Seasoned Advice is a question and answer site for professional and amateur chefs. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Help! I need to get a jar of pasta sauce open but can't seem to budge it. I've tried using a dishtowel, and running it under hot water, but the lid is still stuck. What else can I do to open this jar?

share|improve this question
If you can find one cheap (we have a couple we've gotten free at trade shows and the like), a rubber gripper like this one is an awesome thing to keep in the kitchen. I used to use the dent method mfg mentioned; now that I have this I find that hot water + rubber gripper = any jar can be opened. – stephennmcdonald Feb 17 '11 at 18:44
Ask your husband? – Byron Whitlock Feb 17 '11 at 18:57
@Byron - yeah, that's why I've never asked this before :) But he wasn't home, and by the time he got home it was supposed to be ready... – clueless Feb 17 '11 at 19:47
For a regular jar of pasta sauce, a sturdy spoon under the rim always does the trick for me. Where it doesn't work is if the lid (as well as the jar) is threaded. – Marti Dec 17 '12 at 23:45

15 Answers 15

Go around the edges, tapping the rim with the handle of a butter knife (leaving little dents). That should allow you to twist it off.

share|improve this answer
Unsure if down voter wanted a citation, but this does work very well. – mfg Feb 17 '11 at 18:27
Works best if you hit kind of diagonally, with some of the force in the direction that would turn the jar lid to open it. I suspect it's breaking the vacuum seal. This is what I do after the rubber gripper and hot water run have failed. – Kate Gregory Feb 17 '11 at 18:38
I've used this method when I didn't have any rubber bands or rubber grippers around, and it does work very well. I wish people wouldn't drive-by downvote and instead would explain what they think is wrong with an answer. – stephennmcdonald Feb 17 '11 at 18:43
I do something similar, which I think I learned from my mother, which is just to hold the jar upside down, and tap the edge of the jar against the counter a few times, rotating the jar as you go. If it still won't open after that, then I break out something rubbery to grip better. – Joe Feb 17 '11 at 18:57
That's how I do it. I usually find that even just one quite firm little dent will do the job. – Michael at Herbivoracious Feb 17 '11 at 22:06
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Ok - finally got it open! While googling, I came across a suggestion to cover the lid with a plastic glove and use that for traction. Not sure if it was the combination of running under hot water + the glove, or if the glove would've worked on it's own, but it's open now :)

share|improve this answer
I always just put a rubber glove over it and use that for extra power, even without the hot water. – Colen Feb 17 '11 at 23:28
Wouldn't it probably be as effective (more effective?) to just wear the rubber glove on the hand you're opening it with? – Ryan Elkins Feb 18 '11 at 17:40
@Ryan Elkins - Using the empty glove offers an extra layer of material to act as a cushion, allowing more hand strength to be brought to bear. – RI Swamp Yankee Dec 18 '12 at 14:15

In future, if you're using a jar that you'll be emptying (like pasta sauce), the quickest way to open them is take a sharp, sturdy, pointed knife (or even a screwdriver), brace the jar well in a cloth, then carefully make a hole in the top of the lid (just place the point on it and give it a tap or two on the end of the handle). This breaks the seal of the jar, which is what makes it hard to open.

share|improve this answer
Thought of this, but wasn't planning on emptying the whole thing... needed the leftovers to be properly sealed afterwards. Thanks for the suggestion though! – clueless Feb 17 '11 at 19:49
@clueless: Having some spare mason jars on hand can be quite useful. Or any spare glass jars for that matter. – derobert Feb 18 '11 at 8:51

One thing that has worked for me is to slide a flat (butter) knife along the glass under the edge of the lid. Turn slightly to break the seal. Warning -- if your knife isn't strong, it will twist the blade. You'll know if you got it, since you'll be able to hear the seal breaking

share|improve this answer
I was going to provide the same answer as you, but it is a bit ... risky: it could do worse than twist the blade, it could break, and the end could fly off somewhere... – Benjol Feb 18 '11 at 12:19
Ooh, that's never happened to me. Wow, now I've got something else to worry about. :-) – Martha F. Feb 22 '11 at 1:21
Or use a spoon instead of a knife. Or better yet - the back of any piece of cutlery (provided it's thin enough to fit), they are more sturdy than a blade. – jkadlubowska Dec 18 '12 at 12:00
You can also use a regular small size screw driver and carefully slide it in the crimped parts of the canister, and turn it till it widens up. It should open, possibly after going around the can repeating the process. – user17758 Apr 10 '13 at 2:05
@CraigCunningham, screwdriver & hygiene... need I say more? – BaffledCook Apr 10 '13 at 16:12

My favorite jar opener:

The Brix JarKey

Brix Jarkey Brix Jarkey

You just need a gentle lift to let a little air in and then you can remove the top bare-handed. The lid is not damaged (unless you use more force than necessary).

In a pinch, you can use channel-lock pliers to do the same thing. Hold the pliers "upside-down" so the longer jaw is under the edge of the jar lid and the other jaw is against the top and gently lift. A little air leaks in just as with the JarKey and then you easily open the jar by hand.

Channel Lock Pliers

share|improve this answer

You need to depressurize it. It is very easy to do to simply take the pointed edge of a fork and jab the top of the container (the tin lid). Any small puncture made will work, once done the lid will open normally without any strenuous force. This method will work in the case where traction cannot force the lid open.

share|improve this answer

Other suggestions would be:

  • Turning the jar upside down, and using the palm of your hand to thwak the bottom a few times.

  • Using a rubber band instead of a rubber glove, if you don't have one available.

share|improve this answer

Either (1) Tap around the lid with a hammer/meat pounder or (2) Grab the lid with a rubber glove and twist.

share|improve this answer

Put a rubber band around the lid of the jar, grip firmly, and twist.

share|improve this answer

I've had success with 2 methods .. 1: Tap the lid on the edge of a worktop, working all the way round. 2: Either hold the top of the jar under running hot water or stand jar upside down in a bowl of hot water for a couple of minutes. (failing that I shout for son or husband!!).

share|improve this answer

For a few years I have used a Culinare One Touch Jar Opener. I bought one for my grandmother who was too weak to open jars herself and she loved it, and as I have a touch of RSI, thought I would get one for myself, it can open pretty much any straight sided jar - tad noisy, but very effective! (Amazon)

Culinare One Touch Jar Opener

share|improve this answer

The OXO Good Grips Jar Opener works well for me. I have arthritis in my thumbs of all places.

enter image description here

share|improve this answer
My wife uses the same one when I'm not around to be manly (read: she uses it when I can't open the jar). It works a treat. – JoeFish Dec 18 '12 at 16:49
Rob, please add summaries and descriptions of items referred to by links so that the answers on this site do not depend upon external content that may move, change or be removed. – Chris Steinbach Dec 18 '12 at 23:15

use a butter knife and stick it in between the side of the lid and the jar. Pry it away from the jar a bit, and this should let air inside, making it incredibly easy to open (since there's no vacuum anymore)

share|improve this answer

Sometimes the vacuum in the jar causes a lot of friction between the lid and the jar. Holding the jar upside down and banging a few times on the bottom with your palm can get some air inside and free the lid.

share|improve this answer

If you want to open a jar keep it in boiling hot water as glass is poor conductor of heat it will contract and the lid will expand and your jar would be opened

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.