in: Featured, Manly Know-How, Skills, Visual Guides

• Last updated: September 27, 2021

How to Open a Can Without an Opener

Open a can without an opener illustration.

Do you remember the scene in The Road where the boy and his father discover an untouched, perfectly stocked survival bunker? The hungry nomads happily gape as they take in crate after crate of canned goods, an unbelievable oasis in an otherwise desolate, apocalyptic landscape. The pair liberate the contents of the cans with an opener, and make a dinner of canned pears and peaches; “They licked the spoons and tipped the bowls and drank the rich sweet syrup.”

But what if father and son hadn’t found a can opener amongst the supplies? Fortunately, as long as they knew some alternative opening methods, they wouldn’t have been out of luck. 

Despite how impenetrable they may seem, cans of food are made from fairly thin aluminum. Exploiting the can’s weakness with a variety of tools is easy. Here are three ways to get at your next meal if ever you find yourself without a can opener.

How to open a can without a can opener

Pocket Knife

1: Hold the knife straight up and down with the tip just inside the can’s edge. Grip the handle so your fingers aren’t in the way in case of a slip.

2: Push straight down and puncture the can. Lift it back out and repeat rather than “sawing” the lid, which can result in dulling your blade and leaving shavings in your food.


1: Grip a metal spoon and rub it hard against the lid, just inside the rim.

2: Once you break through, repeat the process until the lid is separated.


1: Place the can upside down on a flat rock and rub vigorously until it just starts to leak.

2: With caution, as to not spill its contents, squeeze the can with your hands to pop the lid off.

Like this illustrated guide? Then you’re going to love our book The Illustrated Art of Manliness! Pick up a copy on Amazon.

Illustrated by Ted Slampyak

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