7 Best Ways How to Open a Can Without a Can Opener

How to open a can without a can opener

You’re hungry. You’re tired. It’s late, and all you can scrounge up from the back of a forgotten shelf is a couple of dusty cans of franks and beans, but you don’t have a can opener.

Not only is it frustrating not to have a can opener when you need one, but it’s also challenging to find an alternative way to open the can. Making it even worse is you have others who depend on you to get the can open.

There are many ways to open a can without a can opener. In this article, we will share with you seven different methods that you can use to open a can without a can opener.

1. How to Use a Metal Spoon to Open a Can

Knowing how to open a can with a metal spoon is a crucial preparedness skill. It can come in handy in many situations, such as camping or traveling, and don’t have a can opener handy.

It’s also a useful skill to have in emergencies, such as when you lose your electricity or are on the run and don’t have a can opener ready to go.

Steps to Open a Can Using a Spoon:

  1. Hold the spoon’s handle in the palm of your hand.
  2. Firmly press the tip of the spoon into the edge of the top of the can.
  3. Rub the spoon back and forth to create friction and a groove on the inner edge of the entire lid.
  4. A hole will open up in the groove.
  5. Insert the tip of the spoon into the hole.
  6. Use the edge of the spoon to cut through the can’s lid, lifting the lid upwards.

2. Rub the Can on a Rough Surface

Opening a can with a rough surface is a great way to get into that food can when you don’t have a can opener. All you need is a can with a nice lip on it and a rough surface to rub it against, along with some good old-fashioned elbow grease.

When it comes to opening cans on a rough surface, the best surfaces are concrete, asphalt, brick, or a flat rock.

Steps to Open a Can Using a Rough Surface:

  1. Find a stable surface that is flat and roughly textured to rub the can on.
  2. Place the can on a rough, stable surface.
  3. Vigorously rub the flat surface of the rough rock or concrete back and forth, scrubbing motion across the top of the can. The back and forth motion will wear down the sealed seam edge between the can and the lid.
  4. The motion will cause the lid to pop open. Be careful not to cut yourself when the lid pops off.

3. Use a Knife

The next method is to use a knife to open your can’s lid. The best option for this is to use fixed blade knives, such as a large chef’s knife or a butter knife.


I cannot overstate that using a sharp knife instead of a proper opener can be dangerous. Therefore, you must take extreme care if you choose to use this method of opening canned food.

Also, be aware that this method can damage and dull your knife. So, be mindful of using your best knives to pry open cans.

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Avoid Using Folding Knives

Folding knives can sometimes fold closed when using this method. If that happens, you can suffer serious injury when the knife blades close on your hand. So, avoid using a folding pocket knife to open a can with this method.

Be mindful that the blade locking mechanism on some folding knives fail and can result in injury when using this method.

Steps to Open a Can With a Kitchen Knife:

  1. Place the knife on the lip of the can so that the sharp tip of the blade is pointing down.
  2. Apply pressure to the top of the can, puncturing the lid, creating a small hole.
  3. Make a slicing motion downwards, expanding the puncture into a large slice in the lid.
  4. Continue slicing all the way around the circumference of the can.
  5. Once you’ve gone all the way around, carefully remove the top of the can.

4. Use a Flat Head Screwdriver

Next, with a little bit of careful effort, you can open a can using a flat head screwdriver to open a can and get to the food inside.

Steps to Open a Can With a Screwdriver:

  1. Pierce, the top of the can, near the edge, with the screwdriver.
  2. Carefully run the screwdriver around the circumference of the lid. Be sure to keep the tip of the screwdriver level with the top of the lid; otherwise, you risk creating sharp edges.
  3. Once you’ve made a complete circle, gently remove the lid.
  4. If any sharp edges remain, use the screwdriver to smooth them out.

5. How to Open a Can with a Key

Almost everyone carries keys with them. This, in turn, makes a key an excellent survival tool if you know how to use it. And, with a bit of know-how, you can easily open a can with a key.

Steps to Open a Can With a Key:

  1. Place the key against the lip of the can, with the teeth pointing down.
  2. Then, use your other hand to apply pressure to the top of the key. The key should pierce through the can if you’re putting enough pressure.
  3. Once it’s started, keep moving the key around the lid’s circumference until it’s completely cut open.

And that’s all there is to it! With this simple trick, you’ll never be stuck without a way to open a can again.

6. How to Open a Can with a Fork

Another excellent field-expedient option for opening cans is by using a fork. Using a fork is similar to using a spoon. However, rather than using the tip of the spoon’s bowl (the part you eat with), you’ll use the end of the fork opposite the tines (the part you eat with).

Steps to Open a Can With a Fork:

  1. Hold the fork in the palm of your hand with the tines facing up and the blunt end of the fork handle facing the lid of the can.
  2. Firmly press the blunt edge of the handle into the top of the can.
  3. Vigorously rub the fork back and forth to create a groove on the inner edge of the lid. A hole will begin to open up in the lid.
  4. Once a hole is opened up along the can’s edge, switch the position of the fork so that the tines (the eating and business end) of the fork are facing the hole.
  5. Insert a tine into the hole, just under the lid, and pry up, separating the edge of the lid from the can.
  6. Repeat that method around the edge of the can until the can is open

7. Use a Swiss Army Knife to Open a Can

Yes, this method uses the can opener on a Swiss Army Knife, and it is not a traditional can opener that most people use on a regular basis. However, as the can opener on a Swiss Army Knife is similar to can openers on other multi-tools, it’s essential to cover it here.

Steps to Open a Can With a Swiss Army Knife:

  1. Place the hook of the opener underneath the lip of the can.
  2. With a firm grip on the can, make small forward-cutting motions that slice through the lid of the can.
  3. Slice your way around the edge of the can.
  4. When enough of the lid is open, use the tip of the opener to pry the lid back and out of the way.

Warning About Using Field-Expedient Methods to Open Cans

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Using field-expedient methods to open metal cans can result in sharp edges and jagged edges that can injure you and others. Therefore, always follow proper safety precautions to avoid any unnecessary injuries.

After all, if you’re using an alternative method to open a can, you’re probably not in a great situation. So, don’t make a bad situation worse by using your bare hands. Always wear your safety gloves and insist others wear gloves as well.

Also, be conscious of the metal shaving that your alternative can opening method creates. Avoid any free metal shavings from falling into the can and the food you worked so hard for.

Lastly, you may want to practice these methods with old or expired cans before using them on a good can of food.

The Bottom Line of How to Open a Can Without a Can Opener

There are many ways to open a can without a can opener.

You can use a spoon, use a knife, rub it on the ground, pry the lid off with a spoon or fork, or find other ways to open a can.

Knowing how to safely open a can without a can opener will prepare you to stay fueled up even when you’re stuck without the proper tools. Especially when trying to get into your long-term food storage.

Do you have other methods of opening cans without a can opener? If so, tell us about them in the comments below.


Stay safe,

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7 Best Ways How to Open a Can Without a Can Opener
Brian Duff

Brian Duff

Brian Duff is a former firefighter-paramedic, Army Ranger, diplomatic protection specialist, and international security director. Brian’s preparedness experiences range from his time as a paramedic in Southern California and his service with the 75th Ranger Regiment to spending over a decade overseas, eventually managing the U.S. Embassy security forces in Baghdad, Iraq. Upon returning to the U.S., he directed a $1.25 billion government security program. As a lifelong preparedness advocate, PTSD survivor, author, and founder and host of the Mind4Survival website and podcast, Brian draws on his lifetime of near misses, close calls, and lucky mistakes to advance his crusade for empowering people to become more safe, confident, and self-reliant.

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