canned food
Leah Berenson
Leah Berenson
April 9, 2024 ·  4 min read

How To Open Canned Goods Without A Can Opener

With today’s luxuries and conveniences, it can be hard to always be prepared. Wilderness survival no longer means what it once did. As such, most people can attest to having been camping or on vacation, preparing a meal, only to discover they’ve forgotten important kitchen items such as a can opener. Fortunately, in many cases, some tricks can help make food prep easier in these cases.

New Conveniences

There was a time when people traveled by foot. A time when they had to hunt or forage for food. And a time when people had to build their own shelter out of whatever leaves, sticks, or trees were readily available. Alternatively, today we have RVs and trucks, tents, and convenient food options that may travel much easier than it once was. Because of these luxuries, people don’t think of everyday necessities until it’s too late.

Forgetting a Can Opener

For example, canned food is one of the easiest ways to preserve food, keeping it fresh in the outdoors and without access to a fridge or freezer. However, most of the time, canned food is seemingly impossible to open without a can opener.

As it turns out, there are actually a few “life hacks” that make it possible to open cans without a can opener. For example, Dave Hax, with nearly 7 million subscribers on YouTube shared a handy video explaining what to do if you’ve forgotten the can opener at home. The channel has more than 500 videos with other helpful “life hacks” and DIY videos using everyday items.

Using a Spoon in Place of a Can Opener

Fortunately, this hack is relatively easy, only requiring a spoon and a firm application.

1. Firstly, grip a spoon where the bottom of the handle meets the top of the scoop.

2. Next, press the tip of the spoon firmly down in the same place you would typically start if you had a can opener to help.

3. Lastly, firmly push the tip or the spoon back and forth a few times in small sections. Before you know it, you’ll made your way around the whole can! Opening it, without a can opener.

Additionally, a fork or metal butter knife can be used by pressing the end of the handle down to the can and following the aforementioned steps. It’s important to note that the main point is to use metal, so plastic or silicone handles won’t work. Although this method is the most effective, taking the least amount of time and effort, if you’re using cutlery that isn’t metal-tipped, it’s still possible to open the can without a can opener.

Other Alternatives to a Can Opener

Another hack for opening canned food without a can opener is to find a rough surface, such as a large bumpy rock or slab of concrete.

  1. Essentially, using the surface as “sandpaper”, rotate the can along its ridge until the seal wears down and breaks. Occasionally stopping to squeeze the sides of the can will also put pressure on the top seal.
  2. Before opening the can, thoroughly wipe off the top of the can with an extra piece of fabric like a towel or t-shirt. This will help minimize any rock or metal debris that may otherwise end up in your food.

Use Other Unsuspecting Tools

Pocket Knife

pocket knife in a stump

Many wilderness enthusiasts know that a pocketknife is incredibly handy, serving many purposes. One is, to provide assistance if you don’t have a can opener. This method works best for liquid foods like soups and is more likely to cause injury than the previously mentioned methods, so be conscientious and use caution.

  1. Place the can on a flat surface.
  2. Hold the can steady with your other hand and poke the tip of the knife through the can.
  3. Repeat until the lid can be pried open.

On the other hand, you may be at home or hotel, unable to find a can opener. In this case, common tools like a chef’s knife or even pliers or a screwdriver.

Chef’s knife

person sharpening a chef's knife over wooden cutting board
  1. Grip the handle firmly and push the heel of the knife upright on the inside edge of the rim. Be sure the bolster isn’t covering the heel of the knife.
  2. Push the heel down at an angle to puncture the lid.
  3. Repeat until the lid can be pried off.

Keep Reading: Challenge: How to De-Clutter Your Home in 30 Days


  1. 25 Clever Survival Hacks to Save Your Life.Secrets of Survival. Secretive Survivalist 
  2. Ultimate Survival Tips | 9 Uses for an Empty Pill Bottle.” Survival Life.
  3. How To Open a Can Without a Can Opener.Southern Living. September 2, 2022
  4. How to Open a Can Without a Can Opener.” Country Living. Christopher Michel. April 20, 2022.