How to open a can without a can opener – (with Pliers)

Opening a can of corned beef is very easy with a can opener but when you don't have that handy tool, you can use a pair of pliers. In this article, I teach how to do it.

Did you know that apart from reaching into tight spots you can use your needle nose pliers to open cans? Well, I thought you should know. In fact, in this article, I share how I open food cans with my trusty pair of needlenose pliers whenever I go camping.

A can opener is really handy if you have one. But when you cannot find it and you are in an emergency situation a pair of long lose pliers can really help. Longnose pliers have tapered serrated jaws. The jaws are great for poking into the can lid and gripping it to open.

There are two types of cans. Those with a ring pull and those without. Opening a can that has a pull tab is possible even without a tool but requires some muscle and tactic. But it can be messy especially if the can contains some soup or other fluid. That is where a pair of pliers comes in handy to provide more leverage.

How to open can with a pull tab using pliers

Tools and supplies

  • Needle nose pliers or regular pliers
  • Can of food


  1. Get a pair of pliers. You can use regular pliers but needle nose pliers is the best because it has narrow jaws.
  2. Grab on the tab with pliers. Hold your pliers horizontally to the can and grab on the pop-tab tightly.
  3. Roll open the lid. While grasping the opening tab tightly with your pliers, begin to roll it over from the end where the tab is installed. Roll the pliers over so that the lid wraps over as it opens.
  4. The can is open! Enjoy your food!

If by any chance the pop-top breaks or the can of food does not have one, you need to open it differently. Here is how to do it.

How to open a food can without a pull tab using pliers

Tools and suppliers

  • Long nose pliers
  • Food can


1. Grab your pair of long nose pliers.

For a food can without a pop-tab, the regular pliers are not useful. You need needle nose pliers because they have tapered jaws that will easily poke into the metallic lid. Don’t forget to clean the pliers before using them. But if you are in the jungle, you can get away with all that hygiene.

2. Make a hole into the tin with pliers.

Open the needle nose pliers and use one of the jaws to stab a hole into the can. Pierce at the edge where the top is crimped with the rim of the can.

3. Pry the opening.

Pierce and pry the opening such that the lid bends outwards.

4. Grasp the lid with pliers and prise open.

Peel off the lid gently until it comes out. Just wrap the lid around the jaws and roll the pliers to wrap the lid around.

Well, that is how to open a can with pliers when you don’t have a can opener.

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Julio a.k.a Pliersman is the owner and creator of the Pliersman Website. As a handy person, he possesses a variety of pliers (both general-purpose and specialty pliers) which he uses to complete various tasks. When Julio is not blogging, he spends his time in the garage fixing cars or building stuff.