Can and jar openers are available in an array of designs, and materials today, from the simplest, knife-like “lever” can opener or the basic rubber “gripper” jar opener to electrically-powered alternatives. Selecting and purchasing the right one is about knowing what will suit the surroundings and space available in a kitchen, and working out whether the item is designed for light domestic use or has a commercial purpose in mind.
About Can and Jar Openers
Historians believe the first tin can for preserving food appeared in the Netherlands in the 1750s, but it was another hundred or so years before a new instrument was devised to open them (before that, people simply hacked their way in using sharp tools and knives). In 1855, the humble “lever” can opener was born and patented in England. When America followed suit three years later, the age of packaged consumables was just about to dawn. Can openers that slice using a keenly sharpened edge first appeared towards the end of the nineteenth century. Despite this innovation, they failed to pass in to common usage until a second, serrated wheel was added to provide extra grip. Glass jars first appeared several decades after the first can, when Napoleon Bonaparte offered a 12,000-franc reward for anyone who invented a safe and portable means of preserving food for his army. A French confectioner, Nicolas Appert, won the prize in 1795 with his cork-sealed glass jar. Since then a variety of technological developments has seen can and jar openers develop into an essential kitchen utility that's indispensable to the part-time cook and the working chef.
Deciding on a Can and Jar Opener
There are two main types of can and jar openers; electric and manual.
Manual Can Openers
The simple “butterfly” manual can opener employs a twistable butterfly-wing steel handle that scores a small circular blade through the circumference of the can-lid as it rotates. However, although inexpensive and effective in some situations, it isn’t especially comfortable and can be a real struggle for people with arthritis or conditions that induce muscular weakness. Most cans and jars will open using the butterfly design, but occasionally getting the secondary wheel to provide any purchase can prove problematic. This is very much dependent on the type of can however – in most cases a butterfly can opener will suffice. The butterfly-wing design has been ergonomically improved over the years, with the simple steel skeleton handle (often referred to as a "church key") being encased in more comfortable (and graspable) plastic handles. This has made particularly troublesome cans easier to open without the turning handle digging into the hand and causing discomfort.
Electric Can Openers
Since the 1950s, however, manual can openers have had an increasingly popular rival, the electrical opener. They take all the effort out of opening cans, but tend to be pricier than the manual versions. Shoppers looking for something slim to store in a drawer may find that they are usually bulkier than their manual counterparts, and usually sit on the counter-top rather than being stored inside a cupboard. Offering a combination of ease of use and enhanced safety features, the electric can opener cuts a safer line, making the edges of the can less pronounced as the lid is being removed. This reduces the possibility of receiving a nasty cut and makes disposing of cans less hazardous. In some situations – perhaps where space is at a premium or greater functionality is required – an electric can opener that offers extra features may prove beneficial. Some are sold with knife sharpeners and some come equipped with an additional bottle opener; but all of them mean that finding a spot in a drawer for several utensils becomes unnecessary. Unlike the cheaper top loading openers, these are usually upright devices that possess automatic shut off protection for when the can has been completely cut. They also use magnets to hold the detached lid and stop it falling in to the contents of the can, thereby protecting the food. In case of any spillages, the magnet and blade arm can also often be detached to facilitate easy cleaning.
Manual Jar Openers
The basic principle informing all jar openers is to make it easier to break the jar’s vacuum seal. Some manual jar openers have a handle fanning outwards in a V shape. Gripping the handle uses an elementary leverage technique to increase the force of the grip on the lid, making it much stronger than a bare hand alone. The handle also makes the lid easier to turn. A second manual design employs essentially the same method as a bottle opener: it has a straight handle, with an open end that fits on the jar lid. Pull it back, and the vacuum seal is broken. Perhaps the simplest design resembles a rubber cup or disc with a grooved inner surface. This increases the friction around the lid when it is gripped, so that it is more easily dislodged. Manual jar openers offer a great way of removing stubborn lids but in situations where jars need to be opened on a constant basis, such as commercial enterprises, the electric option will probably be more suitable.
Electrical Jar Openers
As with can openers, electrical jar openers take all the effort out of opening. At the touch of a button, these openers simply twist the lids off jars without a murmur of protest. However, as with their can-opener cousins, they’re usually bulky, so that most people simply perch them on the counter-top. They are, as might be expected, usually more expensive than manual openers. However, some have the capability to produce 25 pounds worth of pressure, which is normally enough to remove the lids of even the most persistently sealed jars. The process is relatively simple and should not cause anybody any difficulty. In most cases, a grip is placed either side of the lid. Two other grips hold the jar in place, and torque is applied to the lid to remove it.
Find Can and Jar Holders on eBay
The first step to getting hold of that can or jar opener is to sign up for an eBay account. The process, thankfully, is simple, straightforward, and fast. Just go to the homepage, click on the Register link at the top, and fill in the online form. With a few clicks of the mouse, the most suitable can or jar opener for each individual preference can be located in moments. A very specific model can simply be entered into the search box, but if wanting to do a little more browsing, the best way to locate the most suitable item is to find the All Categories tab at the side of the search box, scroll down, select Home Furniture & DIY from the dropdown menu, and click Search. A vertical column titled Categories appears on the new page. From this list, select Cookware, Dining & Bar, on the next page, choose Food Preparation & Tools from the list. On the next page, click Can & Jar Openers, whereupon all the items available in this category on eBay will appear. From here, the search can be refined still further. Simply study the vertical list on the left, and select the desired product criteria by ticking the relevant boxes beneath the main headings (e.g., Type, Brand, Price Range, Main Colour, Material, and so on). It is also possible to choose which type of seller is prefered (i.e., private, business or top-rated), and from where the item is to come from (UK only, EU or Worldwide).
Depending on the context and the size of the task at hand, making an informed decision about what type of can or jar opener should be purchased is an important part of kitting out the kitchen with the most appropriate tools. eBay's advanced search functions and flexible bidding and purchase options mean cookware items can be quickly and easily located and profiled according to a variety of filters.