This Really Is the Easiest Way to Open a Tightly Sealed Jar

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I don’t remember who taught me a handy trick to help easily open a jar, but I’ve been doing it for years now. I was recently at a party and the host called her husband in to open a jar. He couldn’t, so I asked for the jar. They laughed because I am merely a lady with tiny hands. Then I did my trick; they were amazed. I asked around and, while many people do know this easy way to open a jar that doesn’t require you to be brawny or have massive hands, just as many didn’t know the secret. So in case you’re one of them, I’m sharing it with you.  

If you’ve ever done any canning or made jam, you know that the secret to keeping things fresh in a jar is to seal them properly. If they aren’t sealed correctly, the contents go bad. If you’ve ever been warned not to eat canned food if the can is dented or appears swollen, that’s because people fear that the seal has been broken and you are at risk of eating spoiled food and getting botulism. 

To open a jar that won’t budge, take the back side of a knife blade and firmly whack along the rim of the jar lid. You should dent the metal all along the circumference of the jar lid at least a few times. Then try opening the jar. It’s loose, isn’t it? If it isn’t, try again, hitting a bit deeper or making more score marks around the edge. Sometimes, when you break the seal of a jar, it makes a satisfying “pop” sound from the center of the lid. You won’t always get this positive reinforcement, so it’s OK to try opening the jar after hitting the lid, even if you didn’t hear the pop.

You can also try to break the seal from underneath the lid by prying part of the lid away from the jar with the tip of a butter knife. I don’t really recommend this lever method if you can help it. It’s less effective and hard to do without slipping, so it’s easier to hurt yourself. It works best with large Mason jar lids because they’re wider and a bit thinner. 

If you still can’t open a jar (maybe because it has been open before or it’s a homemade jam jar) you can also try this common trick: Run the lid under warm water around the seam for about 30 seconds. This doesn’t always work, but, often, a stuck jar is sealed shut with its contents. Most jams and other foodstuffs are at least partially water-soluble, so running the lid under warm water will usually let in enough water around the seal of the lid to melt away a bit of the dried-on food crust that is gluing the lid down. You can also submerge a jar upside down in a bowl of warm water to yield the same effect. 

This method also works on super-tight bottle caps on things like syrups for coffee, dessert, or cocktails because sugar is especially water-soluble and melts right down. 

There are other tricks of the trade out there, so if you have a go-to method for opening a tough jar, share it in the comments below. Want to try mine? Feel free to break it out at your next gathering. It might just wow a few friends.