sometimes you can even squeeze the sides, and the top will pop right off.

This method can take a lot of time because it requires sanding down the can, but you don’t necessarily have to worry about a sharp edge as you would with the spoon or pocketknife method.


Ta-da! By following our guide on how to open a can without a can opener, you’ve accomplished the nearly impossible! While we don’t recommend tossing your can opener to stick with these tricks, they’re handy when you’re in a pinch and need something right away.

Remember that the safest and most effective method is to use a metal spoon. This is because it’s the one method that doesn’t require you to use a sharp knife or rough surface to open the can. But the spoon method does take more time than the pocket knife method.

Now that you know how to open a can without a can opener, you can show off your survival skills to all of your friends on your next camping trip or next Thanksgiving when your grandma can’t find her can opener!

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