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Nester's Needs: Choosing the right can opener is tougher than it may seem

I received a frantic call last week from a friend who was in a real pickle.

"So I'm standing here, and I don't know which kind to buy," he pleaded.

Turns out, he was missing an essential kitchen accessory: a can opener. There he stood, in the kitchen aisle of a local store, calling me from his cell phone. Before him were rows of can openers, each fancier than the next.

"I mean, look at all these," he said, describing openers with no handles, with extra-long handles, with hands-free opening magic. Obviously, he was overwhelmed.

In the end, I advised my pal to buy a simple, straightforward can opener. But had I been there standing in the aisle alongside him, the decision would have been much tougher.

It seems like can-opener shopping shouldn't be laden with decisions, but it is. Really, there are a lot of things to consider when you're in the market for a new opener. One thing I'm sure to look for is an easy-grip turn knob. And I found such a feature in the KitchenAid can opener.

This model is an updated version of the traditional hook-on can opener, with an impact-resistant, ergonomic handle and oversized turning knob for easy cranking. Plus, it's sleek and stylish, and available in red, black, white or blue to match any kitchen. Retailing for $22.99, it's sold at area home stores.

With the key feature right there in the name, OXO makes no bones about its can opener's strong suits. The OXO Good Grips model has extra-large, soft handles to allow for a sturdy yet comfortable hold. The opener fits perfectly in the palm of the hand, making the opening chore less strenuous for folks with aching joints and fingers. Retailing for $9.99, it is sold at area home stores.

On more than one occasion, I have sliced the top of my finger on a sharp-edged can lid. Really, who hasn't? Anyone with a Kuhn Rikon Safety Lid Lifter would be my guess. This smooth-edge opener detaches the top of the can as it opens, so you'll never even have to touch the lid. And because it clamps onto the top of the can, this model is ideal for both righties and lefties. Retailing for $16, the opener is sold at area home stores and online at www.kuhnrikon.com.

If twisting the opener is more than your delicate fingers can handle (no pun intended), opt for the Black and Decker Automatic Gizmo Can Opener. This opener walks around the can and shuts off automatically when the task is done. To make for safe, easy disposal, the lid release safely takes care of the top. The cutting blade is detachable and dishwasher-safe. The opener is small enough to be stored in a drawer, or can be mounted on a chargeable base. Retailing for $24.99, the automatic opener is sold at area home stores.